Tuesday, September 9, 2014

We have always been at war with Westasia UPDATED

Deep down, I really don't know what the right thing to do with the emerging "ISIS" or "ISIL" or whatever it is that's forming parts of Iraq and Syria.

But I'll say this.  Apparently, ISIS is the worst enemy we've had ever, except for all the other worst enemies we've had.  I remember when the War on Terror was just a twinkle in Mr. Bush's eye, announced about the same time that he gave his "courageous" speech at ground zero.  (An interesting phenomenon, that.  As head of state, he's supposed to give speeches at the time of national tragedy, and he could've said almost anything and gained accolades.  But above all let's not forget the courage it required to tell people exactly what they wanted to hear.)  Al-Qaeda was the worst thing ever because unlike our prior rivals, it didn't have the courtesy of being an actual state, with boundaries and sham parliaments.  Instead it was a decentralized terrorist network or movement and couldn't be pinned down or really declared war on.  It also engaged in beheadings of American journalists.

Now exit Al-Q and enter ISIS.  ISIS is even worse, because instead of being a decentralized terrorist network, it is forming a geographically delimited state.  It apparently is staking out boundaries and has found a way to fund itself and even claim something we can recognize as subjects who, if they don't give their enthusiastic support, at least seem to acquiesce in the way that subjects almost always have:  reluctantly, maybe with everyday acts of resistance, but not challenging the overall structures.  Even worse than Al-Qaeda, it engages in beheadings of American journalists.

Obama wants to destroy it.  Good for him.  Maybe it will work, with only a few airstrikes.  As James Hanley notes in a comment at Ordinary Times,
Aa much as I despise our neo-colonial kingmaking in the Middle East, and as much as ISIS is a product of our meddling and as such an object lesson in the nearly inevitable suboptimal results of such meddling, I think we have to act against them.
These guys are not merely internationally irritating and domestically brutal dictators. Their goal is the destruction of all infidels, which to them also includes most Muslims. They will provide a harbor for terrorists, or purposely promote/export terrorism on their own. They are, through our own stupid doing, a national security threat.
We should not intervene to the extent of trying to control the territory or pick the winners in these civil wars. We should just pick one loser, ISIS, destroy them, ruthlessly, and leave the battlefield to the other contestants.
It’s not going to give us a great outcome. It’s just going to prevent our worst outcome.
If he's right that "we" can do that, then maybe "we" should.  (Not me, of course, but younger people.) I'm suspicious that any plan to do so will fail unless the US makes an extraordinary on-the-ground commitment.  Others at that OT thread seem to think a minimal commitment is possible.  (And still others seem edging toward the Muslim-baiting that we saw post 9/11.  At least they're still using qualifiers, like "some Muslims" or the "Jihadists" among them, or "the Jacobins of Islam," sometimes coming from people who elsewhere have expressed support for the French Revolution.)

But the case is not so clear to me.  And the US has a bad track record when it comes to waging non-cold wars that aren't against Nazis or its own slaveowners.

I'm not a pacifist, not even a "technical pacifist" who would devise rules for justified violence so stringent as to never in practice justify war.  Sometimes armed intervention is the least bad of a whole bunch of bad options in a situation where something can and must be done.  And if these bad options are on the table because of the United States' meddling, as James suggests, and if the threat is a real one that can be expeditiously dispatched, then maybe the US should.  At any rate, Obama is going to do whatever he is going to do regardless of what I write here.  So I might as well register my reservations now before the forces have been deployed.  Because criticism once the fighting starts is "unpatriotic."  I can already hear the analogies to America First.

UPDATE 9-12-14:  I should add two points.  First, James Hanley is not an Islamophobe.  In fact, he has by my understanding gone out of his way to combat Islamophobia.  Second, he is not a neocon war monger nor is he naive about how military interventions work or what they can/cannot do.  In fact, he may be right in terms of what he thinks a good policy might be.  I do think--I am not certain--that I disagree with what he suggests should be done, and I do believe that one consequence of what Mr. Obama is doing is foster more anti-Muslim sentiment.

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