In the wake of the Paris bombings, the Western world is mobilizing to take on, stamp out, or at least defeat ISIS, without any particular idea of how to do it. Echoes of 9/11 reverberate, and we watch France go through the same playbook that still dictates, needlessly and expensively, American practice. Send out the bombers, tighten the borders, cut back on civil liberties, frown, if not spit, on Muslims. And how hopeless seem the prospects for “victory.” Fourteen years on, the US is still mired in its “war on terror,” to the extent that we’re sending troops back in to Afghanistan and Iran instead of taking them out. Obama, for some reason, proclaimed a war on the Taliban, which has gone nowhere. Yes, Al Qaeda is weaker than it once was, but only because the radical Muslim recruits have opted to join ISIS instead.

So, what should we do? For starters, why not walk away? Say: Look, we tried to bring a better life to our friends in the MidEast, but it appears we have done more harm than good. We are, therefore, withdrawing our troops and suspending all military operations. Why has ISIS (and Al Qaeda) sponsored terrorist activities in the West? Are they trying to conquer France or defeat the US? Of course not. They are retaliating against Western intervention in their part of the world. If we leave, where is the incentive to attack us?

This admittedly leaves the MidEast in a mess, but why is that our concern? We are there historically because of our need for MidEastern oil. We have to eliminate this dependence anyway in order to save the planet. Some countries may splinter, but most of them are artificial, Western-created entities in the first place. (I know from personal experience that Libya was never a unit.) The Arabs have never gotten along in my lifetime; they will always be suspicious and distrustful of each other; why should we get involved in Shia-Sunni disputes (just to name the most obvious)? (I have never taken seriously the Israeli plaint that they are this small country surrounded by however many million Arabs, because those many million Arabs would never be able to work or fight together.)

ISIS’s stated goal is to establish a caliphate of religious fundamentalism. This is a horrible idea, but the ones it threatens are the governments and people of Syria and Iraq, and then Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, etc. – not London, Paris or Washington. Arab governments are well armed, thanks to aid from the US and Russia, among others. Let them fight their own battles. If they don’t care enough to risk their lives and treasuries, why should we? On a much less violent front, we have our own cancer in America, called the Tea Party, which wants to shut down much of our government. It is up to us, not a foreign power, to stop this cancer. Maybe it comes to power and we find out it doesn’t work and it goes into the dustbin of history. In any case, it is our problem, just as ISIS is the MidEast’s problem. Enough Arabs have to see that ISIS is not a solution, that it doesn’t bring economic prosperity, that it promotes a lifestyle less satisfying than the West’s, and that therefore it should be rejected.

If we truly want to end the war on terror, I believe all we have to do is this:

Stop dropping bombs on the Middle East. For every terrorist we manage to kill, we create many more enemies.

Say we’re sorry and go home. Resentment of Western intervention is the fuel that feeds ISIS. Without a target for their hatred, ISIS’s recruiting will plunge and they will just be one more of the many Arab factions fighting with each other.

Recognize the Palestinian state and force Israel to end its occupation. This is the other great thorn in the side that motivates radical Arabs to fight and die in a jihad against the West, particularly the U.S. Make it clear that we will continue to defend Israel – “an attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on the U.S.” – but eliminate aid until Israel withdraws from the West Bank and allows free access to Gaza.

Stop efforts to depose Bashir Assad. The enemy of our enemy in this case becomes our friend. We shouldn’t help him, for the reasons stated above, but we shouldn’t get in his way as he fights to save his country from ISIS. We may not like how he treats his people, but again, that cannot be our business.

The above steps, alas, are a pipe dream. There is no constituency in the US for any of them. Instead, the candidates for president are competing with each other as to who can be the toughest and fight ISIS the hardest. Always, no mention of how, just that they will do it. Obama, fortunately, is the adult in the room, but he is subject to the same political pressure. He may not have to face the voters again, but he is stuck dealing with a Congress that does, and a country that wants to keep bombing, fight to win, depose Assad and blindly back Israel. Then there is the military-industrial complex that needs a war to keep sharp and remain profitable. The war on terror, I am afraid, will never end. (11/22/15)