Have you ever had an annoying acquaintance that thinks they are your best friend – and you can’t get rid of them? No matter how hard you try to shake them, they keep calling or texting. Such people are like shoe gum, they attach easily are nearly impossible to scrape off.
Which brings us to Iraq – the ultimate example of shoe gum. No matter how fast we sprint away, we can’t shake the mess from our feet. We spent more than $2 trillion dollars to fix the Humpty Dumpty that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld shattered. And yet this duct taped rotten egg keeps falling off the wall.
If you listen to this show regularly, you know that I have been steadfastly against intervening in Iraq’s civil war. My position has been:
1) Our intervention often seems to make things worse
2) We should not risk American lives to stop an ancient civil war.
3) If the Shiites want to protect holy shrines from destruction, let Iran step in and do the fighting. Let our sworn enemy squander its money, spill its blood, and weaken its military. The “Great Satan” shouldn’t take sides in a struggle without a clear strategic interest.
Unfortunately, heartbreakingly, saddeningly – if that’s a word — the situation has drastically changed in Mesopotamia. American military forces may be called into action. The medieval barbarians known as The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, aka ISIS, are on the march. They are sweeping though the Fertile Crescent inflicting savagery on a massive scale.
ISIS put out a statement this week that said:
“Our Islamic forces are still fighting in all directions and we will not step down until the project of the caliphate is established with the will of God.”
ISIS is an evil entity that will bring nothing but pain, misery, poverty, suffering, and death to this chronically embattled region. This group is beyond intolerant. These terrorists force people of other faiths to convert or die. They force women to wear the veil and accept second-class citizenship. They slaughter anyone who is openly gay. They behead their foes and place the severed heads on fence posts to serve as an example to others. ISIS is a hate crime disguised as a religious army. This group is the antithesis of modernity. They are diametrically opposed to anything remotely progressive. They want to drag that region back to the Middle Ages.
I’ve been opposed to American intervention in the Sunni vs. Shiite battle, whether in Syria or Iraq – because there are no good guys. However, ISIS is now attacking the Kurds, which has been a steadfast American ally. While far from perfect, the Kurds have been an island of decency and stability in a sea of violence and fanaticism. We simply cannot stand by idly while our friend is threatened with oblivion.
The conventional wisdom held that the formidable Kurdish militia, the pesh merga, would be able to fend off the advancing Sunni militants. Ironically, ISIS is routing the Kurdish militia by using sophisticated American weapons captured from the Iraqi Army. This is precisely why I usually oppose the United States arming rebel groups – who eventually turn the weapons on our allies or us.
However, the Kurds are proven allies who represent a better future in the Middle East. I reluctantly believe that America should immediately arm the pesh merga. We should also, in defense of the Kurds, deploy drones and launch airstrikes against fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS should not be able to operate in the open without being bombed. Each time the US sees this terrorist army advancing across the barren landscape, we should make them pay a heavy price. These aren’t the jungles of Vietnam where the enemy can hide. If a large number of ISIS fighters move towards Erbil or Baghdad – we can use our superior technology to beat them back.
As a progressive, I believe that using military force should always be a last resort – but time is of the essence and the Kurds face a dire situation, with ISIS militants edging closer to the Kurdish capital of Erbil. If the barbarians storm the gates of Erbil, it will be slaughter and the end to regional decency or any glimmer of hope for peace in the Middle East.
Tens of thousands of persecuted religious minorities – including Christians — are under threat of elimination. 40,000 Yaz-i-dees are trapped on the harsh and forbidding terrain of Mount Sinjar. They are suffering from hunger and dehydration. 40 children have already died on the mountain. The US has dropped food, water, and medical supplies, but that is not enough. Military force is needed to run ISIS out of the area.
Indeed, we may have waited too long. I support President Barack Obama’s policy of getting the US military out of Iraq – which was draining our nation’s resources and costing American lives. I agree with his hands off policy in the region. However, hands off cannot mean we keep our eyes off an unfolding catastrophe.
The US should have acted before ISIS gained control of crucial oil fields that are now bankrolling terror. The United States should never have allowed ISIS to take over militarily strategic dams that let these monsters control the water supply for Iraq’s cities. Aside from extorting money for water, these dams are a critical military asset that is now run by fanatics. If ISIS gets desperate, they can open the Mosul Dam and unleash a horrific 65-foot tsunami that would flood much of northern Iraq.
If you think ISIS wouldn’t do this – think again. They have already turned the Fallujah dam into a terror weapon, flooding parts of Anbar Province and creating thousands of refugees. These are delusional religious zealots who have no scruples and will sacrifice human life with not a pang of conscience if they believe it will advance their caliphate.
Now, this isn’t our neighborhood, so we should avoid ground troops. We don’t want an eternal presence in Babylonia. However, if there was ever a group worthy of receiving weapons and military intelligence, it is the Kurds.
If we don’t help the Kurds in their desperate hour of need America will shred its credibility. We cannot shrink from this challenge, unless we are taking a deliberately isolationist, if not disastrous, turn with our foreign policy.
Allowing ISIS to significantly impact the world energy supply will create havoc across the globe. It would likely lead to higher gas prices and allow Islamic extremists to hold the world hostage. This would also empower Russia – who would gladly fill the vacuum created by any disruption to the flow of Mideast Oil. Vladimir Putin would use those profits to bully its neighbors, divide Europe, and sideline the influence of the America.
Given these consequences, we have to do something, and do it now before it’s too late.
Am I afraid it will be a slippery slope? Yes
Am I afraid it’s a shoe gum that we can’t scrape off, that will drag us into a quagmire? Yes, absolutely.
But what are the alternatives?
If ISIS eventually wins by slaughtering enough Iraqis to cow them into submission – I predict the situation in the region will quickly deteriorate.
1) ISIS will leverage their power to double down in Syria – and eventually overthrow the Bashar Assad regime.
2) ISIS will destabilize Lebanon causing a civil war. Or, they will simply take it over after a bloody fight with Hezbollah.
3) Once ISIS was in full control of Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq – they would essentially have the virulently anti-Western caliphate that they desire. However, they wouldn’t stop there. They would begin a campaign to portray the ruling Saudi regime as morally compromised and an impure, illegitimate caretaker of Mecca. This could lead to the overthrow of the Saudi regime and the extension of the ISIS caliphate.
4) Having unified the Sunni world under the black ISIS flag – the awful stage would be set for all-out war with their Shiite rival Iran. All hell would break loose in a gruesome, take-no-prisoners holy war that would be fought to the death. This would cause a regional conflagration and have unforeseen consequences worldwide – not least of which would be a severe disruption of the energy supply.
If we don’t do something to stop ISIS now – we will live to regret it. I’m not suggesting American ground forces. I am saying that humanitarian aid, arming the Kurds, and American air support is warranted in this dreadful situation.
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