A Perspective on the Middle East

MCTP Board Chairman Ken Vaughn gives his perspective on the ISIS crisis...

a perspective on the middle east

12 sep 2014

posted by kvaughn
SyriaIRAQ_scale1400

Image source: http://img.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/files/2014/09/SyriaIRAQ_scale1400.jpg

Obama finally has a strategy for dealing with ISIS. When I compare this strategy to that pursued by Bush, I see several concerning issues:

  • Wars of choice: In both cases, there were attacks; in neither case were the attacks serious enough to require a war.
  • Pre-emptive wars: There was a large debate about this when Bush went into Iraq, but there does not seem to be any debate today. Have we accepted pre-emptive war as the norm? After the experience of Iraq, I hardly think that is the lesson learned! No, I think it is more likely the that media just does not want to talk about this fact - but I find it shocking that this does not seem to be discussed.
  • Congressional approval: When Bush went into Afghanistan and Iraq, he had approval from the U.S. Congress. Obama has repeatedly shown his willingness to engage our troops without asking for permission (and unfortunately, the Congress refuses to call him onto the floor for it).
  • Exit strategy: Bush was often attacked for not having an exit strategy, although I always thought this was an unfounded claim. His strategy was as simple as winning, setting up a stable government, and then fading away. By comparison, Obama truly does not have an exit strategy. He readily admits his plan will require years, and it is beyond me to figure out how it EVER ends. There will always be the potential of some anti-American cell developing and conspiring to carry out a plot against us - does that mean that Presidential "kill lists," drone strikes on coffee shops, and NSA spying on our e-mails are a permanent way of life forevermore? If so, the military-industrial complex has finally achieved victory in creating a permanent state of war, and freedom is dead. I can only hope our next President corrects this flaw - otherwise it almost certainly will become permanent.
  • Public support: While 75% of the public supports more bombing today, Obama and Kerry know that these can be fickle numbers considering that they both launched their careers with anti-war efforts. When their strategy proves ineffective (as military experts have already predicted), support will erode.
  • Military respect: Even to the end, Bush had very high respect for those in the military. Even those who did not support him often respected him in the sense that they knew he cared for the troops based on his actions of visiting them in the field, in the hospital, etc. Obama has never tried to reach out to the military other than to use them as backdrops and to impose his social programs. While most of the miltary will still follow his orders, the lack of respect that he has among the troops should be concerning to us all.
  • Identifying the enemy: Bush failed to ever adequetly describe the enemy; he would use the term "terrorist," but this was too broad, as it includes the crazed gunman at a high school as well as bin Laden himself. He also referred to Al Qaeda, but ISIS demonstrates that this is just one of the threats that we need to deal with. Of course, Obama has been even worse. He refuses to call these people "Islamic," "terrorists," or a "State" - yes, they are all three. One can argue whether they represent "true Islam," but they are every bit as Islamic as the Crusaders were Christian. They base every action on their interpretation of Islamic beliefs; whether or not these are valid Islamic beliefs does not matter - they are still Islamic. They are not environmentalists, they are not radical liberty folks, they are not militarized corporate entities. The common thread is that they derive their beliefs from the Koran and follow the teaching of a group of Imams who organize their people under the banner of a mosque. This does not mean that all Islamic people follow these beliefs any more than all Christians follow the Westboro Church, but the basis of their barbaric beliefs is their interpretation of Islam. If we do not define the enemy, we will not win. Al Qaeda and ISIS are only two groups within the Axis Powers of the current enemy - others include Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a composite enemy that we must eradicate, and eliminating just one piece will not solve the problem.

Of course, it is easy to complain about the plans of others; what we need is a viable approach. I believe the Bible provides guidance on what we should be doing. A study of the Old Testament shows a pattern of how God deals with evil. He is patient and constantly reaches out to correct those doing evil, but when He does reach his limit, and when the cries of the innocent can no longer be ignored, He reprimands quickly and severely - and then once again tries to reach out and show His loving nature. I believe we should take this same approach. Be slow to anger, but when we act, we should act decisively and with ALL of our might. We can then step back and show that we care for those who are willing to live by acceptable norms.

What does this mean in practice?

  1. We should show our caring nature by providing humanitarian relief. This should be funded by private charity (showing that the people of America care and it is not just a political ploy). However, the delivery of the charity will likely require military involvement (both for delivery issues and particularly for protection of those delivering the goods). This may also include strategic actions to allow civilians who have been encircled or captured by the enemy to have a viable path to freedom.
  2. We should impress upon the regional powers that this is currently their problem. At a minimum, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran should all be actively engaged in fighting ISIS and all other  terrorist groups in their region and in shutting down the mosques that are promoting this evil. We should make it clear that their failure to actively engage will be perceived as an act of sympathy towards these murderous barbarians, and we will not forget this fact if we do become actively engaged ourselves. The extent of their engagement should include the considerable wealth of their countries and the active participation of their men on the battlefield. This is their time to shine. We have invested for the past decade. It is time for them to take a lead.
  3. We should make clear to Iraq and Syria that we will not allow Saudi Arabia, Iran, or others to take any territory from them and that they should view these forces as allies who are merely protecting their own interests before ISIS takes over even more territory.
  4. Other than above (e.g., humanitarian actions and saving hostages) we should minimize our role. While there may be isolated cases where we conduct very limited air operations and drone strikes, these should be a side-note to the vast activities of the regional players.
  5. If we are drawn into the war at some point (and I believe we will be), we should use the FULL FORCE of our military to eradicate this cancer from the region. By this I mean actions where millions are likely to die. The target should not be just ISIS, as another faction will then fill the vacuum. We must eradicate all of the cancer, which means all of ISIS, all of Al Qaeda, all of the Muslim Brotherhood, all of Hamas, and others that share these extremist beliefs. We must also make sure that we eradicate the instigators of these beliefs, in other words, the Imams that preach hate.

I do not blame Bush for his actions. they were within a realm of being reasonable. Likewise, I can accept Obama's actions to date (e.g., pulling out) as being reasonable. But at this point, we have tried everything except using the full force of our military. I do not think it is wise to use that force unless we are absolutly forced to do so - that type of action should be held back until and unless it is necessary. In fact, the advantage of having that type of force at our disposal should be exactly for this purpose - that we can tell people that we will use it if we are forced to do so - and that willingness should encourage our enemies not to attack us.

Of course, given the nature of man, our patience will be tested, and at some point we will need to demonstrate our resolve. At this point, we should be slow to anger and to use our force; but the next time we use our force, we should demonstrate that we are done playing around. If we are forced to use force again we should END the war and change the Middle East. An expression of our willigness to do so will hopefully encourage the regional powers to act against ISIS and others before it is too late for their own good.

I'd like to be able to tell you that someone in politics was promoting this concept, but so far, I've not seen it.

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