In the debates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States it is hard to find any candidate other than Rand Paul who is against going to war against radical Islam. ISIS is the new enemy of Civilization. The candidates and their arguments for war, sound just like the hawks of yesteryear, when the chorus was singing the fear of the dominoes in Asia falling if we did not defeat Ho Chi Minh and Communism. We heard, last week, that if we do not put boots on the ground to fight ISIS, radical Islamists will be on our shores tomorrow.
Colin Powell, a decorated and well honored veteran of Vietnam made a profound statement on ‘Meet the Press’, the other week when he stated that ISIS is a movement. We should have learned by now that you can not bomb a movement into submission.
What you need to do is to come up with a better idea or governmental choice for the people of the Middle East, other than what ISIS offers. One possible strategy, in what promises the world to be a long term struggle in the Middle East, is our old strategy that we used against the Soviet Union after World War II, a policy of containment, that George F. Kennan came up with. It was a successful strategy in combating the territorial expansion of Stalin and that same strategy can be successful now.
This is an election season. During the debate to see who will represent the Republican Party as their nominee for President we are hearing from many of them the call for war. We hear the refrain that if we don’t put boots on the ground to fight ISIS, they will come here, to America, to kill us.
Some fundamental questions need to be asked first before we commit our brave young men and women to fight and die on foreign soil. Would the further spread of the Movement, called ISIS or ISIL, in the Middle East present the United States with a national security problem where our safety and security as a people would be at risk? What would be the ultimate cost to America if Iraq and Syria were lost to ISIS? Should Americans be put in harms way? What would the cost be in terms of lives lost and the wounding, maiming and death of our soldiers to fight and destroy ISIS? Can we destroy a movement by force of arms? What would the outcome be? Can we win the hearts and minds of those living in the region? Would there be unintended consequences that would be more harmful to our national security than if we just let the course of events happen without our interference? Should we just arm and supply the Kurds? Should we just allow Russia to take action in a part of the world where they have claimed it as part of their sphere of influence due to their having the use of a warm water port? They also have had a long term relationship with Assad of Syria. These are all important questions that we as a nation need to discuss before we commit ourselves to another war. There are no easy answers!
There are other key questions that are not being considered when we hear the knee jerk reactions of many of the candidates for President who are sending out war signals.
The first question we need to be honest about is whether or not there is any solution to the Civil War that is going on in Syria? We, as Americans, tend to believe that we can fix anything, any problem. There are times when we need to acknowledge that the world is an untidy, imperfect and unruly place.
2. Do we understand the history of the region? In dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis we were lucky to have several acknowledged experts on Russia, from George F. Kennan, Chip Bohlen to Dennis Llewelyn. Who if any experts do we have on Syria? Do we have a fundamental understanding of the historic rift between the Sunnis and the Shia? Would we be perceived as being an outsider and whoever or whatever faction we would support might in fact be harmed by our support?
Let us not forget that one of the key problems in Iraq was that the American supported head of Iraq did not include in his government the major minority peoples of the country and therefore the government was doomed from the start. It did not have the popular support of the people that it needed. We also made the fateful decision to disband the military and now there is a clear failure of the military in Iraq to defend their own country. How can we win if their own army is unwilling to defend Iraq?
3. Would we not have a better chance of success in dealing with the barbarism of ISIS if we had developed a coalition of many nations who would put their foot down and say enough is enough? It is time to stop being the world’s policeman. We have lost the respect we once had by being the world’s policeman, now they only fear us.
4. We fail to recognize that our leaders are not perfect. From the very first beginnings in our war to remove Saddam Hussein, we only brought instability to Iraq. Who gave us the right to assume that we know what is best for another nation. We can not remake the world in our own image nor should we even try. Japan and Germany after World War II were the exceptions to the rule because of the absolute devastation and our insistence on unconditional surrender. We can not expect to repeat the success of rebuilding Germany and Japan.
5. Has there ever been an example of any successful interference in another country’s Civil War? The Spanish Civil War is an example of the disastrous consequences of outside powers determining an outcome.
6. There are limitations to the effectiveness of modern armies and equipment. You may win every battle but it is the hearts and minds of the people that must be won over. If you lose that battle it does not matter how superior your army is.
We have totally misjudged and we have failed to understand the culture, the politics, the religions and the tribalism that exist in the Middle East. Are we not better served to let them determine their own destinies unless the civilized world is willing to stop the violence? The idea that our resolve is weak or that our military is not the strongest in the world is just wrong. To think that you could build our military to be so large and dangerous, that no one would ever mess with us is naive. The terrorists knew how strong our military was on 9/11, that is why they attacked civilians and not our navy or army. They hit us where only innocents live, at work and on our airplanes. Let us not be so desperate for an easy solution when there is none, and lose our liberty for the sake of security in the process. Let us not make the same mistakes we made in Vietnam and ask the right questions before we lose one more soldier in a war that can not be won.