Last week, soon after President Trump declared victory over the ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq and ordered U.S. troops to come home, his secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, resigned in protest. Well, it was protest of that and other matters on which he disagreed with Trump.
But the question of whether ISIS really is beaten was quickly raised by lots of folks who answered: No. And who worried that if U.S. troops are pulled out of the fight it will lead to the restoration of ISIS, which has lost nearly all of the territory it once controlled.
I thought this BBC piece did quite a good job of outlining how ISIS got created, grew and then ebbed under fierce resistance from many sources, including the U.S.-backed coalition of military forces from which the U.S. now is withdrawing.
The article noted that "while its physical caliphate is gone, the 'enduring defeat' of IS is far from assured."
The core question, of course, is why this is a problem that should require an American commitment of blood and treasure. Why shouldn't the enemies of ISIS on the ground there be responsible for making sure ISIS stays moribund?
This seems like an excellent time for a wide conversation among Americans about whether what President George W. Bush labeled the war on terror needs to continue and, if so, in what way. The questions to be answered are nearly endless.
What connection does ISIS have to America's efforts to make sure that our homeland is never targeted again as it was in the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania?
Who are our friends in the Middle East and -- more importantly -- who should be our friends? On what basis should this friendship be formed? On the basis of our desire for cheap oil or for the promotion of shared values that promote freedom (including religious liberty), democracy and foundational human rights for all?
Are there still sources we can trust to provide accurate and useful information and analysis to help us with such questions?
Inside of nearly all adult Americans, I'd guess, is an inner isolationist who wants to be done with the wider world to focus just on our own neighborhoods and the needs of our nation. Isolationist thinking has been destructive and debunked in countless ways for more than a century. But is it possible that some aspects of such thinking might be useful to us today?
What do our faith traditions tell us about war and about the requirement to be peacemakers? Shouldn't we be cautious when we find religious leaders being cheerleaders for war in various ways? In what way might it be possible for people of faith in America to be peacemakers? Or is that simply a naive question in the face of a world full of conflict and evil?
Do you see why the principled Mattis resignation and the troop withdrawal decision might be just the kick in the pants Americans need to start talking about all of this in some depth?
How can we do just that?
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HOLIDAY 'GREEDINGS' FOR ALL
In his Christmas message, Pope Francis said he's against "insatiable greed." No wonder he's made some enemies. That sounds downright un-American.