The world is still a mess and getting worse. Why should we care and where did this start?
The reason we should care is that the U.S. and its citizens are directly affected by a terrorist group such as IS (Islamic State), formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). They have a stated goal of developing an Islamic State as a caliphate when all non-Wahhabi Muslims and any non-Muslims will be killed. If anyone in the U.S. thinks that these lunatics will not target Americans throughout the world, think again. Unlike Al Qaeda, IS is more strategic and more dangerous than Al Qaeda ever thought of being.
Now as to how we got here: Some think it started with Mubarak’s removal from power; some think it started before that when the U.S. didn’t help the secularists, modernists in Egypt; some think it goes back to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan; some take it further back to the U.S. helping the Afghans against the Soviets which created the Taliban. Jon Meacham writes convincingly in Time’s August 4 issue that it really goes back to World War I.
Historians quite often get overlooked, but there is a reason to read history and listen to those who study it. After WWI, the world thought there would be peace. Unfortunately, by dividing up the Middle East in a totally arbitrary way, the seeds were planted for what we are seeing today. Separate from the issue of Israel and Palestine, the rest of the region is incredibly artificial and is the setting for an ongoing Islamic internal battle between Sunni and Shia which overlaps economic and political wars.
For those of us who love the region with its rich history and amazingly marvelous people with delicious food, it is very sad. Several Kuwaiti friends are visiting D.C. where their son is going to go to university. We bemoaned the fact that so many Americans only know the terrorist side of Islam – not the beautiful side of the people who are from the region and want nothing to do with the terrorists or their goals.
Now many talking heads are blaming the intelligence community for the “surprise” of the rise of IS. Thank heavens for some accurate journalists such as David Ignatius who pointed out that the intelligence world had known of this and been telling the policy makers all about the rise of these militants in Syria. They even showed that ISIL was recruiting militants from all over, including Europe and the U.S. (This is one of the reasons that many encouraged the White House to get involved in Syria to stop this development. The White House said no.) As Ignatius said, this is a policy failure NOT an intelligence gathering failure.
Now, whether we like it or not, are back to dealing with Iraq. It shall be interesting to see if this Administration continues to take half-measures which will continue to get us nowhere — all in the name of what the American people want. How can the American people understand what is at stake in the world if our leader doesn’t accurately and vigorously explain what is happening and what is at risk?
As Richard Haas said on MSNBC, the President has to lead the American people and get the public to understand what is truly at stake which is not only terrorism but our very economic prosperity which is now global and is inextricably tied to the whole world. This is not the use of military force to “makeover” a society or build a new democracy. Use of force in this situation is to eradicate a group of terrorists that can rock our world. We shall all have to stay tuned and hope that this crisis is handled properly and swiftly.
And just in case you want to see how serious IS really is, check this out.