It may have been the beheading of Khalid al-Asaad, known as Mr. Palmyra, a retired professor and protector of antiquities at Palmyra, that pushed me over the edge a few days ago, and I’ve been mulling the idea with further intensity ever since. Now, with the destruction of the Baalshamin Temple at Palmyra, concluding an apparent truce protecting at least some ancient sites under IS dominion, treasures that belong to the world and to history are at even graver risk. Behead Isis, I say. America must lead the way.
No writing or argumentation from this corner can pretend to marshal the case for sending young Americans into the fight. More thinking on a much deeper level has been done by others for and against. This is my gut feeling and no more, with no more validity than the gut feelings in the other direction. But America is already there, in the fight, with one or maybe even both hands tied behind its back, leading from behind in a way that permits the rest of the civilized world to follow from behind – that is, do nothing. And maybe doing nothing really is the best policy. Let Araby bleed itself into even greater inconsequence.
But the result of shirking the responsibilities of world leadership has in the past generally been a greater and bloodier tragedy. I am reading William Manchester’s magisterial The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Vol. 2, “Alone, 1932-1940.” Churchill was almost the only voice arguing against the appeasers of Hitler. The parallels are very uncomfortable.
This post will not win me a lot of goodwill, I’m afraid. As a man nearing retirement age my standing to call for war is reasonably pathetic. My voice means nothing but to myself, however, and as I see what’s happening in the Middle East, I must at least be true to my own feelings, such as they are. The classical revival, which is my lodestar, looks on with dismay at the crimes of the Islamic State. Behead Isis.
Scroll to bottom of this BBC link for brief but gorgeous presentation on importance of Palmyra, which is a World Heritage Site.