The Republican Party’s debate on Tuesday in Las Vegas looked like nothing but a competition to decide who among the party’s nine presidential hopefuls was the most ruthless of all.
Perhaps with the exception of Senator Rand Paul, the seven men and one woman wanted to out-macho one another to show that they could be the most ruthless of America’s presidents. Libertarian Paul appeared to be the one sober man in a bar full of belligerent drunks. But the Kentucky Senator is unlikely to win the party’s candidacy. If morality alone is a criterion, Paul would be the winner of Tuesday’s debate. His high point was when he hit out at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who said if he were the president he would not hesitate to shoot down the Russian planes and look Russian President Vladimir Putin in the eye while he did it. Looking at the audience, Paul exclaimed in disgust: “If you are in favour of World War III, you have your candidate! … My goodness, what we want in a leader is someone with judgment, not someone so reckless as to stand on the stage saying, yes, I’m going to shoot down Russian planes.” He also reminded the audience that America might perhaps consider the Bill of Rights from time to time, but his comments hardly received any notice. When machismo and brinkmanship were at a peak, Bill of Rights and Geneva conventions were buried under the Statue of Liberty.
Even Ben Carson, the paediatric neurosurgeon who promotes himself as a doctor who has saved thousands of children from death, supported mass-scale killing of innocent civilians, including children, in the war against ISIS and equated such drastic action to the removal of tumours from paediatric patients. He said: “We’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumour… They’re not happy about it, believe me. And they don’t like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me.”
If the kind-hearted doctor could say he can be a killer, it was not surprising that front runner Donald Trump, who was at the centre of controversy over his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States, emerged as the most ruthless of all. Trump advocated a life-for-a-life policy or killing the entire family of a terrorist if he kills Americans. He said: “I would be very, very firm with families. And, frankly, that will make people think—because they may not care much about their lives, but they do care, believe it or not, about their families’ lives.”
Not to be outdone in this game of high testosterone, Senator Ted Cruz, who is trailing some 26 points behind Trump’s 40 percent in opinion polls, was equal to the task.
If the kind-hearted doctor could say he can be a killer, it was not surprising that front runner Donald Trump, who was at the centre of controversy over his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States, emerged as the most ruthless of all.
Cruz for his part pushed for carpet bombing, little realising that it was illegal. He also admitted that during the first Gulf War, the United States had used carpet bombing that did not discriminate between a combatant and non-combatant. In the end, except for Senator Paul, they looked like war criminals in waiting. They are ready to kill families and carpet bomb civilians. Besides, they also looked ill-informed when they spoke about the genesis of ISIS. Most of them were of the view that ISIS emerged in Syria because of President Barack Obama’s lack of foresight and a coherent policy. Either they are ignorant or were trying to mislead the American people. ISIS did not spring up all of a sudden to fight Bashar al-Assad in Syria. It first emerged in Iraq to fight the Shiite-dominated government there. It wanted to carve out a separate Sunni state in Iraq. It was in early 2012 that ISIS made its presence felt in Syria.
At Tuesday’s debate, no one talked about how ISIS was supported by America’s regional allies. They expressed concern that ISIS had become rich, but did not speak a word about America’s allies who make ISIS rich by buying the stolen oil. They appeared not to know that the weapons and money meant for so-called moderate rebels had ended up with ISIS. It was heard at the debate that America’s allies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan were now not taking part in coalition airstrikes, but none asked the question whether this was due to secret deals between ISIS and America’s regional allies or why ISIS fighters were being treated in Israeli hospitals across the Golan Heights. In fact, by calling for the toughest possible military response to wipe out ISIS, the Republican Presidential hopefuls were only tackling the symptoms and not the root causes. The Saudi-led 34-nation Islamic alliance formed this week to deal with terrorism in the Muslim world, is, perhaps, a welcome move, but again its aim is to tackle the symptoms – not the roots.
Even if the US and its allies kill all ISIS members, it is only a matter of time before another group takes up arms to achieve through violent means what it cannot achieve through peaceful means. This is because the root causes of terrorism remain unaddressed.
Since the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the people in the Middle East have been caught between tyrants and terrorists. The British and the French created several states from territories captured from the defeated Ottoman Empire and made sure that the people of the region were ruled by tyrants.
The Republican presidential hopefuls on Tuesday only saw Assad as a dictator. They conveniently ignored the fact that there were other dictators and dynastic rulers who were worse than Assad. They chose not to speak about them because they were all America’s dictators. Surprisingly, Trump held the view that the US’s meddling in the affairs of the Middle East had created mayhem. However, the dominant viewpoint at the debate was one of intervention in the Middle East. The fact that such a policy was one of the root causes of terrorism in the Middle East was lost on most of the presidential hopefuls.
More than military alliances to defeat terrorism, what the Middle East needs is a comprehensive plan – perhaps a United Nations initiative -- to eliminate the root causes of terrorism. First, there should be justice for the Palestinian people. The United Nation’s helplessness in the face of the United States’ brazen support for oppressors like Israel has caused the Arab youth to lose faith in the international justice system and resort to violence. Also important is the introduction of democracy to enable the people of the Arab world to live in hope and feel that they are part of the decision making process. Then there should be reforms in the Islamic education dished out to children and youth -- with emphasis on peace, forbearance, non-violence, justice, good neighbourliness, kindness to all living beings, charity, repelling evil with good deeds and community service. In extremists-controlled areas, children as young as five are taught terrorism on the pretext of teaching Islam. It is high time the Arab and Islamic countries turned the searchlight inwards and found answers to the problems that beset them.
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