Monday, October 6, 2014

Boy, Who Coulda Seen That Coming?

So here's an article about the arms used by ISIS:
... It suggests that ammunition transferred into Syria and Iraq to help stabilize governments has instead passed from the governments to the jihadists, helping to fuel the Islamic State’s rise and persistent combat power. Rifle cartridges from the United States, the sample shows, have played a significant role...
So, what's the answer? How do we deal with such nihilistic and savage groups? Or, for that matter, with any group in the Middle East that seems, for a moment or two, to share certain of our "values?"

On the one hand, it seems pretty clear that to do nothing about ISIS wasn't really a viable option. On the other, it's hard not to believe that any intervention on our part would play right into their hands; was exactly what they were hoping to accomplish by broadcasting their awfulness to the world.

Pants on the ground? Been there, twice, done that, with hundreds of thousands. And now the region is in chaos. Chaos which, by the way, was unleashed by Bush's ill-conceived, unprepared, and untruthful war. To think that leaving a few thousand troops in Iraq would have prevented ISIS, whose roots were formed in the backlash to the invasion and whose horsepower comes, in large measure, from those people John McCain and others saw as the good guys in Syria, is to ignore history as recent as yesterday. And, as was the case with al Queda after our invasion of that land in which they didn't exist, ISIS has seen a recruiting boom since we began our bombing.

Many have pointed out that we left troops in Japan, and Korea, and Germany after WWII. I see no similarities: each is a homogeneous nation with few if any internally fighting factions. There aren't people flooding those nations to help in their fight against the infidel Americans. Each, in contrast to the Middle East, is a closed system. And in the decades since the end of the war, there have been virtually no US troops hurt in combat. It's good duty. The regions are no longer defined as combat zones; GIs there don't even get combat pay. Which says something important about the differences.

Safe to say that not everyone in those countries is happy to see US troops there; but in most ways their presence is a major economic positive. In Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, our troops are considered hated defilers of holy land, and always will be, causing the death of whom is a badge of honor. There's just no comparison.

The politics, if that's the word, of the situation are impossibly complex; Saudi Arabia is playing both sides. Today's "friends" are tomorrow's (and yesterday's) enemies. There seems an infinite pool of people willing to take up arms against us and against each other; and they come there from all over the world, tens for every one we eliminate.

Hard as it is to contemplate, it seems to me the only "solution," if there's ever to be one, is to let history play itself out. The parties in the region have to decide if they want to live in peace or not. "Moderate" Muslims need to decide to act against the radicals. In the long run, the actors can't be us. We've seen how unable we, the US, are to influence matters in "our" direction. Assuming we can identify groups truly committed to democracy, we can offer them logistical aid. More importantly, in order to be seen as something other than desecrators, we could limit our physical interventions to helping improve health care, education (especially of girls and women), agriculture, systems of governance.

Pie in the sky? Probably. Is staying out of the fray the same as ignoring the suffering of innocents? Well, yes and no. I think Bush's war games have been the cause of much more suffering than they, on paper, might have prevented. So what about our military response in Kosovo (and, for that matter, what about our failure to act in Rawanda?) Different. Much different. The former was successful, the latter inexcusable. But, as with the aforementioned post-WWII countries, the targets were specific and identifiable. And limited. The Middle East has no truly good guys; only the sometimes good, the always bad, and the truly horrible. And they're everywhere, borderless.

In my gut, which is more than ample, I believe President Obama understood all this, which explains his hesitancy. But ISIS, evidently understanding the politics of this country more than the average citizen, forced his hand.

[Image source]

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