Monday, October 6, 2014

Buy my Books or the Puppy Dies !!

Whenever hostages are taken, pressure from relatives and sentimentalists tempt governments to stray from the path of prudence.  In the 1980s, the Reagan administration did this (covertly), with lamentable consequences.  More recently, several European governments -- most notoriously France and Switzerland -- have paid multi-million-dollar ransoms into the coffers of al-Qaeda and the like, before finally being outed by the New York Times.

Fortunately, none of the countries so far exposed to ISIL’s beheading-blackmail (the U.S., England, and France) have given in.  Some commentors have even suggested that the campaign has “backfired”.  A comforting thought, that, but:

(1)  It is unlikely that ISIL, which so far has shown a shrewd sense of the public id (Hitler and Stalin were also masters at this tyrannically useful tool), would really have expected that the Obama administration, which has resolutely refused to pay ransoms to terrorists, and which has stayed the course with a highly effective drone campaign in Yemen and AfPak, and recently in Somalia, decapitating (si vous me passez l’expression) al-Shabâb, despite sometimes intense media pressures (often ill-informed), would chicken out in this case.   There must be another strand to their plan.
(2) I have argued here that a traditional military view of ISIL as waging sustained campaigns to capture and hold territory, does little towards understanding their strategy and aims.   That is the shape of the chessboard, all right, but they are playing by different rules.

Giving in to extortion only feeds the beast.  The point seems obvious, but in case extraneous factors (such as American war-weariness, and the involvement of Islam) have blurred perceptions, consider this:  such blackmail tactics are available to any group.  Suppose a drug cartel were to make the same demands -- Let us go about our business unmolested or we lop off some heads. (The example is not far-fetched, as Mexican crime syndicates have done similar things, graver still.)   Or an international corporation could demand exemption from taxes by the same tactics.  (Here I am just making a principled point, not a prediction;  though in fact, throughout history, the behavior of some of the shadier corporations has fallen little short of that.)

Notice that the above argument, being almost purely logical, does not address the question of what the U.S. should do about ISIL -- ignore it; air support only; ground troops; or what have you -- but merely states that such a decision must be determined by the broad pattern of our capabilities, liabilities, alliances, and national aims;  and not allow itself to be trumped -- one way or the other -- by the plight of a handful of highly theatrical, highly mediatized cases.


Hopefully you all found that convincing; but for those who did not:
There is an incredibly cute hamster being held hostage at an undisclosed location.  Click here and buy copies of all my books, or Fluffy gets it.

Doomed ... Unless U act now !!!

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