Imagine you live in a beautiful apartment on the top floor in an equally exquisite building. You have a healthy and happy family and enjoy life to the maximum. Everyone else who lives on the same floor as you is just as contented with their life.
On the ground floor however, things are different. All the families who live there are vexed, always fighting. The men are autocratic and abusive of the women. The children, at birth pure and innocent, are caught under the tyranny of their patriarchal families. Often, you hear them screaming and rowing, and in your heart of hearts, you suspect the men are violent against the women, even the children when they get out of line.
Whatever you do, you tell yourself you will never intervene, because it’s their lives and it’s not affecting yours. They are different, and it’s their way of doing things.
Overtime, you eventually strike a functioning relationship with the men from the ground floor who seem nice enough when they interact with you at the building owners’ association meetings. One conversation after the other and you realize that most of them own gas stations in the neighborhood. They offer you discounted rates, being their neighbors and all. But deep inside you know the ridiculously cheap gas you are able to get at their stations is hush money.
Slowly, the turbulence on the ground floor starts to take on a more troubling tone. It’s no longer contained to their apartments, but starts to spread to the hallways, the elevators and the shared spaces. The children are now teenagers. Some of them are still innocent and pure, and genuinely want to play nicely with your kids, but you will not allow it. They are no different from the other children on that floor who are angry, bitter and envious of the idyllic life you and your neighbors have built for yourselves on the top floor. And of course you and your family will have nothing to do with the women of the ground floor. Even when you see them stepping out in broad daylight with unsubtle signs of physical abuse adorning their otherwise beautiful faces.
As beguiled as your conscience is, the economy is brutal, and the cheap gas makes a world of a difference. Secretly, you start communicating with the women and the nicer youths on the ground floor, telling them they should report the men to the police when they abuse them. You even promise to support them, if they can first help themselves. You do so, knowing that you mean nothing of what you say. It’s just a way for you to be able to look yourself in the mirror.
And right when you least expect it, something awful happens. Those bad apple kids of the ground floor brazenly attack you. They poison your dog.
That’s it, you tell yourself. It’s time to do something about this wretched ground floor. You must take action to ensure the violence remains contained there. So what do you do? You buy guns and give it to the crusty old men who still control the ground floor below, imploring them to do whatever they can to keep the shit storm brewing on their floor from affecting the rest of the building. You even invest in a state-of-the-art security system that helps the men keep the women and children on the floor below in check, never able to get to the top floor.
This seems to work for a while, but the clamoring from the ground floor is rising and becoming more gut wrenching.
And when you least expect it, all the youths, the rotten and the pure, stage a revolt and expel their fathers out of the building or commit them to nursing homes. At the next home owners’ association meeting, they promise to improve things on their floor, and you convince yourself to believe them.
Within a short period, a crack erupts between the young men, the rotten ones on one side, and the innocent and pure ones on the other. The rotten ones remind you of their fathers, especially when they promise to keep giving you discounts at their gas stations. Even though you know that the right thing to do is to support the women and the pure ones as you had promised them, yet again you hedge your bets on the bad guys. You keep buying them more guns, even giving them money, at the expense of their more civil brothers and sisters. The infighting becomes horrific. The innocent start disappearing. Women who dare raise their voices against the tyranny. Men of the ground floor who were born gay or different. It’s just their way of doing things, you keep reminding yourself. They are animals, never destined for civility. It’s just not in their genes.
Inevitably, the nasty young men you supported start abusing and terrorizing their mothers, sisters, and more docile brothers, and for a brief period of history, it looks like business as usual.
That is, until your worst nightmare materializes. The new kids in power murder your children on their way to school.
So what do you do then?
Do you finally take decisive action to fix the problems on the floor below you, finally rooting out the source of the evil?
Not a chance.
As far as you are concerned, so long as your floor is still safe and sovereign, and you have access to cheap gas, you will adopt a wait-and-see approach. What the hell are you waiting to see happen? Your own flesh and blood have been brutally killed.
And this ladies and gentlemen is a summary of the civilized world’s Middle East and counter terrorism policy.
The time to act against murdering terrorists is now, not tomorrow.