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Steps that might really bring about an end to ISIL

REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
The bombs are killing and maiming civilians.

In the aftermath of the bloody terrorist attacks in Paris, I am disappointed by the call from many quarters to go to war, once again, in the Middle East.

Chuck Laszewski

I searched the various news outlets looking for the interviews with peace activists who just might have another perspective on how to handle the butchers of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. But alas, the mainstream media is more likely to interview Khloe Kardashian than someone who has spent his or her life researching non-violent alternatives to dropping bombs.

Still, after scouring the Internet, two things became clear. First, ISIL seems to have a death wish that goes beyond suicide vests. By attacking France, blowing up a Russian airliner and beheading Americans and Brits, as well as posing a threat to Iran, the Islamic State has managed to force those nations to set aside their hostility toward each other and turn it toward these terrorists. Should it be necessary, those nations, and others, may well join in the largest coalition since World War II to destroy ISIL and its caliphate.

Second, there are other options to explore before unleashing the war machine that birthed ISIL in the first place. Paul Kawika Martin, policy and political director for Peace Action and Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies independently recommended several steps that are worth trying.

Bombing runs are counterproductive

For instance, stop bombing runs in the Middle East. Sure, they are easy, since our pilots are in no danger of being shot down. It also makes us, and now France, feel better. But it is counterproductive.

The bombs are killing and maiming civilians. That makes them angry and it makes Muslims, particularly Sunni Muslims, from other countries livid that foreign, non-Muslims are killing their people. They get angry, as we did when al-Qaida destroyed the World Trade Center. So they rush to enlist with the only force that is standing up to the West: ISIL. Every time we rain bombs down on Islamic State territory in Iraq and Syria, their leaders laugh because we have walked into their trap.

Let’s also take a page out of our successful fight against al-Qaida and cut off the flow of money to ISIL. Freeze their assets and those of anyone associated with them. Crack down on the sale of their oil, of antiquities and other profitable materials.

Cease-fire benefits

Finally, establish serious negotiations — which include Russia and Iran — to bring a cease-fire in Syria. Bennis suggested that back in February and last month it was announced that Iran has been invited to the table, where our allies and Russia already were sitting. If a cease-fire can be arranged, ISIL again is weakened and the deluge of refugees into Europe ends.

All of this is hard work. It takes time. And it is not nearly as satisfying as exacting revenge by blowing up our enemies with missiles and bullets. But it just might bring about an end to ISIL and its brutality without plowing the field for the growth of the next terror group.

Chuck Laszewski is a former reporter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and freelance writer and author of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Radical: The Life and Mysterious Death of Dean Reed.”

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 11/20/2015 - 07:20 pm.

    ISIS has a lot of money, and depends on it

    So the authors suggestion of interdicting the flow of money to Isis is a serious strategy.

    I saw the other day that the oil fields that Isis controls produce some 40 million dollars a month in revenue. I also saw on a Frontline special they’re paying $700 a month to their followers in Afghanistan, which is a lot of money in the Afghanistan economy. Maybe the loyalty of those people would not continue if they weren’t being paid. How long have we enjoyed the loyalty of those we have bribed, once the flow of money has stopped?

    Maybe too, ISIS wouldn’t have so many weapons if their revenue dried up.

    So it seems to me, as it does to the author, that our first significant efforts should be to interrupt the revenue streams that support Isis. This involves no killing, but would very likely reduce the killing. It would also undermine the ISIS organization in a fundamental way. It would also involve abandoning the pandering to public sentiment in favor of quiet but effective action.

  2. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 11/20/2015 - 11:56 pm.

    Leave it to Bennis

    …..P Bennis has one brilliant mind.

    Yes indeed it’s so easy to fall into the trap where we return in kind and return the same brutality with nothing gained but just more of the same?

    We become what we attempt to destroy and in the process become so directed toward revenge that may never end, as fear and hate never ends…for do remember, as we wall others out we wall ourselves in?

    Who do you trust after we no longer trust the world as we once knew it…the world sans trust, hope too no longer exists and no one feels trust but fear growing so its fairly easy to hate and… justifying injustice against other innocents we no longer trust in order to survive and the hallmark of the century is a small world growing ever smaller?

    There has got to be another way if we are not stuck with a sick Trump or a determined Hillary?

    There has to be another way before becoming like the perpetrators in act and deed; before we become what we fear and hate?

    Where do we go from here without destroying everything we once believed was a Constitutional given…but do note also, .Privacy is already limping along scuttled by the need for security that qualifies as Overt Security bordering on swat team mentality that segregates? Could even say it imitates portions of Europe in the 30’s….way to go eh?

  3. Submitted by joe smith on 11/21/2015 - 07:26 am.

    We are not dealing with a Boy Scout group here. ISIS will brutalize anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Negotiating with terrorists or trying to reason with unreasonable groups never works. If you eliminate their money supply (oil), take back their control of hydro power dam and push them out of controlling major cities it will marginalize their impact on the area. The lets do nothing, call them JV, call them too small to matter, say it doesn’t affect us, ignore them has been tried by Obama and amazingly they just keep growing. While there will always be groups that will have evil intentions, dismantling this group that has proven they can reach out thousands of miles from the battlefield to wreak death on innocents has to be a priority. It won’t happen with kind words or ignoring them.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 11/21/2015 - 02:05 pm.

      Okay… Got the idea

      Now. What, specifically, do you recommend?

      • Submitted by joe smith on 11/21/2015 - 05:16 pm.

        Take back the hydro dam, cut their source of power, put special forces out to take back supply routes and major hwy’s so their transportation of oil is stopped, let no tanker leave their territory. Have to get them out of major cities in N Iraq, that will be a hard fight, but send them to the country side and out of cities. Tell Asad and Putin that ISIS will be attacked in Syria, you are either helping us, them or stay the hell out of the way. USA needs to lead and commit to getting ISIS defeated along with countries we get guarantees from to supply troops, supplies and most of all conviction to eliminate this group. Then we have to stay diligent, listen to our intel folks and strike when another splinter group emerges before they can grow. Our approach of letting an ISIS like group grow and say don’t believe the experts this is a JV team has to stop.

        The other option is to totally get out, protect our borders with military and let the bloodbath go in the MId East. Problem with that is ISIS has proved as soon as a radical Islam terror group grows to where they can attack Europe, Russia and the West, they will.

  4. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 11/21/2015 - 08:55 am.


    another view by Smith…that precipitated a string of misconceptions but maybe that is what is needed, for words to be so misconceived and could even say, a way in order to find some solution that does not turn our world into ‘another world’ displaying its brutal power also and we then slowly becoming the inhumane creatures we fear or hate or both? It’s probable, but hopefully not possible…then who knows?

    …nor does this writer suggest we activate passivity,in the face of bloody terror…but be aware of the results? What will be the outcome… a clear path to eliminate ISIL ? I don’t think it will be that simple. Trump does; Republican clown that he is

    The answers I’ve seen so far and the effects of brutal disregard for others plays out even here as fear creates hate again; those two human failings ride well together in these times; so well, eh? The Jamar killing field here is but one ugly cameo picture of a different future even here, whatever the outcome?

    No boy scout no way, just watching our revenge mentality… falling into the pit as someone else said.. and what do we gain if we kill ‘indiscriminately’…there; here next…watch freedom become a dried up promise before we can cry justice…

    Fear and hate clings to the mind and has its own unacceptable results? Maybe it’s when we develop patterns of revenge in our thinking that they do inevitably become rituals. An open mind is a terrible thing to waste… there’s the rub?

    I have no answers but can’t quite throw in the bloody towel for in-kind brutality.

    No answers here but hope Pogo isn’t right this time…we become our own worst enemy in the process, who knows?

  5. Submitted by Michele Olson on 11/21/2015 - 10:28 pm.

    My suggestion is ….

    Propaganda. Give ISIS fighters an option. Flood the social media, the airwaves, with offers of conditional surrender – safe prisons that respect the need to pray several times a day, the ability to see their families.

    I see the eyes of a lot of these people and I see lost boys. I think they made choices they regret now. I don’t feel sorry for them, but I don’t see why we can’t use that to our advantage.

    Problem is, getting away from ISIS and surviving capture from military forces who will kill them on sight. But I don’t think that’s really our problem, it’s their’s. Also, as stories of war crimes come in, those countries are going to want them back. I don’t think we should promise amnesty. Just safe harbor for a time.

    The objective is to weaken ISIS. I think it could work.

    Also, we need to hear their stories. We need to know who is pulling the strings of this group.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/22/2015 - 06:03 pm.

      Good Points Here

      Just want to add the thought that a closed mind is a terrible thing to witness.

      When I hear the oft repeated (and tiresome) phrase “keeping all options on the table,” I am aware that someone’s mind has already closed around some particular set of options.

      Worst of all is an ambivalent mind.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 11/23/2015 - 06:47 am.

      Propaganda works on fence sitters, if you are ready to blow yourself up for a cause propaganda is not going to work. Lost boys don’t be-head people, they get tattoos, evil folks kill others. I am not interested in their stories, I’m interested in them not killing innocents from the Mid East to America. Trying to understand this group won’t work, you have to eliminate ISIS’s ability to organize, make money and recruit new “lost boys” first.

  6. Submitted by Jim Million on 11/23/2015 - 12:14 pm.

    The Issue is

    HOW?? Miki seems to simply suggest that terrorists are people, too. That’s a fair thought, especially when nothing else seems to be working. Attack the human spirit, if possible. Aircraft attack physical structures, not psychological constructs. And, yes, just how do we do that?

    Conventional thinking and actions have not worked well, and very likely may not, simply because conventional thinking is based on past observation, not current insight. A singular aspect of terrorism is that there are no “innocents.”

    Most of these discussions are what I call “cyber rattling” and “blog blathering.” When those “lost boys” strike here, we may become a nation of turkeys running around with our threads cut off.

    [By the way of a barbershop insider: SEAL Team 10 has just gone active. 11 and 12 are in training.
    More are planned.]

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