Earlier this week, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, gave a speech on ISIS and the threat the terrorist organization poses to the Western world.
In the video below, Russell Brand brilliantly dissects Cameron's speech, providing a very healthy perspective on the current state of affairs.
When it comes down to it, Brand simply wants people to look at the reality of the situation and to think for themselves. When Cameron mentions that the terror threat level had been raised to "severe," Brand chuckles to himself somewhat and says: "what does that mean?"
It's actually a very important question: Do any of us really know what it means when the terror alert is at yellow versus red, or substantial versus severe?
Our politicians continue to reiterate how dangerous these terrorists are without specifically explaining the threat they pose. Doing so perpetuates fear without understanding among the general populace when, in fact, the vast majority of us, in both the UK and the US, are extraordinarily unlikely to die in a terrorist attack.
In the United States, the odds of dying in a terrorist attack are one in 20 million. You're far more likely to die in an automobile accident, or from heart disease. To President Obama's credit, he made this point last year.
Currently, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and the United Kingdom -- which isn't to say that ISIS doesn't pose a significant threat, but only that it's important to keep things in perspective.
As Brand says:
You've got to put controls on energy companies because there's a massive climate change crisis... The nuclear threat is the biggest danger to human kind... Cars are killing people every day... Alcohol and cigarettes are annihilating the population... So you better be dealing with those things first... We are not as stupid as you think we are.
Moreover, we need to think about what led to the rise of ISIS in the first place. In the video, Brand pleads with the audience to take a hard look at this situation.
He argues that the US and the UK only have themselves to blame for ISIS, and for the fact that Americans and Britons are heading to Syria to fight for extremists.
ISIS is no doubt a terrible threat... They are clearly terrible, but where did they come from? The US and its junior partners [the UK] destroyed Iraq, left sectarian divisions, poverty, desperation, and an illegitimate government in Baghdad that did not represent Sunnis or other groups... We've caused this problem, make no bones about it.
We also can't forget that the United States has provided weapons and support to rebel groups in Syria. ISIS has undoubtedly taken advantage of this.
At this point, ISIS has executed two American journalists -- James Foley and Steven Sotloff -- and broadcasted their deaths to the world via the release of two separate videos.
In each video, a man with a British accent addresses the audience to speak on behalf of the Islamic State, which has led many to believe that it's the same individual featured in both videos.
Moreover, two Americans have already died fighting for extremists in Syria and there will undoubtedly be more. At this point, there are thousands of Westerners in Syria already fighting and more are on their way to join them.
Brand makes an important point on this matter:
What frame of mind would I have to be in to leave my house... To be like, alright I'm going to the desert to kill people? Well, firstly you'd have to take away my comforts... My sense of security... My sense of connection with the country... All of those things would have to be stripped away from me, and then I might consider it.
Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom face some very serious problems domestically and these need to be addressed first and foremost. You can't spend money on war when your own people are suffering.
Furthermore, we must address what led to the situation in Iraq and Syria. It's tempting to pass ISIS off as an evil, bloodthirsty and insane entity -- there's already widespread evidence of their brutal tactics -- but it's important that we question what drove them to such a point.
People are not born with such hateful and violent temperaments; we're all products of our environments. When you grow up surrounded by war, death and destruction, you undoubtedly become accustomed to violence. In essence, extremism does not develop out of thin air -- it's a product of a people being pushed to the edge of their sanity.
If we are going to successfully combat and defeat ISIS, we must acknowledge the mistakes of the past, otherwise they will undoubtedly happen again.
It becomes much easier for a nation to support a fight against enemies when they are viewed as evil. Since the dawn of armed conflict, governments have utilized propaganda to dehumanize and vilify their enemies.
Yes, ISIS is terrible, and, yes, it must be defeated. But to write the group off as evil directly ignores the detrimental role the West has played in the Middle East. You can't generate a complex problem and then blame it on an absolute notion.
The only way to eradicate a threat like this is with critical honesty.
It's imperative that the United States takes a critical look at its past activities in the region while formulating a strategy for combatting ISIS.
Simply believing in evil leads people to become more violent and intolerant. ISIS is driven by these sentiments -- and the world could certainly use less of both. Perhaps Russell Brand says it best:
The answer to war and terror is not war and terror under a flag.