The ISIS Crisis

On the eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11, President Barack Obama announced his plan to escalate America’s involvement in the spiraling mess that is the Syrian Civil War and the ISIS offensive in Iraq. The President’s plan is to lead an international coalition of military partners, including several Arab states, to combat the threat of ISIS. According to Mr. Obama, there will be no American boots on the ground fighting ISIS forces, but instead the US will contribute via airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, and also provide arms and training to local armies who will be doing the actual fighting.

But even without putting thousands of American lives in harm’s way, this is an incredibly momentous decision by President Obama that will have far reaching and long lasting implications. He is committing America to a military action that will last, at the minimum, well into his successor’s term as President. In much the same way that Mr. Obama was stuck dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started by his predecessor, the President elected in 2016 will need to deal with the wars that Obama is starting in Iraq and Syria.

But even more serious than the commitment to keep American forces fighting in the region for years is the promise to arm and train various local militias, such as the “moderate” factions in the Syrian civil war. The United States has a long history of assuming that the enemy of our enemy is our friend, and it has always come back to hurt us. In the Middle East alone, we spent over 25 years providing Iran with weapons before the 1979 revolution that brought religious fundamentalists to power and led to the country becoming hostile to the US. To deal with the new threat, we began supplying arms to their neighbor and enemy, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Of course, a few years later these same weapons were used against American troops in the Gulf War and the post-9/11 invasion of Iraq. A nearly identical sequence of events took place in Afghanistan, where we supplied weapons and training to “freedom fighters” resisting the Soviet occupation. These freedom fighters, of course, became the Taliban and Al Qaeda once the Soviets withdrew.

Now we will be supplying weapons to a whole assortment of groups throughout the region, from national militaries to ragtag peasant militias. It is impossible to account for the ideologies or long term goals of all of these groups – all the current administration is concerned with is that they will use these weapons to fight ISIS. Who can say whether American troops will be staring down the barrels of these US-supplied weapons a decade from now? If history is any indication, it is all too likely.

Since the Second World War, every attempt by the United States to interfere with or police the Middle East has resulted in our country being sucked deeper into the quicksand. It is time to question whether it serves our country’s best interests to continually escalate our involvement in the region. The countries involved in today’s conflict, Iraq and Syria, are together smaller than some American states. While ISIS is, without a doubt, a brutal terrorist organization that is committing horrifying acts, what it does in this small territory does not have global ramifications. They need to be stopped, but it is not unreasonable to expect that the combined wealth and military might of the Arab world can deal with the threat in their neighborhood.

If we truly want to protect the lives and interests of American citizens, we must reconsider our priorities for the way we use our resources. We need to secure our own borders, we need to make our cities safe for our citizens, and we need to be certain that we are not putting the lives of our men and women in uniform on the line for a cause that is not ours to fight. There is nothing America can do now about our commitment to fighting ISIS, but we need leadership that takes American interests into account. If you want to make sure that our next President focuses on what matters the most, cast your write in vote for Art Drew for President in 2016.