The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Response It Deserves

Fareed Zacharia suggests that "we should deny the Islamic State [ISIS] the reaction it wants" with the unstated implication that Barack Obama's regional strategy is the correct one. He fails to mention that Obama's lack of commitment and action  in the region [Syria] two years ago enabled ISIS the metastasize from a small militia fighting Syria's Assad government into an barbaric Islamist army with vision of creating a caliphate. He also doesn't mention the slaughter of Christians, children and others at the hands of ISIS, or the potential for chaos in the region if ISIS grows in strength and reach.

Zacharia suggests that "news on the battlefield has not been good for the Islamic State" without noting that the reason for that is not the surprisingly limited airstrikes by the United States, but rather the brave and strong ground response [in Iraq and Syria] of the Kurds (without the weapons they have begged Obama to provide them with) and [in Iraq] by the Christian Badr Brigade who meet ISIS's atrocities with extreme violence of their own. Neither group is constrained to limit collateral damage or to follow politically correct rules of engagement. They kill ISIS wherever they find it. As a consequence they are inflicting serious, but not fatal, damage.

Zacharia correctly notes:
... the Islamic State could not have imagined the response it has triggered in the Middle East, with Jordanians united against it, clerics across the region loudly and unequivocally condemning the immolation and Japan ready to provide more aid and support against the terrorist group.
But he fails to note that the response was triggered by extreme acts of barbarism. Is his suggestion that we wait and allow ISIS to commit other barbaric acts, to slaughter, say, 10,000 Christians and then precipitate even greater worldwide condemnation? Does he think that by "deny[ing] the Islamic State the reaction it wants," they'll somehow moderate their behavior? Does he believe that if we don't engage this Islamic monstrosity that it will collapse of it's own weight?

He writes:
The targeting of the United States and its allies, the videos and the barbarism are all designed to draw Washington into a ground battle in Syria — in the hope that this complicated, bloody and protracted war will sap the superpower’s strength.
I agree with this assessment, but not the conclusions drawn by Zacharia. It is true that ground engagement in the Middle East puts our troops into a cesspool where promises are broken, allies are actually enemies, and a radical Islamist army melts into the civilian population.

But that doesn't mean that Western leaders (think: Barack Obama) can't clearly name our enemy, provide tangible military support to those who are willing to fight it on the ground (e.g., the Kurds, the Badr brigade), and directly call on surrounding Muslim countries to battle ISIS not with words, but with troops. Jordan has taken a small step toward that end. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others must do the same. Obama should state publicly that a lack of tangible action by those Arab states implies a lack commitment, and a lack of commitment implies that they are ambivalent about the atrocities befalling fellow Muslims. The time for circumspection has passed.

In actuality, it's not about giving ISIS the reaction it wants. Rather, it's about giving ISIS the response it deserves.