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The United States and ISIS


by Edward C.

Back in June of 2013 President Obama claimed that he would not send troops to Iraq, but would consider other options such as air strikes. Obama made this claim in response to ISIS’s military successes in Syria and Northern Iraq. ISIS fighters already have seized Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, while gaining control of large parts of the country’s north. The speed of the deterioration of the situation in Iraq surprised even U.S. officials closely monitoring the country. Obama wanted air strikes against ISIS to slow their advance so that they could not threaten our client government in Baghdad of Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Back in June of 2013 the President called on Iraq’s neighbors to help out, too, but made clear the only guarantee of success involved political reforms by al-Maliki that promoted cooperation with Sunnis. The government of Iraq is corrupt and is viewed by Sunni Muslims in Iraq as having no legitimacy. They viewed the United States’ invasion of their country in 2003 as a colonial occupation. After the De-Ba’athification of the Iraqi officer corps and government, Sunni Muslims lost their stake in society. This caused them to form an insurgency in an attempt to force American occupiers out of their nation. The Shia Muslims use their status as the dominant social group to monopolize all of the power in Iraq. There are death squads used by Shia political elites to intimidate Sunni Muslims who are only 35% of the country’s population.

The neoconservative attempt at “converting the Muslims to our values” has ended in disaster because neoconservatives cannot accept the reality that Western ideas on legitimate authority and the ethics of equal consideration of interests are not universally valid for all people. They are historically conditioned beliefs that are a product of the unique set of experiences of people of European background. Islamic fundamentalists do not want to live under our system of government, not because there is anything defective about it. They are from a different historically conditioned community that has created a different collective ethical life different from the collective ethical life that we as Westerners take for granted. Islamic fundamentalists have a strong sense of exceptionalism just like us. The neoconservatives want to go on crusades to make the world safe for democracy based on the false premise that our values are universally valid for all people, and they think that once the rest of the world adopts our values, this will put an end to all conflict. The Islamic fundamentalists believe that their society is uniquely civilized and once the rest of the world adopts Sharia law then this will finally bring justice and peace to all of mankind. Neither side can possibly accept the particularity of the other side.

A comparison could be drawn between the corrupt client state that we have in Iraq and the one we created in South Vietnam in the 1960s. Our South Vietnamese client state lacked the support of its own population and it was viewed as being a tool of colonial occupiers. The internal weakness of our client state in South Vietnam made them vulnerable to an insurgency that was not as well armed but had an ideology that inspired their followers and motivated them to sacrifice. The lack of morale among the soldiers serving the South Vietnamese government meant that anytime there was real fighting these people would run away or surrender. This meant that the United States had to supply more of its own troops in order to prop up our client state in South Vietnam. Everyone today knows about the disastrous consequences that the Vietnam War had on American society. In a Similar fashion, the lack of legitimacy of our client state in Iraq has undermined the morale of Iraqi troops. This played an important role in the failure of the Iraqi army to fight off the ISIS advance from the north. The United States has given plenty of aid and training to Iraqi forces. This includes $15 billion for items such as Hellfire missiles, assault rifles and helicopters. However even though ISIS’s troops are smaller in number and not as well armed as the Iraqi army, they were able to easily advance against the Iraqi army.

Underlying the U.S. concern is the potential threat of an ISIS-controlled stronghold in the region that could serve as a staging ground for terrorist activity against American interests. ISIS could use the oil revenue to buy more expensive military equipment and threaten its neighbors. ISIS could also use the territory that it controls to recruit among the Sunni Muslim population and increase its size. They could then attempt to take over all of Syria as well as the southern and central part of Iraq. This would enhance their power and make them more likely to be aggressive with the rest of their neighbors.
Since our client state in Iraq is rapidly deteriorating, pressure for the United States to provide military support has increased. Republicans have blamed Obama for creating a security vacuum in 2011 by pulling out U.S. troops. GOP critics also say that Obama’s unwillingness to provide significant military backing to opposition forces in Syria’s civil war has contributed to the success of the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. President Obama is expected to formally ask Congress to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State terror group in the coming days. The U.S. has been carrying out airstrikes against the terrorists in Iraq and Syria since August and September. In doing so, Obama has been relying on congressional authorizations that President George W. Bush used to justify military action after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Critics have called the White House’s use of post-9/11 congressional authorizations a legal stretch, though Obama has previously argued that a new authorization isn’t legally necessary. Obama has declined to comment on specific provisions, including how long the authorization will last, and what geographical areas it will cover.

There seems to be a strong consensus in both parties towards sending troops into the Middle East. The Republicans do not seem to want to do anything to undermine the President’s attempt at getting the United States bogged down in another futile war. As an example, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters, “When it comes to fighting a war, the Congress should not tie the president’s hands.” However, then Boehner tried to shift the burden for instigating this war on Obama by adding, “It’s also incumbent upon the President to make the case to the American people on why we need to fight this fight. This is not going to be an easy lift.”The Republicans are just going to play politics with the war. They are going to let Obama have his war, including ground troops. When this turns into a disaster, the Republicans will reap the political gains for themselves. The Democrats also want to accept Obama’s position. As an example, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said talks with the administration are focusing on an authorization time frame of three years, while the other issues are still being worked out. Pelosi added that she ultimately expects a compromise on the outstanding issues to be reached. After Islamic militants released a grisly video of the murder of a Jordanian Air Force pilot by burning him alive, Pelosi also said that the U.S. should “move quickly” to steer military aid to Jordan. Secretary of State John Kerry has testified that any new authorization should not limit U.S. military action to just Iraq and Syria or prevent the president from deploying ground troops if he later deems them necessary.

There are other parts of the Middle East in which Islamic Fundamentalists are coming to power. As an example, Yemen’s powerful Shiite rebels announced in January that they have taken over the country and dissolved parliament. This is a move that finalizes their months-long power grab. The development also pushes the impoverished country further into chaos and threatens to turn the political power struggle into a full-blown civil and sectarian conflict, pitting Shiites against the country’s majority Sunnis. The impoverished Arabian Peninsula country has teetered on the brink of fragmentation for the past year but the crisis took a turn for the worse in September, when the Shia took control of Sanaa after descending from their northern stronghold and fighting their way into central Yemen, seizing several other cities and towns along the way. Their rising dominance, which included a raid of the presidential palace and a siege of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s residence forced the president and all Cabinet members to submit their resignations in January. The Shia also said that “Revolutionary Committee” would act as the country’s government. The committee would also be tasked with forming a new parliament with 551 members. The growth of Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East will complicate any move by Obama to send troops into Iraq because it will make US troops more vulnerable to terrorist organizations such as Yemen’s al Qaeda branch. Many terrorists will see the entrance of American troops into the heart of the Middle East as motivation to join terrorist groups to attack US troops.

With the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in areas like Iraq and Yemen, it is possible that the initial amount of ground troops will not be enough to accomplish the United States’ goals. This makes it very dangerous for the United States to send troops into the Middle East and highly unlikely that our troops will be there for a short period of time. Then American political elites may decide to send more troops rather than cut their losses and admit defeat. This may result in a quagmire like the Vietnam War. The sad part of this scenario is that there will be innocent white people killed.