It is clear to anyone with a half brain by now that President Obama has not offered a cohesive strategy for fighting ISIS. Since 2010, his determination to disengage from Iraq and Syria was evident in his refusal to assist the Free Syrian Army and keep U.S. forces in Iraq beyond 2011. He has partially reversed his stance following the August 2014 beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Further, the U.S.-led air strikes have not shaken ISIS’s stranglehold on Syria and Iraq as it closes on Kobani and Baghdad. Obama’s lack of resolve was evident from the start when he ruled out sending U.S. ground troops to tackle ISIS.
So where do we go from here?
Well for a start, if the current course is allowed to progress, it will force actions in others to a point that the Islamic State’s true source of power will be broken and take with it the seeds of fanaticism in much of the Middle East, as well.
If, however, this course is interrupted by too much outside interference, it will only feed the mentalities that birthed ISIS and exacerbate the turmoil for perhaps another generation entirely along with spreading fundamentalism further.
In my personal opinion, I think a few things will probably happen in the near future.
ISIS will continue to get worse, as time goes on. This will force some sort of reaction by the world community. A coalition of 10 different Islamic States in the region has already been formed to help combat ISIS. What this coalition will look like and what actual counter-offensive they pose is yet to be determined, but some of the faces now sitting at the same table would have floored many a political expert even just one year ago. With hopes, they will at least increase security to prevent new recruits from joining with ISIS, closing up holes for their funding, and perhaps even coordinating attacks and direct action. If nothing else, they have already made a token effort and sent a message to more than 300 million Muslims that this brand of Islamic fundamentalism is not acceptable. Further actions will only make the Islamic State more desperate as they no longer will be able to take advantage of many of the tactics which have served them over the last few years.
Once they become desperate, we should expect to see a few things. They will be ugly, probably worse than what we have seen, so far. Something important to remember, though, is that ISIS insurgents are outnumbered by the local population in the regions they control by, in some places, 10,000 to 1. Many of these people are absolutely not happy about Sunni Arab fundamentalist rule by force. Many currently only remain subjugated by fear. Under these conditions, and with a few key losses to remind the oppressed of ISIS’s very real vulnerabilities, I can’t reasonably see the populations like the Kurds, Yazidi, and citizenry of Mosul not rising up. There has already been articles of Yazidi militia forces forming, getting trained, organized and armed, to combat alongside Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Frankly, ISIS’s extremely barbaric methods, along with their overzealous sudden expansions have left them with many enemies and spread incredibly thin. If anything, their barbarity has acted as a recruiting device and rallying cry for the enemies they wish to conquer.
Add to this recent losses on three fronts. In Syria, their actual base of operations, Assad, the dictator Western media outlets were busy painting as the worst thing in the Middle East eight months ago, has made several concessions including the promise that he is willing to make further compromises in the hopes to receive help from abroad against the Islamic State threat. What that means, we can’t be certain. The Iraqi army has had a few important victories in regions of significant importance to ISIS in Iraq, namely near Falluja, a very potent center of Iraqi fundamentalism going back to 2004. The Kurdish Peshmerga has also done marvelously in the North by taking control of several strategic assets in coordination with American bombing. While, in reality, these events alone don’t win a war, the broader picture is that it does do something very important. If ISIS’s main source of growth is through the promotion of a nation for Allah, how could Allah possibly allow them to lose? I’m not making a personal religious statement, but echoing a point I have heard said by others. It is a logical fallacy that must be overcome by anyone who seeks to join, and many, are now simply unable to.
That said, it is my belief that, with even minimal support by the Americans, ISIS’s days are numbered. What’s more, at the end of this process, we would have an Islamic ran cultural restoration to promote, project and protect a much less fanatical and barbaric form of the religion. Perhaps most importantly, the Middle East will, together show that they don’t want fundamentalism to rule, which will be a cultural message with much deeper lasting effects. If you want fundamentalism to die out, you have to have it hated by the community. Period.
I strongly believe ISIS will manage its own self destruction if we just give it enough time and control it within its current borders.
Nobody wants to live in a world where televised beheadings are the order of the day and where public crucifixions are normalized. Even in the Biblical narratives, it is apparent that the oppressors who used such weapons against the populace quickly lost any support they might have deserved.
For all of its weaknesses, the internet exists and will spread the news of this terrible “regime” farther and wider than the traditional news media would ever have done. And people who do not embrace the culture of death will reject ISIS. They have created a dystopia when their western adherents expected a utopia. There is no greater threat to oppression than people who have lived in places where oppression is not the norm.
As a terrorist organization ISIS has made a fatal mistake. They have an address, an alleged state. They are now a clearly defined target. They don’t have an air force and never will. This means they cannot mount any major frontal assaults on anything (whilst western air strikes are an option) . Eventually all the armor they have will be picked off from the sky (provided no one is mad enough to resupply them).
What we shouldn’t do, and this is my opinion, is go in full steam and guns blazing as the American victory over terrorism. It isn’t that I don’t think we have skin in this. I know what our responsibilities to the region are, the sacrifices we’ve made, and the risks that we face if the Islamic State isn’t destroyed. Simply put, though, seeing our failures first hand has made me very reluctant to believe in another American led coalition to solve all of the problems of the Middle East.
In fact, I don’t really think that the Americans micromanaging this one is going to get very much done. It didn’t ten years ago. I feel that, if anything, it will do more to send the message that maybe ISIS is right, at least to those who are vulnerable to their propaganda. “Maybe the Westerners really are trying to take over the Islamic world.” The last thing we should do is make over a billion people sympathetic to the terrorists by our continued over involvement in their affairs. What we need to do is, from a distance, bide our time and provide support, not a grandstanding leadership role, to the Islamic nations so that they along with the oppressed minorities in Iraq and Syria can come together and break the back of fundamentalism. Only then when the source of this fanaticism truly be cut off by a profound cultural change rather than outside interference.
In the meantime, I think we should put the boot to the throat of the Iraqi government and tell them they either have a real, inclusive democracy or they never again see a single cent of American money. Force the Iraqi government to offer concessions to the Sunnis. Do not negotiate with ISIS directly, but instead, throw a bone to the people they seek to recruit. A real, political effort must be made to create an inclusive Iraq, which values all its citizens equally, instead of just the current Shi’ite ruling elite. If given the choice between peace and war, I think most people will choose peace, even if it’s under less than perfect terms.
You need only look at Northern Ireland to see how this strategy works. The British tried for decades to militarily defeat the IRA. They tried waiting. It failed. They tried shooting. It failed even harder. What finally succeeded was allowing the population to redress their grievances in a civilized manner, listening to their complaints and offering concessions, although they were what neither side saw as ideal. The peace has lasted and is still on.
To close, let’s never forget that in relationships between people, as well as nations, humiliation can lead to senseless acts, inextinguishable wars. For example, in 1919 the humiliation of Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, led to the victory of Nazism, that had to be combated. Likewise, in 1995 the humiliation of Turkey by denying its entry into the European Union have it today run and jump right up into the arms of a Islamism that is still moderate for the time being, and can turn them into enemies one day. Similarly, after the Second Gulf War, the dismantling of Saddam Hussein’s army led thousands of soldiers and officers from a wholly secular and perfectly trained army, to constitute a few months ago cadres of a so-called Islamic caliphate, claiming today to gather all the humiliated Muslims of the world, in mortal combat against the West.
Enough stupidity around… Time to start being smart for a change.
Share your thoughts…