Archive for September, 2014

Quick Thoughts on ISIS

by on Sep.21, 2014, under politics

My dad asked me what I thought about ISIS. Here’s the 20 minute version…

– We made the same mistake in Iraq in 2004 that England made in India in 1947. We should have let the country naturally fall into three pieces, which would give Sunnis less to be aggrieved by, and an outlet for Sunni nationalism.
– ISIS is not a team of super-villains, they are just another violent group that uses sectarian division as a rallying cry and a source for funding.
– They essentially have the same goals as Osama Bin Laden, who also talked about establishing a caliphate, thought his included Saudi Arabia and other countries. The fake political entity is not legitimate or credible; they’ve only proven how weak the Iraqi government is.
– Once again, we supported and built up a group to serve as a proxy that has turned around and bit us. They were further strengthened by the external undermining of Syria’s government.
– At this point, we’ve given them too much clout and status. I wonder when the people that drove us into the unnecessary and expensive invasion of Iraq that precipitated all this lose their credibility. I don’t think anyone who advocated the 2003 invasion should feel entitled to an opinion about the current situation.
– We’ve now been “fighting terrorism” for a generation, and wars on nouns are stupid and unwinnable. We can’t defeat a tactic. We have spent trillions (yes, with a T) on wars, and are still regularly bombing/droning in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, in addition to striking Somalia and Libya recently. Israel has bombed Gaza, Lebanon, and the Sudan this year. In exchange for 3,000 deaths in the World Trade Center, we’ve been responsible for tens (some say hundreds) of thousands of civilian deaths, plus we get “credit” for backing Israel and all that entails. For what? What have we accomplished? Not only is not better – it’s worse. Bombing terrorists has essentially caused them to be created faster than we kill them.
So what do we do? I often advocate for the “sunk cost” approach of acknowledging your mistakes and stopping making them, but I don’t know if we can walk away from this particular fight, especially after the public statements made by politicians in response to this overblown non-event. I’d rather we had someone else pull the trigger, or at least pick the targets, but it’s a burden no one wants.
It might be a better opportunity to figure out how to reengage with the region. If we backed off, Russia and China would fill the power vacuum. It would have to help to stop spiting ourselves by refusing to engage with Iran and other Shia powers, and to be more direct about what we think of the behavior of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt – and Israel. If there were easy and coherent answers, someone would have them, right?
I think we have to prop up the Iraqi government as much as we can, and support the Syrian rebel factions that oppose ISIS, trying to get some of them to strike a deal with Assad for political power in order to join against ISIS. I would try to make sure Saudi/Jordan/UAE do some of the high-profile bombing. Finally, I’d try to work through intelligence agencies in the Middle East to figure out how to get the organization to infight and collapse.
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