A well-crystallized debate about how do handle ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) rages on among European leaders, and less so among presidential hopefuls from both political parties in the United States. Admittedly, it has been quite amusing listening to some of the skewed and demented suggestions coming from Republican candidates who are hell-bent on pursuing a course of Hollywood-styled military adventurism and thus spreading Middle East chaos – having convinced themselves and some of their supporters that simply invading Syria and other parts of the Middle East would eradicate the problem of terrorism and usher in more peace and democracy in the region.
By all accounts, America has spent precious resources in the Middle East floundering from one conflict to the next, with very little to show for its engagement. The helplessness of the world’s only superpower shows just how little influence it has in the Middle East – and with each failure, its influence in the rest of the world erodes as well.
Notwithstanding the usual empty platitudes from Republicans, no one was under any illusion that foreign policy was going to be child’s play in an age of global terrorism, increasing geopolitical conflicts and religious fanaticism. As a perspicacious diplomat once observed, the trouble with foreign policy is that it involves foreigners – and they don’t always do what they are told. Now it would appear that the troublesome Middle East region has totally ignored ideas of democracy, peace and stability coming from the superpower and may well be on their way to establish their own version of hell on earth.
Although no part of the world has ever been free of depraved conflicts, the situation in the Middle East seemed to have assumed a new terrestrial dimension. Religion has truly become the opium of the people. Shias don’t want to live under Sunni leadership and Sunnis are on a rampage to create their own state. The Alawite Muslims have historically been persecuted for their beliefs by the Sunnis – and the Kurds are simply not interested in sharing sovereignty with any other group. Ominously, Iraq is coming apart at the seams.
Moreover, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians bodes ill for any eventual conflict de-escalation in the broader region. In short, the debacle in the Middle East (particularly in Iraq), serves as a poignant reminder that American ideals of democracy and society cannot be exported to the Middle East, at least not in their Western form. Perhaps the painstaking and relentless attempt to export Western democratic values (considered by many as the most dangerous American export) to the Middle East is partly to be blamed for the hostility and animosity towards America, and for the spread and threat of militant Islamic terrorism.
Yet there is a certain paradox about U.S. foreign policy which probably explains Obama’s policy of “retrenchment” – the word Americans use to describe their retreat from the foreign policy front. Witness the results of America’s engagement (or lack of it) in Iraq, Libya and Syria: In the case of Iraq, America decided to invade the country in 2003 leaving behind a trail of destruction and ruin. In Libya, its partial involvement in the country’s quagmire left untold confusion and carnage. On the other hand, the decision not to get directly involved in the Syrian conflict did not alter the trajectory of monstrous events in the region. To be sure and irrespective of vantage point, foreign policy in such difficult circumstances is an unrelenting headache. Ostensibly, whether America and the West demonstrate full, partial or no commitment in this combustible region, it seems the results are likely to be equally disastrous.
Painful as it is to admit, the West, especially the United States, bears significant responsibility for creating the conditions in which ISIS has flourished. Most alarmingly, ISIS continues to function as a government, which has spun totally out of control – beheading men, crucifying Iraqi Christians and sexually enslaving teenage girls. The world’s most feared terrorist group has established its presence in Iraq to such an extent that it is able to sell oil to Bashar al-Assad and U.S. allies – generating revenue to buy arms to secure a caliphate, and to finance global terrorist operations.
When America invaded Iraq on a false premise in 2003, little did it know that it was actually unleashing the demons of religious fanaticism in a notoriously unstable region. The tragic occupation of Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of almost 150,000 Iraqis and over 4,000 U.S. troops, created the conditions and provided the space for al-Qaida and subsequently ISIS to evolve to fight against the American occupation – and further destabilizing the region and spreading terror around the world. Hence the U.S. invasion of Iraq played a crucial role in the rise of ISIS and the attendant chaos, violence and sectarianism.
Meanwhile, the bombing missions in Iraq and Syria have had minimal success, as ISIS militants have continued producing oil despite the air strikes. If indeed anything has been learned from the military action in Iraq, it’s that bombing Islamist extremists into submission or disappearance produces more recruits and supporters of ISIS.
Disquietingly, the practice of overthrowing governments (often regimes previously supported and financed by the U.S. itself) and installing new ones compliant with Western interests is one fraught with peril and characterized by hypocrisy. In effect, what such a practice has done is to destabilize target regions and bring great danger to America and Europe. The vicious attacks on Paris and the unfolding refugee crisis in Europe are both consequences of the absence of a comprehensive and cohesive strategy to combat this multifaceted global threat.
Further complicating the situation is the military involvement of Russia in the region – having itself played a conniving role in the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe by blocking Western-backed resolutions in the United Nations Security Council intended to expedite the fall of the Assad regime in Syria.
The Arab Spring after all (except perhaps for Tunisia) turned out to have put a spring in the step of aspiring dictators and Islamist militants. Essentially, Egypt is right back where it started. The new regime and its supporters are no more liberal and democratic than Mubarak’s. Libya went from totalitarianism to anarchy, descending from Arab Spring to factional civil war. Most critically, armed conflict is spilling beyond Syria’s borders into Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, with absolutely no end in sight.
Being the world’s only superpower, the U.S. certainly has the wherewithal and systemic reach to build alliances and tackle terrorism on a global scale. Yet can America ever be trusted to do the right thing after a failed foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria? When will we begin to see foreign policy realism and common sense in relation to the Middle East? Can we take solace in the words of Winston Churchill that “America can be trusted to do the right thing after it has tried everything else”? My own humble view is that there is no use stirring up an apocalyptic hornet’s nest without first attempting to deconstruct the root cause of the problem and building a legitimate international alliance (including Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia) through the United Nations – with an action plan and strategy to exorcise the fanatical demons before this kind of barbarism turns civilization on its head.
For comments, write to ClementSoulage@hotmail.de – Clement Wulf-Soulage is a Management Economist, Published Author and Former University Lecturer.
I donned my hip-waders for the brave task of slogging through your entire “diplo-babble”, and was not surprised when you concluded that the solution to your “straw-man” (terrorism) was yet another UN alliance! How exactly is that going to work?
Because Russia has opted out of the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) nuclear gambit, the US has embarked on a three-tined approach to extort total obeisance from the peoples of the world, for its rulers (spoiler-alert – I am not talking about a majority of its citizens; nor its puppet presidents; nor its political duopoly – but the bankers and the Military Industrial Complex):
1. Spin up economic alliances whose primary aim is to usurp the sovereignty of nations whose current heads-of-state can be easily bought off or black-mailed.
2. Directly mount “humanitarian” wars against non-compliant states to remove democratically-elected governments, and install puppet dictators in their place (see Afghanistan, Iraq, Central African countries).
3. Sponsor mercenaries (ISIS is the current brand), vetted by the CIA and Mossad, to topple any non-compliant countries (see Egypt, Libya, and now, Syria).
See how easy it was to “deconstruct the root cause of the [real] problem”, and use so few words to do it? If only you weren’t the “cowardly lion” from the “Wizard of Oz”.
Brilliant piece. Finally someone who cares about humanity and uses he ability to educate those who are seeking knowledge and wisdom. Amazing how we kiss the hands of the master and tell him how wonderful a person he is while we also witness his merciless killing of our human race. This journey call life is about truth and what are we willing to absorb to endure that truth stays free. This article is about truth. I commend you for representing truth.
When one make a bad decision, one has to be realistic and dignified to acknowledge a bad decision and take a better course of action to resolve the problem.America invaded Iraq under false pretense and killed many innocent civilians in that time frame. Not to expect retaliation and not doing what was desperately needed to calm high emotions was a mistake. What do we think the relatives of those who were innocently killed to do. Sit idle and celebrate.Would America sit idle and allow China or Moscow to bomb one of its state and do nothing? Rather than apologize America further insulted the families of these victims by accusing them of harboring the rebels. We know too well of situations in America where drug dealers take over a small community and its residents live in constant fear of their lives. So why do we believe that these innocent people are harboring these thugs. This is what I mean by not handling the situation properly. So we are not witnessing the rage in many instances of the families who seek revenge. So this is a never ending war. The more America kill, many more will take up in arms in retaliation.There has to be a better solution. We need the brilliant minds of human leaders, not territorial dictators.
Lucian Abroad: You said “…….we are not witnessing the rage in many instances of the families who seek revenge.”
Also “……..The more America kill, many more will take up arms in retaliation. There has to be a better solution.”
My dear Lucian brother, what better solution do you have in mind?
before you answer, think of the massive bombardments both the U.S., Britain and Russia leveled on Germany, and the two Atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Did any one seek good
old revenge? did they remain enemies or rather became friends?
Typo error. We are presently witnessing the rage of family members who seek revenge. What solution do I have. Well, plain and simple. America has to stop its discriminating acts against people of color. Secondly, no nation has the right to invade another man’s country and dictate to them what they can and can’t do. We are forgetting simple basic here. Can you, me or any other nation dictate to America what she can or can’ t do. They may use words but that is a far ss it will get. And if they do then there may be dire consequences. like I said previously America is guilty of commuting atrocities against its own people, blacks and the world is too afraid to speak up. Yet the other world leaders are quick to point finger at other nations and televise rhetoric about them if America determines that that nation is an enemy. Why is this happening? Because America is using the same bullying tactics like ISIS. Kill and terrorize anyone who oppose you. America invaded Iraq to steal their oil on behalf of corporate rich America. Now we all have to live with the consequences. . what is the best solution. Leave other people business alone and mind your own like the song said. America has yo learn that no one appointed them as international police of the world. So they need to stop meddling in other people’ s business and start by enacting law that disallow their white race from discriminating against negroes and Spanish people. That will never happen. Because the devil does truly exist and lives among us. We are too blind to see or even worse, we fear standing up on behalf of truth. No me. Why? Because I believe. And once one truly believe you rid yourself of fear and mind control.
Life is so strange. I can recall the many of us who we fortunate enough to be exposed to a higher education. History was a favorite subject of mine as it has to do with the everyday lives of people. I enjoyed reading and learning how they lived. I was also blessed with having a few great history teachers who challenged our mode of thinking. They allowed us to dissect writings that allowed us to have a picture of the writer’ s thought. That level of thinking further allowed us to study societies and under discussions at times we openly wondered how human beings allowed themselves to be abused by another faction without anyone having the guts to take a stance against the injustice. Little did I know, or maybe I am still naive, but now my eyes are open and I am witnessing history repeating itself. For all the ills that are taking place within our society, no one is willing to reclaim what they claim to cherish as dear, living freely and feeling safe. We should be demanding changes that would bring us back peace. Our greater parents assured we were given that right of passage by making all needed sacrifices to ensure us a wonderful life. It is only fare that we continue that journey and not be distracted. We owe that yo our kids for they are our future and blood line.
Black people I want us all to understand. We have already endured and lived through what the world is presently living through right now. So why join the crowd and take a step backwards. We ought to know better. That experience has never left us. The very reason why we are still not fully respected. I say this not out of hate but as a reminder to never embrace evil acts or deeds. You have lived that bitter taste much too long. Our parents began the cleansing process. let us continue the healing because we have already been through the process. This is the role we can play. If you truly feel that passion for freedom, then let us begin by mentally treating every one as equal. That is how I truly , totally and honestly can say is the manner in which I approach life. Imagine, we are able to communicate. Wow. So let us use that tool to air our emotions, respect each others standards while we seriously and honestly work out solutions that allow us all to live with some level of respect and comfort.