We are at war against the evil forces of ISIS. Other world powers are joining in, to take the apocalypse to them. In the month of November, 2015, the American public has become more on edge and worried about what we have been witnessing on our TVs, including the downing of a Russian passenger plane; the bombings in Beirut, Lebanon; the bus bombing in Tunis, Tunisia and the bombings with mass shootings in Paris, France; hundreds of lost lives and the shut down for days in the major international city of Brussels, Belgium.
During these troubled days, I welcome President Obama’s willingness to take time on a regular basis, to talk directly to his public who are looking for reassurance and a general understanding about what his strategy against ISIS entails.
Personally, I wish our president had acted early in 2011 by arming the Syrian rebels in order to overthrow their President Bashar al-Assad, but even in this instance, there would probably have been unintended consequences.
Some how, we Americans have to accept the concept that there is no coherent, logical and clear cut plan to prevail, in the fight against ISIS because of the incoherent complexities and intrigues that are interwoven into the fabric of middle east regions, like in Iraq, and Syria.
For instance, Iran, a Shia country is against the removal of President Assad (Shia) without a credible replacement governing body because there would be a power vacuum that could be filled by Sunnis (ISIS) hardliners in a region with a large number of Shia Muslims. Then there are the competing interests of nearby powers like the Turks who prefer the existence of ISIS as a necessary evil over their long time rival, the Kurds; and the Saudi (Sunni) leaders who would rather have ISIS continue to act as a counter to Syria’s Alawite Shia President Assad’s regime.The Islamic extremist entities (ISIS, al-Qaeda, al- Nusra etc.) are all Sunnis with the one exception of Hezbollah, a Shia group which sides with Iran and their interests. The Saudis are fearful of the continued existence of a Shia Syrian government along with their large Shia population because they would be inclined to align themselves with Iran which is their arch enemy. Meanwhile, as an ally of Iran, Russian officials who need to maintain their permanent access to the Syrian Tartus naval base, require Iran’s consent to even consider the possibility of transitioning Syria’s President Assad out of power. This is why Russia has been targeting anti-Assad rebel forces more often than ISIS.
In addition, our NATO ally, Turkey has been allowing ISIS and arms to cross their borders because their priority is to battle the Kurds rather than ISIS. They are strongly adamant that Syria’s President Assad has to be removed from his leadership role. The Russians who are propping up President Assad, have been bombing anti-Assad rebels located near the boarder of Turkey, where Turkey’s minority, the Turk men also live. This explains why on 11/24/15, when a Soviet fighter plane flew over Turkey’s boundaries for a few seconds, it was then targeted by Turkey for extinction.
To my mind, those politicians and pundits who are advocating a “no fly zone” are clueless about the resulting probability of negative unintended consequences due the compact size of this region with the different powers which are using this air space.
President Obama’s strategy to “degrade and destroy” ISIS appears to many, to be too long term and not consistent with our firm intent to end their reign of terror. However, to destroy ISIS would require not just air power and limited special forces. According to military experts, at least 100,000 additional military soldiers would be necessary to take back all the territories that ISIS have conquered due in part, to the decade old, US trained, Iraqi military not being able to defend their own lands. During (2013- 2014)major battles, this Iraqi army which far exceeded ISIS in numbers and weaponry, turned and ran while defending Iraq’s territories from ISIS control. Also, these Iraqis left behind all their American vehicles, supplies and weaponry for ISIS to collect. Now, the US military is claiming that after 12 years of US military training and billions of taxpayer monies spent, that this Iraqi military can still be salvaged to where, they can take back these ISIS strongholds.
On top of all these middle east complex aspects, it is now alleged that President Obama has had to deal with doctored intelligence from the US military control center, CENTCOM, where a Defense Intelligence Agency unit is located. In an 11/23/15 Daily Beast article, “Analysts Accuse Centcom of Covering Up Cooked ISIS Intelligence,” the reporter writes:
“In July, a group of intelligence analysts at the U.S. military’s Central Command accused their bosses of distorting and selectively editing intelligence reports about the fight against ISIS in order to portray that campaign as more successful than it really was. As a result of those complaints, the Pentagon’s inspector general opened an investigation.”
“Now, the allegations of misconduct have extended to a possible cover-up, with some analysts accusing the senior intelligence officials at CENTCOM, Maj. Gen. Steven Grove and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman, of deleting emails and files from computer systems before the inspector general could examine them, individuals familiar with the investigation told The Daily Beast.”
According to a 11/21/15 NY Times article, the analysts said, “problems in Iraq were rooted in deep political and religious divides that could not easily be solved with a military campaign, current and former officials have said. Yet Centcom’s official posture remained generally upbeat.”
With an inventory of difficult choices, our president is left to select what is the best option. He is demonstrating restraint by focusing on containing and degrading ISIS while the other pieces of the power puzzle, fall into place to where the US can then act to destroy. This can be the hardest task for a leader, which is to have the strength to be deliberate and cautious in this part of the world. However, it is possible that this tactic of degrading and destroying ISIS may be put on the fast track because of recent ISIS attacks (11/2015). In the meantime, how about some profiles in courage!
Our president shouldn’t have to spell out why it is in the best interests, not to resort to rhetoric like “radical Islamists,” because these words conflate a large, sophisticated group of cult- like thugs with the billions of peaceful Muslims around the world who practice their respected Islamic religion; or why it is important for us to welcome them onto our shores, if we are to win in the war of ideologies by comparing our US practices of tolerance, generosity and fairness over theirs of hatred, cruelty and intolerance.
ISIS hates the Syrian refugees because they are fleeing ISIS rule. Those running away are not painting ISIS in a flattering light. With the stringent and lengthy vetting process that these refugees undergo, they are the same peoples that we should be embracing in the land of the truly free.
There is the reference of Ireland in our recent history which is somewhat comparable to the middle east conflicts. Recall the long lasting enmity and civil warring between the Catholics and the Protestants along with the terrorist offshoot, the IRA which started around the 1920s and lasted for over 80 years. Because both the Catholics and the Protestants are of the Christian faith, the animosity between the two did not make sense to outsiders of this faith. The IRA was defined as a terrorist group instead of “Christian extremists.” The British military had little success in their numerous attempts to enforce the peace until a political solution was established.
The Turks hate the Kurds; and the Sunni despise the Shia even though all are of the Muslim faith, the way that the Irish Protestants abhorred the Irish Catholics for decades. The IRA, could be analogous to ISIS, with ISIS being a more brutal, barbaric and evil terrorist entity. And this is the environment that some of our political leaders are looking to send more of our US military men and women into, with no possibility of an end to the middle east conflicts, anywhere.
UPDATE: This blog was updated on 11/28/15.