war on ISIS: world-wide whac-a-mole again

Soundtrack in my head: Rain Parade, “This Can’t Be Today”
Photo credit: Kungfuman [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

So it seems we can’t leave Iraq alone.  Now it’s a war on ISIS–the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria which now refers itself to as simply the “Islamic State.”  The U.S. government just doesn’t seem to know how to stop pouring gasoline on the fire.

Of course, the rise of ISIS is a horrible development, but is one in which our country had a hand in creating.  Al-Qaeda had no presence in Iraq (despite the Bush administration’s insistence to the contrary) until after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, when the resulting instability created internal wounds that drew in outside forces and acted as a recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda and its offshoots.

Look what our bombs accomplished in Libya.  Our nation’s leadership believed there was an urgent humanitarian crisis when rebels faced government forces in 2011. Is Libya now a functioning democracy?  No, Libya is a failed state engulfed in civil war with fundamentalist radicalism there on the rise.

The war on ISIS proof that the U.S. simply is unable to bomb non-state actors out of existence.  The Taliban is still a major player in Afghanistan, nearly thirteen years after the U.S. and allies invaded. The killing of Osama bin Laden did not end either al Qaeda or the radicalism associated with it.

The reason is simple: as I’ve said before, we are continuing to fight a 21st century war via 19th and 20th century means. It’s easy to take over a government via military force, but it’s impossible to defuse an idea by the same means.  ISIS, itself a Sunni organization, was able to take advantage of vast Sunni frustration with an Iraq government dominated by Shi’as. Air strikes and other military actions kill civilians and disrupt civilian lives, and then these areas become fertile recruiting grounds for the terrorist groups–or related splinter cells.  Even if the organization were to cease to exist, its members could reform into another splinter organization.

We are digging ourselves into deeper and deeper holes as the Middle East becomes more and more unstable. With every bomb the U.S. drops, the risk of another terrorist act on U.S. soil grows.  If we wanted to maximize the chance of another major attack on U.S. soil, the foreign policy the U.S. has engaged in since 2001 is precisely the way to achieve this.   We have been needing to clean up the mess we’ve created for ourselves since the 9/11 attacks, and unfortunately, we are just creating a bigger and bigger mess.



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