A New Middle East Strategy: Deal with Nations, Kill Terrorists

The nation-state structure was grafted onto the Middle East by Europeans in the aftermaths of two World Wars. Although it is reasonable to commiserate with residents there, there does not seem to be a great motivation to feel so very bad. Those in power in the region sided with the losers, twice, and bore the consequences. As a result, there are nation-states now that were mostly drawn by bureaucrats who might even have meant well. Whether or not they meant well, and I do not argue that issue either way here, the divisions they drew were artificial, as compared to the previous single reality of The Caliphate, both the very real Ottoman version in place until the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the vision of a unified world under Islam that had been driving Muslims in their conquest of region after region across centuries.

In modern times, we continue to conflate dealing with or warring against nations with handling or eliminating terrorists. The repeatedly disastrous results across decades are, I maintain, the inevitable result of believing that the problem of eliminating terrorists must be dealt with by forming alliances with Middle Eastern nations to pursue what we, naively, frame as a common goal: The elimination of terrorists.

Instead, we should be dealing with two different goals, using two different strategies. One goal can continue to focus on dealing with, trading with, and pursuing common interests with nation-states wherever they exist, not to exclude the Middle East. Separate from these efforts, however, and only marginally related to them, should be our second focus: The elimination of terrorists who target civilian populations, make plans to harm us or our allies, and who have the resources to inflict wide-spread damage or pull off raids that harms our citizens or our interests.

The broad summary is that we would continue to deal with nations on economic and political agreements, but would consider the identification and elimination of terrorists a separate activity that we pursue with the same regard for territorial boundaries that they show as they move back and forth across borders and deliver their chaos and destruction as, where and when they please. We should visit our destruction on them, with far higher regard for innocent life than they will ever understand, as, where and when we please. We can and should locate and destroy them in their sanctuaries and training facilities, wholesale when possible, one by one when necessary, and we should do so without hesitation.

One summary is this simple: We deal peacefully with those who are willing to deal likewise with us, and perhaps with a preference for using a mechanism we understand, the nation-state. We deal lethally with those whose only demonstrated intent is to destroy us or those we deal with.

Let us continue together here to investigate the propriety and the practicality of such an approach.

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