In their preoccupation with the troubles in Ferguson, the media are underplaying another equally disturbing news story – the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the ISIS barbarians. As someone who made a living as a journalist, I am especially horrified, but I am sure any civilized human being must share my outrage.
I haven’t read or heard any comment from the President – or anyone in his administration – on America’s response to this affront.
The atrocity reminded me of the War of Jenkins Ear in the mid-1700s. The Spanish boarded Captain Robert Jenkins’ ship, the brig Rebecca, off the coast of Cuba and cut off one of his ears as a warning to the British against trading in the Caribbean.
The British declared war on Spain. The war ended inconclusively with the outbreak of the more far-reaching War of the Austrian Succession. And what happened to Jenkins? The history books don’t say.
I can understand why the British reacted as they did. I feel the same way about the beheading of Foley.
And I am not alone. Several US publications are demanding vengeance for the atrocity. The New York Post, for example, declared that it’s “Time to Bomb Isis.”
I expect the voices of America’s war lobby will be clamoring even more loudly than before for US intervention in Syria. Several pundits (and the usual roster of politicians) have argued that air strikes in Iraq are inconsistent with President Obama’s policy of non-intervention in Syria. After all, they say, ISIS is as much Syrian as it is Iraqi.
But the voice of reason warns against an emotional response.
Isn’t that exactly what ISIS wants? Isn’t Foley’s beheading intended as an irresistible provocation? Islamic extremists do not seem to mind being blown to bits. They regard it as martyrdom and expect to be rewarded by Allah in the afterlife. They would relish a bloodbath involving American troops, regardless of the casualties they would incur.
I wonder what Foley would advocate. He was dedicated to exposing the misery of the Syrian people, according to a statement by his family. Would the escalation of violence alleviate that misery or aggravate it?
I am sure President Obama is horrified and infuriated by Foley’s barbaric execution, but he has to consider all the implications of a military response. It would undoubtedly be emotionally gratifying to launch a retaliatory assault on ISIS in Syria, but where would that lead?
The implications are complex. The stakes are astronomical – in treasure and in blood.
Undoubtedly, the President will increase the degradation of ISIS forces in Iraq, and the American people will support the attacks. But I doubt he will be lured into the Syrian quagmire.
James Foley’s memory will be best served by prudence – even as America seeks justice for his murder.
Photo shows Syrian residents acknowledging James Foley’s work to expose Assad and ISIS.