This meme was shared by my cousin from a right wing Facebook page

I simply asked, “Genocide?”

He replied that if by “genocide” I meant killing off every member of ISIS, then yes.

I understand his response. I really do. I don’t like the idea of an American being beheaded. For that matter, I don’t like the idea of anybody being beheaded – or otherwise murdered.

But these are important distinctions, aren’t they? Are we only upset because the beheading was of an American? Or was it because it was most upsetting because of the barbarity of beheading somebody as opposed to a more civilized means of killing somebody?

If those are the only reasons that anybody is upset at ISIS, then the reaction advocated in this meme is a reasonable one. After all, a massive bombing campaign in the Middle East is unlikely to kill any Americans. And remotely murdering somebody with modern technology is certainly a more civilized means of conducting murder, is it not?

But if you were to say that it’s upsetting that ISIS murdered an innocent person – a justified outrage to be sure – regardless of whether or not this person is an American, then the reaction seems to be a bit contradictory. Does anybody actually believe that bombs dropped from an airplane can accurately target specific people? Or that every single person in a single geographic region is a member of the terrorist organization responsible for this murder?

If what upsets you is the murder of an innocent human being, then you cannot advocate a reaction that would lead to the murder of innocent human beings. Bombing campaigns are the single most effective means of killing innocent people. Shrapnel is indiscriminate and imprecise, and any means of making a bombing campaign more effective at killing terrorists necessarily makes the campaign more effective at killing innocents as well. During the Vietnam War, the chemical agent known as Agent Orange was sprayed over the Vietnamese jungles to destroy the foliage for the purpose of giving a wider radius for shrapnel from the bombing campaigns waged over there. This most certainly helped the military kill the Vietcong more effectively, just as it helped them rack up larger collateral numbers as well.

In the Middle East, the challenge of the jungle is hardly so prevalent. Bombing campaigns would be significantly more effective at taking out members of ISIS. But if you advocate this policy because you are upset about the death of an innocent human being, then it must be acknowledge that this will destroy many more innocent lives as well.

To put it bluntly, this will simply be a case of one terrorist organization – ISIS – taking the life of a single innocent person, and as a response, another terrorist organization – the United States government – will take the lives of possibly thousands of innocent people. This is not justice; this is “my gang is bigger and badder than your gang.”

To be sure, there are people who will be outright livid that I just referred to the United States government as a terrorist organization. But I can’t see the difference between a government who would take the lives of innocents and an organization such as ISIS who takes the lives of innocents. If we’re keeping score, ISIS is an amateur organization when it comes to taking innocent lives compared with the US government (we just have better PR people, who have successfully changed “the murder of innocents” to “collateral damage” and rendered the concept morally benign in the eyes of most Americans).

Considering this, if you’re still willing to take the Nationalist stance that an American life is more valuable than any number of non-American lives, and killing kids in other countries is a justified cost of war known euphemistically as “collateral damage,” then you’re kind of being soft to only advocate for a meager bombing campaign.

The Nazis didn’t settle for the extermination of some Jews. Likewise, why should you – as a strong, proud, All-American – settle for the extermination of only some Middle Easterners. Why, that could leave some of the terrorists alive! And some of the children you don’t murder may grow up to be terrorists one day, too (after all, when you slaughter entire families, people often seek revenge).

From this perspective, wouldn’t it be preferable to simply use nuclear weapons to annihilate every single living being in the entire Middle East? If collateral damage is a justified cost of war, then wouldn’t a complete genocide of every single person between Israel and India be justified for having also taken out whatever minority of the population can be classified as a “terrorist”?

But even the most flag-waving, bomb-loving John McCaniac will generally acknowledge that nuclear annihilation may be a step too far. This may actually cross the threshold of acceptable ratios of innocent deaths to justified kills.

The problem is, you can’t have it both ways. You either must acknowledge that if we take action that costs the lives of innocent people in other countries, we are at least no better than ISIS (except we are the more civilized killers, in the same sense that the Nazis were more civilized killers than the Rwandan Hutus during their respective genocides), or you should acknowledge that absolute annihilation of every person within a certain geographic region is a justified cost to prevent the deaths of even a single American citizen. Anything in between demonstrates abject logical disconnect.

So what is the answer? This is the question I always get asked after I’m forced to acknowledge that I also don’t agree with ISIS’s actions in beheading of an American (as if that even needs to be said).

The answer is to stop.

This is not the answer people like because revenge – err…justice – is always more appealing. They killed one of ours, so let’s kill ten of theirs, right?

But we have to stop.

We have to stop killing. That burden is on us. Because we are more civilized, by most people’s standards – and most importantly, by the standards of the people who are advocating genocide , we are the more civilized people. But if we commit genocide in reaction to murder, then we are certainly not the more civilized people.

We also have the biggest guns. The most weapons. We are, ultimately, a far more dangerous power than any Middle Eastern group or government can even imagine being. It is in the power of the United States government to do far greater damage to the Middle East than ISIS could ever do to us. And for that reason, it is the US’s responsibility to cease the killing.

And we have to stop funding these people.

We funded ISIS. We paid Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin. We sold weapons to Iran to raise money to buy weapons for members of the drug cartels that we were spending money fighting against in Latin America. We gave weapons to Middle Eastern rebels to fight the USSR, and we now have those same weapons used against us today.

If the pattern continues, we’re just going to spend money arming people to help us fight against ISIS and then those people will be our major threat a year from now (Assad, maybe?).

So the answer is not genocide (dear God, it bothers me that such a thing has to even be stated). The answer is to cease the killing, and to cease the funding of people who will help with the killing.

Terrorism will not dissolve over night if we do. The dangerous organizations and third-world despots will not fall out of power just because we pull out. But if we continue the same policies that we’ve pursued in the past (and you can rest assured that we will), we will see a continuation of the same pattern that has created this cycle.

And for some reason, I suspect that the continuation of this costly pattern is exactly what the government wants.