MINOT, ND — The murders of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the Islamic militants of ISIS should shock no one. The turmoil in the Middle East is a way of life for those who live under the Old Testament. Foley’s and Sotloff’s murders, like all murders, were unnecessary tragedies. But a necessary step to limiting such tragedies is to understand what motivates people to commit murder.

Those like President Obama, who choose to ignore the deep religious root of the hatred and violence in the Middle East, particularly between Muslims and Jews, wallow in ignorance of such motivation. The unaddressed hatred begets violence, including murder. Both the Muslims and Jews see all those who oppose their beliefs as combatants — there are no innocents. Anyone failing to understand this fundamental outlook belief is helpless to stop the resulting violence. In addition to the release of the video of Foley’s beheading, ISIS threatened to kill other Americans if the United States continues its air strikes.

President Obama not only wallows in ignorance, he is a disengaged and ineffective world leader and an embarrassment for all Americans. Following James Foley’s murder, Obama flew from his golfing vacation to Washington D.C. to assure America and the world that what happened to James Foley, “is not about the United States and what we do.” He explained to the world that the murdering group “speaks for no religion. Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day. People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future is won by people who build and not destroy.”

Immediately following this assurance, he rushed back to Martha’s Vineyard to golf, delegating further explanation and assurances to State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. Ms. Harf parroted the President, saying, “I think what the president was saying was that this is not about the United States and what we do. ISIL is trying to make this about the United States. This is about all the countries in the region coming together to fight this threat. This is not about us.”

If, as this opinion writer suggests, President Obama has no idea what Foley’s murder and the violence in the Middle East is all about, then who does? And if President Obama’s limited air strikes against ISIS are not going to stop the violence, what is?

Violence in the Middle East is rooted in mindless vengeance. It is rooted in the Old Testament’s teaching of an eye for an eye. The eye-for-an-eye mentality guarantees a never-ending cycle of violence. The only thing that will overcome this is a rejection or a replacement of the teaching. This was accomplished 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ instituted the new covenant, which replaced vengeance with forgiveness.

America was founded upon Christian teaching, specifically the New Testament. From that foundation, America grew to be the most free, most stable, and most prosperous nation in the history of mankind. Anti-religious zealots have steadily worked to remove any reference to Christianity and any reference to religion or religious teaching from the public square. Today, our national policy wonks are unable to understand that both Muslims and Jews fundamentally think differently from those who hold an understanding of human relations based on a New Testament view rather than an Old Testament view. And this is what the violence in the Middle East is all about.

So, what can be done about it? To be honest, there is no easy answer. The problems promoted by an empowered and aggressive Islamic faith are rooted in violence. Those who do not subscribe to their beliefs are enemies and, by definition, are not innocent. We must capitulate, or we must be eliminated. Our limited choices are these: we must convert those people to a New Testament view of humanity, eliminate them, or so intimidate them that they do not threaten those who hold beliefs that differ from theirs. There is no other answer.

Robert L. Hale Haleis founder and director of a nonprofit public interest law firm.

  A Voice from Fly-Over Country is copyright (c) 2014 by Robert L. Hale and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, fgfbooks.com. All rights reserved.

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