Now, this sounds pretty tough, but when are we going to stop this? I mean, we get a person over there, we all know who they are, what happens then? Do we change the rules? Do we go into it with a Rambo-style attack and do what we can to get them out?
That does sound pretty tough.
Later in the show, Matthews again advanced the idea of using a 1980s action movie hero as a response to the death of American hostage Kayla Mueller:
I just don't know how long we can take this as human beings. I just think it's a real problem. And I'm thinking of Rambo kind of stuff, because at some point you have got to go in there with what you got and do the best you can, or you're not going to be very proud of yourself.
And what could make us prouder than enlisting an imaginary person to solve our problems?
Of course, Rambo doesn't actually exist, which Matthews understands on some level, so he offers an alternative response to the ISIS crisis that involves killing large numbers of people in a more realistic way. Here he's talking to former assistant secretary of Defense and MSNBC "terrorist analyst" Michael Sheehan:
MATTHEWS: What do we make of this? And what's it going to do to us?… I'm just wondering how long we're going to put up with this, Michael…. If we hadn't been through these wars of Afghanistan and the two Iraq wars…. We would just, all right, we're going to war, you know? All right, you're doing this to our people — like, even Jimmy Carter, who could be pretty pacifist — and I worked for him — if they had started executing our diplomats back in the '70s, I think we would have gone to war.
And I think — when do we say enough?
MATTHEWS: And just start bombing the hell out of them?
SHEEHAN: Well, we are…
MATTHEWS: Are we bombing the hell out of them?
SHEEHAN: We are…
MATTHEWS: Are we really prosecuting a real war there?
SHEEHAN: We are bombing the hell out of them, and I think we might be able to expand that bombing more into Syria, as well.
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In response to Matthews' call for "bombing the hell out of them," Sheehan does make an important point about ISIS's well-publicized display of violence, which is "they did this for a purpose." The purpose he proposes–"They're doing this to try to intimidate us so that we go home"–is implausible, since ISIS surely knows that the United States, like most countries, generally responds to violence with more violence. It's much more likely that ISIS, like the Al-Qaeda movement it springs from, believes spectacular acts of terror will draw a military response from the United States that will help it to build its movement (Extra!, 7/11). But at least Sheehan is thinking of violence as being part of a political strategy rather than as a form of emotional release, as Matthews seems to see it:
Are we going to let this continue? This is my conundrum here…. Are we going to let them keep executing people, pouring gasoline? Wait until they get somebody over there, a nun over there, and start pouring gasoline on her.
At what point are we going to say we're going to blow that place up with anything we got, even if we don't win? When do you just explode as a country and say we're not going to take that anymore? When is that going to happen?
To his credit, MSNBC analyst (and Mother Jones Washington bureau chief) David Corn pointed out to Matthews that "acting out of anger and revenge, while it would feel good, would probably not get us the policy ends we want." One might also note that as horrible as it is to set fire to a hypothetical nun, "blow[ing] that place up with anything we got" would actually be more horrible and cause more human suffering, much of it involving people being burnt alive.
One could also point out, as Raed Jarrar did on CounterSpin (9/19/14), that there are effective ways to respond to ISIS atocities that don't involve either escalating the violence (the option ISIS likely hopes the US will choose) or ignoring them in the hopes that they will go away.
But whatever was said at that point would be unlike to dissuade Matthews from his need to express himself through violence: "Do you think we're going to sit? Suppose they grab somebody we know over there, maybe a journalist we know, maybe a celebrity."
Worse than incinerating a nun, apparently, ISIS might kidnap a celebrity. Then we would have no choice but to send in a fictional character.