A friend of mine is traveling to Istanbul in two months. He loved his first trip to Turkey and this will be his second time going. The bombing in the historic district did not dissuade him from changing his plans. He had purchased tickets for a famous soccer match months in advanced, secured great business class seats, and is redeeming points for a stay at a world-class resort. Thoughtlessly put, it would be a bit inconvenient to change all of this on the off-chance that another cowardly act could be carried out by a deranged imbecile.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of the danger that is present in Istanbul. He’s assuming the risk not to defy the ‘terrorists’ but because he genuinely wants to take this trip. Though I can appreciate his desire to go on a trip that he worked and waited so long to experience, I still think there’s a larger issue here than whether going is a prudent idea.
To begin, you’ll notice that I put terrorists in quotes. It can be argued that anyone engaging in acts designed to intimidate or strike fear in the general public is a terrorist. Was this accomplished in aforementioned attack? Certainly it was. Does that mean that Istanbul is at risk of terrorist attacks? Not necessarily.
A distinction must be made between a criminal act and a terrorist attack. Random, sporadic actions carried out by those who may be sympathetic to the ISIS movement, feel some tacit bond between themselves and ISIS, or who are otherwise inspired to act because of ISIS do not make them part of the organization. These individuals were angry, felt disenfranchised, and were not integrated into society long before ISIS went from the JV team, as Obama once remarked, to the menace they have become.
Giving these loners credibility by calling them terrorists not only emboldens others to follow their lead but also empowers ISIS who can claim that their reach is far greater than it truly is. Before it was confirmed that the downing of the Russian jet was indeed a bomb which was detonated by ISIS, I speculated that they would claim credibility regardless so as to bolster their reputation as a powerful force. Indeed, I have always believed that ISIS started off as a small organization of young rabble-rousers who embraced the power of social media and applied that influence to advance their own agenda. As their notoriety increased, so did their mastery of marketing. The sinister black flag, the heinous executions streamed online in HD quality taken from multiple angles, and recruitment of Western spokespersons were all calculated. These modern-day savage pirates understood that creating a larger than life, almost mythical persona could strike fear in the heart of society while they pillaged and plundered with no regard for humanity. By developing a new brand of terrorism, they could be bigger than their actual numbers. This strategy worked and their legendary status, as revolting as it is to call it that, went viral as they committed more and more unspeakable atrocities, to the extreme that other terrorist organizations found their actions unnerving. The Western media played into the hands of this strategy by assigning members with villainous nicknames like Jihadi John, a degenerate whose stature in the terrorist community only grew bigger with his much deserved assassination.
Today, ISIS is a real, imminent threat. It is no longer a smoke and mirrors social media presentation. They are well-trained, organized, determined, and self-sufficient. Their numbers and influence continue to grow as they wreak havoc across the globe. Crushing their brutal regime will take more than air strikes and a declaration of war on terrorism by the Western world. The only way they will be obliterated is if the Arab world does the job themselves by physically battling ISIS in its own backyard and by exposing the ruse that their caliphate has been founded upon. Till that ideology is shattered, posers like the one in Istanbul will continue to be inspired by the illusion of a fallacious Islamic state.
This brings me back to my friend going to Istanbul and the reason I used his case to demonstrate that a call to arms is long overdue. I understand that there is inherent danger in any activity. Planes crash, lightning strikes, and as Al Pacino once said, “You can get killed walking your doggie.” I understand and appreciate these risks because it would be unreasonable to do otherwise. I’ve accepted these risks because, for the most part, they are out of my control. This is far different than the short-sighted approach of traveling everywhere because not doing so would mean that ‘the terrorists are winning.’ Breaking news: they are winning. Innocent people are being killed.
Until the propaganda machine that is ISIS is annihilated, there will continue to be random suicide bombers who foolishly deem themselves martyrs when the unmistakable truth is that they are nothing more than gutless cowards. The indiscriminate violence can happen and at anytime and anyplace regardless of security enhancements. Bluntly put, no one can stop someone from blowing himself up.
Having said that, it is not the adventurous traveler’s responsibility to take on ISIS by defying their mission by going, like I did to, Sharm el-Sheikh, days after their attack. The actions of few to carry on with their travel plans is not going to break the will of this organization. Only the the Arab world can intervene and restore peace and order. Only the Arab world can rise up and eliminate the cancer of radical Islam.
Prophetically, like any scheme established out of vice not virtue, the cracks in the dubious foundation are beginning to show. As ISIS’s funds begin to dwindle and as more fighters witness first-hand that their Utopian society is a devolution into the Dark Ages, defectors are emerging. The Arab world must capitalize on this growing disillusionment and reclaim a religion hijacked by an imposture standard-bearer whose tenets are not aligned with the true teachings of Islam.
There is no other solution.