Other opinion: To defeat ISIS, humiliate it first

So, this is just one suggestion from the Heartland, and it almost certainly will make no difference whatsoever. But on the off chance that people in Washington are open to new ideas for waging the war on terror:...

So, this is just one suggestion from the Heartland, and it almost certainly will make no difference whatsoever. But on the off chance that people in Washington are open to new ideas for waging the war on terror:

The United States and its allies should use the power of shame to embarrass and humiliate ISIS. Doing so might not only make the radical Islamic organization less attractive to recruits, but also peel away some of its more disaffected and disgusted members.

There's a quote from Osama bin Laden that has echoed through the years: "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse." The relevance to the modern world is clear: Once an organization such as al-Qaida or ISIS gains ground, disaffected Muslims will flock to it.

ISIS in particular has succeeded with this strategy. The group's membership now includes men and women from around the world.

But what if ISIS gets portrayed not as a strong horse, but as a craven and cowardly horse? What if the United States and its allies - aided by pop culture, with its worldwide reach - drew constant attention to both the horror of ISIS rule, and the moral superiority of life almost everywhere else?


It wouldn't be hard to make that case. The savagery of the radical Islamists has staggered the world. Not even the Nazis publicized their "final solution," after all. ISIS posts videos of its beheadings, boasts of turning platoons of captured women into sex slaves and gleefully takes credit for shooting dozens of concert goers in cold blood, among countless other exploits.

But here's the thing: The huge gap between that behavior and the "norm" in the rest of the world can and should be exploited. Here's just one example, one that highlights the core difference between the terrorists in Paris last week and the police and soldiers who're going to respond:

"What is the obvious difference between an enemy prisoner of war, and an unlawful combatant?" wrote blogger Bill Whittle some months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Suppose two of them were standing in a line-up. What one glaringly obvious thing sets them apart?

"That's right! One is wearing a uniform, and the other isn't.

"And why do soldiers wear uniforms?

"It certainly is not to protect the soldier. As a matter of fact, a soldier's uniform is actually a big flashing neon arrow pointing to some kid that says to the enemy, Shoot Me!

"And that's exactly what a uniform is for. It makes the soldier into a target to be killed.


"Now, if that's all there was to it, you might say that the whole uniform thing is not such a groovy idea. But! What a uniform also does - the corollary to the whole idea of a uniformed person - is to say that if the individual wearing a uniform is a legitimate target, then the person standing next to him in civilian clothes is not.

"By wearing uniforms, soldiers differentiate themselves to the enemy. They assume additional risk in order to protect the civilian population. In other words, by identifying themselves as targets with their uniforms, the fighters provide a sanctuary to the unarmed civilian population."

As Whittle goes on to note, "this sanctuary is as old as human history." Even the Nazis wore uniforms, after all.

But terrorists violate this ancient norm with abandon. And it's not just that by doing this, they put civilians at risk. It's worse: they hide behind civilians. They set up shop in schools and hospitals, taking advantage of their opponents' moral reluctance to kill innocent people.

Well, someone should call them out on this utter and inexcusable cowardice.

Why not the president? Why not Hollywood, for that matter? During World War II, John Ford, John Huston, Frank Capra and other famous directors made movies for the War Department. A comparable modern effort to explain "Why We Fight," as Capra's documentary series was titled, would have all kinds of extraordinary material to work with.

And if it could add to the strong horse/weak horse concept the idea of the Noble Horse - the proudly uniformed armies of ISIS's foes - it might do a world of good.

- The Grand Forks Herald

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