Behead the Islamic State

Baalshamin Temple, at Palmyra, just blown up by the Islamic State. (

Baalshamin Temple, at Palmyra, just blown up by the Islamic State. (BBC)

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.

Khalid al-Asaad. (NYT)

Khalid al-Asaad. (NYT)

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.

Demolition of Baalshamin Temple. (BBC)

Demolition of Baalshamin Temple. (BBC)

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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4 Responses to Behead the Islamic State

  1. Pingback: Palmyrenes save Palmyra | Architecture Here and There

  2. Glenn Turner says:

    I agree. You are not alone.
    BUT… I feel like the beheadings and destruction of cultural treasures is a media-savvy attempt to draw us into another un- winnable conflict. ISIS is tuned in to the YouTube world like no other group we’ve ever seen. Whoever is directing their marketing is an evil bastard/genius.
    As sickening as it may be, we can not take the bait. It is exactly what they want.
    But yeah, my gut says to kick these fuckers to the curb.


    • Isis is indeed media savvy but they also believe that the U.S. is a pitiful helpless giant, and with good reason – and maybe it is, in which case we must stay out. But if Americans can get behind wiping these suckers out and not tiptoe through the tulips (no wonder we always seem to lose), then they might be surprised.


  3. says:

    I agree. You are not alone.

    Sent from my Sprint phone.


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