“Our thoughts and prayers are with them” is a line generally repeated by both Democrats and Republicans in the face of mass shootings, which have unfortunately become more or less routine in the U.S. The problem is, are thoughts and prayers enough as a reaction to mass shootings, suicide bombings, incidents of terror? Are we simply going to devote our thoughts and prayers, profile pictures and trending hashtags to the victims? Or are we actually going to do something concrete about it?
We need to tackle terrorism — not just militarily, but ideologically. I can guarantee that ordering all the fighter jets in the world to strike ISIS-held territory will not defeat ISIS. It may subdue ISIS temporarily, but it will not put a definitive end to the threat posed by ISIS. ISIS is a rouge organization that derives a lot of its support from painting a black-and-white worldview. It draws a lot of strength by promoting a takfiri ideology, an ideology in which they depict themselves to be rightly guided, and everyone else misguided and worthy of a death sentence.
ISIS will target anyone (and I mean anyone) who does not subscribe to their ideologies of spreading fear, hate, violence, and bloodshed. As an outlet of terror, ISIS depicts within its ranks something on the lines of “everyone is out to get us.” Ordering airstrikes on ISIS is the equivalent of adding fuel to the already-strong fire.
The problem is that most of the international community treats ISIS as a military nemesis, and not as an ideological foe. ISIS is not confined to any set borders — ISIS has been able to strike thousands of kilometers outside its territorial areas of control. Look at Paris. Look at Sinai. Look at Dhaka. Look at Orlando. All of them hundreds, if not thousands of kilometers away from the ISIS-controlled areas in Iraq and Syria. How has ISIS, a terrorist organization running a self-proclaimed state “caliphate” that is almost completely bankrupt and is severely underdeveloped managed to conduct terror attacks of such scale so far away from Raqqa?
The answer to that lies in the skillful use of modern technology to spread venomous propaganda dripping with hate into the minds of teenagers and young adults. I have yet to hear of the terrorists in terror attacks claimed by ISIS receiving funding and arms from ISIS. ISIS does not need to dole out funding or arms to anyone when they have inspired a whole bunch of mercenaries to conduct acts of terror in the name of their perverted version of Islam.
At this point, I believe that while the use of military action cannot be overruled (even if only to prevent ISIS making territorial advances), the need to counter ISIS ideologically is far greater than the need to counter ISIS militarily. For even if we magically manage to erase every trace of ISIS from the soil of Iraq and Syria, there will remain potentially thousands of lone-wolf terrorists/mercenaries across the globe, prepared to shed blood in the name of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s warped ideologies, at any time, at any place.