Sunday, February 15, 2015

Karl du Fresne: Doing nothing is not an option

It’s hard to think of a more challenging conundrum than the one posed by the Islamic State.
Labour leader Andrew Little was right last week to describe Isis as evil. It’s a word seldom heard these days because it implies a moral judgment, and moral judgments are unfashionable. But “evil” is the only way to describe men who coldly behead their captives, then amp up the shock factor by burning one alive.

There is an element of gleeful sadism in their barbarism. Last week they pushed a gay man from the top of a tall building – reportedly the fourth such execution for homosexuality.
As with their other atrocities, they posted pictures and video online, a gesture that was part boast, part taunt. In doing so, they were saying to the world: “Look what we’re capable of. There is no limit to what we will do.

“Norms of civilised behaviour don’t apply to us. In fact we hold the civilised world in contempt. You know, and we know, that you are too weak and divided to stop us.”
These otherwise primitive haters of the decadent West mock us further by using sophisticated Western technology to rub our noses, figuratively speaking, in the blood of their victims. Without the smartphone, the video camera and the Internet, their power to shock would be enormously diminished.

And these are merely the more flamboyant examples of the Islamic State’s depravity – the ones calculated to get our attention and fill us with fear, horror and anger. Almost unnoticed in the background, Isis is proceeding with its grand plan to establish an Islamic caliphate, which means systematically slaughtering or enslaving anyone who stands in its way.  
No one, then, can dispute that the Islamic State is evil. The conundrum is what the rest of the world should do about it.

I wish there was a pat answer, but the Islamic State presents a unique challenge because it stands apart from all norms of combat or diplomacy.
It has no regard for human lives, including those of its own followers. It acknowledges no rules, it has no interest in negotiation and its adherents – who seem to include a significant number of thugs with criminal records – are said to be happy to die for their cause because it will ensure entry into paradise. How do you defeat such an enemy?

Yet doing nothing is not an option. Either we believe civilised values are worth defending and that vulnerable people deserve protection from mass murderers, or we don’t. And if we do, we can’t just whistle nonchalantly while looking the other way and pretending it isn’t happening.
We have been here before. In 1994 New Zealand was one of only three countries in the United Nations that supported forceful intervention to prevent genocide in Rwanda. The rest of the international community didn’t want to get involved, having recently seen America get its nose bloodied in Somalia. More than half a million lives were lost as a result.

A similar situation arose in the Balkans War, where a puny and impotent UN peacekeeping force did nothing as thousands of Muslims were massacred.
The situation in Iraq and Syria is not dissimilar. The West has lost its appetite for combat because of failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Islamic State is counting on America and its allies having no stomach for a fight; it is goading us, convinced that its will is stronger than ours. And so far it has been proved right. The military response has been half-hearted.

In effect, the Islamic State is testing the moral resolve of the civilised world. I just hope we won’t fail the test as we did in in Rwanda and Srebrenica.
This is not like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the objectives were hazy (or in the case of Iraq, tragically misconceived). Isis is not some shadowy terrorist entity; it’s a functioning army, operating in plain sight.

That doesn’t make it easy to defeat, but neither is it an excuse to do nothing.
Unfortunately Andrew Little, while condemning Isis as evil, doesn’t think it’s our business to stop them.

It’s interesting that where the Islamic State is concerned, the Left sharply deviates from its honourable tradition of siding with the weak and vulnerable. The Islamic State, it insists, is not our problem, no matter how many innocents die.
I suspect the Left is unable to see past its antipathy towards America and can’t bring itself to support any initiative in which America plays a leading role. Its ideological blinkers blind it to the fact that on this occasion, America is on the side of the angels.

Yes, it’s ironic that the American invasion of Iraq helped create the circumstances that enabled the Islamic State to flourish. George W Bush barged in like a Hollywood sheriff come to clean up Deadwood.
But that doesn’t mean the West should wash its hands of the appalling crimes being carried out as a result. Indeed America could be seen as having a moral responsibility to clean up the mess it helped to create.

Most reprehensible of all is the craven argument that we should avoid antagonising the Islamic State for fear that some deranged jihadist will strike at us. That’s moral cowardice of the lowest order.
John Key is right to highlight the inconsistency in the Left’s stance, and I applaud him for saying that New Zealand will not look the other way. It’s rare for Key to commit himself so emphatically, and commendable for him to do so on one of the pressing moral issues of our time. We should hold him to it.

Karl du Fresne blogs at This article was first published in the Nelson Mail and Manawatu Standard.


Brian said...
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Doing nothing....Another 1930’s option.
What a pity that this blog has not appeared in our major media outlets! This article by Karl on why we, as a country, should not wash our hands hoping that someone else will do the dirty work by just sending “advisors” is a get out clause for our Politicians and not a realistic or a right option.
But regretfully we have a large section of our population who have been indoctrinated with the idea that because there are “moderate” Muslims (Although this definition is open to doubt) the extremists will listen to them. Probably this is engendered by the fear of a war, but the reality is, that we have been at war with Islam since the 7th Century when Mohammed laid down the law of Islam.
Unless we totally destroy ISIS and any formation of an Islamic Caliphate State, we would be only postponing a worst conflict in the future. A conflict when Islam would then have the ability to use atomic weapons and the ability to deliver such devices against us. In military terms to win you fight only when you have a decided advantage, we still have this advantage at the moment, but what will be really fatal is to wait.
Yes we have failed in Iraq, but who at the time supported Saddam Hussein and his regime? Most of the world was pleased to see the end of him, including the people of Iraq.
If there was a President of the calibre of Harry Truman in the White House with his courage in using the bomb (or similar tactical weapons) to end ISIS!!!! Just one or two strategic hits at ISIS and it is doubtful that any Muslim country would continue to support terror as a weapon. Although unless the Koram is changed in its attitude towards other religions and non-Muslims this would be an ongoing struggle. So the present Western strategy to defend itself against terrorism by negotiation and worst still by appeasement no wonder Islamic terrorism continues as no war was ever won simply by defence.
A strong Western Alliance would back Karl’s comment on the “half hearted, moral response and weakness” of the West would then disappear, and its leadership once again return, and be respected.
A case of “de duobus malis”!!!

paul scott said...
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Also Paul Buchanan has spoken out. His website is down, hope he is OK. Thanks Karl another good read.

Geoffrey said...
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I agree wholeheartedly with Karl's point of view. Regrettably the urgent need for New Zealand to make a real contribution to the eradication of the growing danger represented by the Islamic State has exposed our military weakness for all to see.

The contribution proposed by the Prime Minister is not a cautiously calculated offer of what he thinks we can get away with - it is the best that we can manage. The short-sighted and expedient run down in NZ Defence capability was never more starkly exposed.

It will take years to recover from this asinine misconception that we can "punch above our weight" with 16 bayonets. My God, even the Temuka Chapter of the Mongrel Mob could do better!

Peter Caulton said...
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Just another example of Key following his orders.

Rick Ireland said...
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I've been following the rise of Islamic terrorism for some years now and it was with dismay that I observed every western country ignore or downplay the very obvious threat. Since the more recent atrocities perpetrated by ISIS have been thrust into the living rooms of the civilised world, there has been a growing realisation that these savages will never stop the pursuit of their archaic goal.

They intend to rule the world. they have said so publicly and frequently. So take them at their word - they certainly mean it.

The choices are simple: either defeat them now while they are still relatively weak, or defeat them later when they are stronger and suffer an appalling cost in blood and treasure. To suggest that the world can stand aside and ignore them is ludicrous because ISIS will simply bring their war to us. This barbaric and backward collection of human detritus simply won't allow themselves to be ignored, so the only question is; how many more examples of their vicious determination does the west need before we finally act?

The Prime Minister is correct.

Do it now.

Derek C said...
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Why does Key want to stop a backward barbaric stone age culture overseas when we have a backward stone age violent culture in NZ that we pander to, glorify in our schools, put on a pedestal and give it whatever it demands?

JB said...
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Right on Derek C. You said it all.

Anonymous said...
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Nz troops could be better engaged with UNICEF opening and maintaining a humanitarian corridor to a safe fortress refugee camp within whichever countries borders the atrocities are occurring. maintaining a demilitarized, no fly zone around such an internal refugee camp allows refugees themselves to hope to return home one day. This is containment. snuffing out barbarism in its own territory. 3rd millennium thinking is required here.
Tony A

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