The ISIS Dilemma

We are faced with decisions about how to react and how much force to put behind our actions everyday. As parents we want our reactions to be appropriate and constructive. We don’t want to be just inappropriately punitive. As employers we want to be balanced and make sure that we are getting the best out of our employees while giving them the freedom to do their best. Maintaining this equilibrium in our families and in our workplace requires thoughtful attention. In both cases setting limits that are clear and understood is the key to maintaining that equilibrium.  However, for this to work, all parties have to agree to common goals and adhere to a common values system. If, in fact, goals and values are at significant variance, actions and statements will be misinterpreted and solutions will be almost impossible to find.  For example, while European leaders tried in every which way to resolve issues with Hitler, his goals and values were at odds with theirs and his actions made that clear.  Europe was forced, however reluctantly, to try to defend itself against the German onslaught. At the same time, America, watching from a distance, avoided entry into the battle until forced.  While drawing close analogies between the Nazis and ISIS might be a stretch, comparing the dilemma confronted by America then and now is not so unreasonable.

As America watched Germany create alliances with Japan and Italy to march across Europe and the Pacific it was war-weary and economically fragile.  Today, our proximity to active participation in war is far closer.  The impact of our recent wars is still being felt throughout our nation as we recover from the worst economic disaster experienced by our country since the Great Depression.  We, as a nation, are ready to focus on our own needs and our own desires and leave the world to deal with its own problems.   Certainly, we do not want to send American troops back into “harms way” on the other side of the world to fight someone else’s war.  The problem is that our conscience and our sensitivities are pinched each time an act of barbarity is performed by ISIS.  This is particularly true when the victim of that violence is an American.  What is even more troubling is that they seem to be working off of a completely different set of values than ours.  We find it unimaginable that human beings can do these things to other human beings. Not only do they perform these heinous acts, but they publicize them with pride.  We needn’t ask how far will they go, they’ve illustrated that their barbarity has no limits.  Our dilemma is that we can’t plead ignorance.  They make sure that we know exactly what they are doing.

soldiers at war

The incredible advancement in our ability to communicate and share information around the world is both a blessing and a curse.  During  World War II we could claim ignorance of the atrocities performed by the Nazis.  Today, the atrocities performed by ISIS are in our face.  We don’t have the luxury of claiming we are not aware of them.  But as then, over 75 years ago, today we are faced with the complex decision regarding what we should do about it.  Can we sit by and allow this vicious group go on unabated as they try to fulfill their dream of a modern-day Islamic Caliphate?  Yet, can we in good conscience ask our young men and women to again fight in a foreign land when those who are closest to the terror have yet to move against ISIS?  It is true that Jordan and the UAE are now actively flying bombing raids.  It is also true that the Kurds have bravely led the fight on the ground.  But what of the rest of the Islamic world?

Once again America, the only super power left in the world, finds itself facing a difficult and complex choice.  What does American leadership mean in this instance?  What will history say of our decision?  This is the dilemma that America confronts in the face of the ferocity that is ISIS.


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