Syria Crisis

The West Must Face Reality: Only A Ground War Can Stop ISIS

Boots on the ground?
Boots on the ground?
Roger-Pol Droit

-OpEd-


PARIS â€" It’s a thorny issue that has experts divided. For some, a ground war is a trap and should not even be considered; only well-targeted, reinforced airstrikes will do the job. For others, it’s impossible to slay ISIS without hunting down its jihadists one by one, from street to street, hideout after hideout, a strategy that requires the immediate deployment of sufficient numbers of ground troops.


Others still, believe that we’re targeting the wrong enemy. The fight against terrorism, they say, is not like a traditional military confrontation, but first and foremost the work of intelligence services and the police.


Between a war in the air, on the ground, or a secret war, citizens â€" who know less than the so-called experts â€" often have little more than their prejudice as a compass. And yet, despite their lack of understanding, a moment of common sense can help them see more clearly.


Everybody knows by now that ISIS beheads, tortures, rapes, slaughters, manipulates, dehumanizes. This so-called “Islamic State” destroys the bodies, the souls, the relics of the past, the art â€" in other words, everything that makes up humanity.

Nobody doubts that the cruelty of this group is without boundaries, that its determination is unyielding and its savagery extreme. And everybody can easily see that ISIS is getting bigger and stronger by the day. Tthe more atrocities it commits, the more its power of attraction on the world's angry masses intensifies and the more branches and allied groups are created, from the Maghreb to central Africa, and beyond.


Unless we’ve become desperately naive, it’s impossible to still imagine we could confine this danger and limit its scope. There is no such thing as a safebox where we can leave ISIS to rot. If we don’t fight it, corpses will keep piling up, entire populations will be destroyed and more ancient temples will be blown to dust. Not fighting it will lead to terrorism spreading all over the globe, creating uncontrollable situations everywhere.

Common sense commands us to move to the rapid and total destruction of ISIS.


The terrorist group has time on its side. Hesitations and inefficient operations allow it to prosper and even to progress, step by step, in establishing a caliphate that dreams of becoming perennial and reaching worldwide. The later the great confrontation will come, the more difficult and uncertain the outcome will be.

Pacifism's grip


As things stand today, defeating ISIS’ 30,000 men â€" even if they’re well equipped, determined and radicalized â€" is definitely within the reach of our armies. But if tomorrow they’ve grown more numerous and better equipped, scattered across more territory, operations will be even more risky and their outcome more difficult to predict.

At that point , the situation becomes entirely unthinkable.


That said, an efficient war is hardly easy to organize, and strategic, political and diplomatic hurdles must first be overcome. We’d need to secure a European consensus, cooperation from Arab countries, a transformation of America’s stance … In other words, nothing that’s simply or quickly obtained, to say the least.


But the biggest stumbling block is within each of our heads. It’s been a long time since we’ve ceased to understand the Clausewitz formula, according to which “war is merely the continuation of politics by other means.” After two world wars, the construction of a peaceful European coexistence and the United Nations’ system, pacifism itself has become second nature for most Westerners. The idea of a “just war,” which used to be all too common, now seems strange, unreal or even obscene.


We look at 20th-century fighting with a mixture of dread and incredulity. After some time, we surely understand that to eradicate savagery, it was necessary to take up arms. But we’ve failed to grasp the direct connection with the present. Until now, at least.


Those who see that connection say we can’t afford to wait until it’s too late. They cannot, therefore, keep quiet about it, even though they risk looking like blind warmongers and being labeled as "Neocons" and many other nasty things. But given the nature of ISIS, of how it acts and what it can become, it seems now as if a war on the ground is the only solution that remains. Of course, it’s also the worst solution. Except, maybe, for all the others.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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