The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, responsibility for which has been claimed by ISIS, have given me clarity of thought.  Much like Bernie Sanders, foreign policy is not an issue I am very interested in (although that is where my similarities to Bernie Sanders end).  I would much rather read, write, or think about economics, society, or natural law.  And the reason for that,  I believe, is because, unlike on those issues, my views on foreign policy are not as well-defined.  I fall about halfway between isolationism and neoconservatism, and I think straight isolationism and straight neoconservatism are both insane.

There are two separate things relating to the attacks in Paris that inform my views on foreign policy: the attacks themselves, and how people reacted to them.  But while I now know firmly where I stand, I’m going to start from where I always prefer to start: first principles.  I dislike big government, and I tend to agree with the idea, usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that security is not worth your liberty.  The purpose of any government is to protect individual rights as best it can, not to ensure that every individual is maximally secure.  However, individual rights imply some degree of security.  A country’s government can’t protect the rights of its citizens if that country is susceptible to terrorism.  Ideally, the government of a given country would intervene in foreign affairs the moment such affairs become directly relevant to that country’s own defense, or when it is necessary to do so to uphold any existing treaties.

Now to apply that principle to the current situation.  With the attacks in Paris, it is clear that ISIS poses a significant threat to security, especially given the Syrian refugee crisis (considering some, albeit likely a small minority, of Syrian refugees are sympathetic towards (or maybe even belong to) ISIS).  And, considering most Western countries are taking in some Syrian refugees, and ISIS has recruited people from all over the world, who knows where the next attack is going to be.  Even my own unassuming city has sent residents to the Middle East to fight on behalf of ISIS.  It must be defeated, preferably soon.  Many Western countries have been embroiled in war for several years, but I think it would be foolish to delay war on ISIS any longer.  Real war, not just air strikes and military aid to the Peshmerga, Syrian rebels, and other local forces.  Not this wishy-washy war that Obama is fond of and seems never to get anything done.  The United States has the military capacity to crush ISIS quite rapidly, I would think.  It just needs to be willing to use adequate force.  There is a reason Harry Truman is likely my most admired Democratic president: he was a real leader during World War II.  He made the decision to drop the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, levelling the two cities and ending over 100,000 lives (many of whom were innocent).  But that ended the war, and likely ended up resulting in less death and suffering than if the war had continued in a more traditional fashion.  Furthermore, it allowed Japan to start re-building (with US help) sooner than it would have otherwise been able to.  Now, Japan is a friendly and extremely advanced nation.

I could never see Obama dropping a nuclear bomb on Raqqa, and I’m not saying a nuclear bomb is the best course of action, especially given that the idea of bombing Japan was to get Hirohito to surrender.  I’m guessing bombing Raqqa or some other ISIS stronghold would only embolden ISIS.  Then there is also Russia to think about, and probably lots of other things.  My overall point, though, is that, going by recent history, a full-on war against ISIS is not going to be effective unless the goal is to destroy ISIS in an efficient manner.

Another consequence of the Paris attacks is the inevitable anti-Muslim rhetoric, the condemnations of the anti-Muslim rhetoric, and blaming the West for bringing this attack on itself.  Obviously, ISIS is not the only terrorist organization out there, and defeating ISIS won’t eliminate the problems of terrorism or radical Islam.  Then there is also the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.  Is the West to simply turn away all these refugees?  My own view is that it is not possible to ensure that the individual rights of everyone in the world are protected, so the first priority must be a country’s own citizens.  Take in as many refugees as you can without destablizing your own society or putting too much stress on your own resources.  The best way to do that would probably be to focus on Christian and Kurdish (especially Yazidi) refugees, who tend to be more culturally similar to the West and a bigger target for ISIS.  In the case of young, healthy Muslim men and women, they might be expected to defend their own countries themselves, rather than expecting charity that is simply beyond the capacity of the West to provide.  As for the anti-Muslim rhetoric, the vast majority of terrorism is committed by Muslims, but obviously not all Muslims are terrorists or even necessarily backwards.  Your typical anti-terrorist Muslim shouldn’t be made to feel uncomfortable or persecuted.  On the other hand, it is ridiculous to say that there is anything “problematic” or “Islamophobic” with anti-terrorist rhetoric or making the obvious connection between contemporary terrorism and Islam (which, by the way, doesn’t imply that all terrorists everywhere are Muslim.  But Buddhists in Burma, et cetera, are driven by fundamentally different motivations and thus don’t pose much of a threat to the West, as despicable as some of their actions are).  Islam seems to inspire a uniquely subjugative ideology.  As for blaming the West, while it is potentially prudent to examine the effects of some of the West’s past actions in the interest of informing future actions, let’s not pretend that the terrorist attacks are the fault of anyone other than those who committed them.