Whatever Happened to Surrender?


One imagines it’s a fantasy among high-up American military officials. The self-anointed caliph of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — or whoever’s running Beheading Inc. these days — drives up slowly in a pickup truck to a long table set out in the Syrian desert, the usual fivesome of gunmen milling about in the back.

Waiting at the table, surrounded by aides and backed up by scores of U.S. military vehicles, stands Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, head of U.S. Central Command.

Baghdadi exits the pickup truck, a makeshift fighting vehicle of the sort we’ve seen thousands of times before, except this time with white napkins tied to the door handles and antenna. He unsheathes his ceremonial sword — or maybe it’s a machete, considering the kind of warfare his minions favor — and hands it to Austin the way Chinese professionals offer their business cards: both hands clasping the object, palms turned upward, in a gesture of mixed politeness and deference. 

"We, the warriors of Daesh, surrender," he says in clipped English. In a deluxe version of this fantasy, American journalistic ineptness in settling on a name for our diehard foes adds pizazz. Baghdadi is joined by three other representatives of the vanquished. One surrenders for IS. The next surrenders for ISIL. The third surrenders for Islamic State.

Granted, none of the declarations resound with the immortal eloquence of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce when he surrendered to Gen. Nelson Miles on October 5, 1877, in Montana territory: "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."

But who cares? In such fantasies, old-fashioned surrender is back. And oh, the civilized world misses it. ...

Read entire article at The Chronicle of Higher Education

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