ISIS. Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The new enemy. Another name we’ll have to remember alongside Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, Hamas and Hezbollah.
I don’t know much about the Middle-East, or Islam for that matter. I know that Sunni Islam is the second largest religion in the world. I know that the goal of Sunni Islam is to live a life that has no action or belief separate from the Prophet Muhammed. I know Muhammed led troops into battle. I know Muhammed justified those battles in the Quran, saying “To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged;- and verily, Allah is most powerful for their aid”(al-Hajj 22:39).
I’m not a religious scholar, and I could be way off base, but in a land where military action from inside and outside displaces peoples and powers on a regular basis, how could some not interpret the above text as a call to achieving retribution through violence? Moreover, as Sunnis subscribe to the idea everything, good and bad, is an example of the predestined supremacy of Allah, it’s fair to assume that ISIS won’t feel overwhelmingly guilty about slaughtering Iraqi soldiers on their march to attempt to take control of Baghdad, and by extension, all of Iraq.
So, is this America’s problem? George W. Bush, along with Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki, signed the Strategic Framework Agreement and Security Agreement back in 2008, stating that we would remove our troops in respect of Iraq’s sovereignty and stability. Bush said he felt comfortable doing so because of all the successes Iraq and America had jointly achieved in preventing civil war, curbing sectarian violence, and loosening the grip of al-Qaeda. Bush, in what would be one of his final justifications of a war that America entered on pretenses that proved to be false, said “As a result of these successes, Mr. Prime Minister, the American people are safer.”
The primary goal of Americans in matters of foreign policy is, or should be always be, to keep America safe. The hard part is to project the unknown outcomes and weight them against the known outcomes. If we send troops to protect Baghdad (which we’ve already done), then those American soldiers surrender their safety. If we don’t send troops, and ISIS takes Baghdad, rises to power, and challenges the primarily Shi’a Islamic Republic of Iran, how much of a hit does the safety of a regular Joe on a farm in Iowa, or a San Fransisco cable car operator take? At what point are the lives of Americans in America threatened to the point where we find ourselves abiding by the same principles Muhammed espoused in the Quran verse above?
I don’t envy the decisions politicians will have to make over the coming days and weeks. If I push my personal politics aside, I even feel sorry for many of those who wish to simply serve their districts and introduce constitutional legislation to improve the functionality of our great democracy, only to be bogged down in the absurd violent outbursts of a young religion, battling for it’s own direction and soul.
Here’s the thing though, I can’t push my personal politics aside. Those senators and pundits pushing for our country’s youth to march into harm’s way every single time an unstable region proves its instability is maddening. Every asshole who pushed for the United States to invade Iraq and topple a sovereign, albeit ridiculously cruel regime for reasons that ended up being untrue should no longer possess a stick with which to bang the drums of war. If you were wrong, and Americans died, and the country you “stabilized” is now worse off, and now the American people are threatened by the collapse of the house of cards we built, then there’s something you really need to do.
I hope that the President, his advisors, Congress, and the ambitious/insane bunch of folks who are preparing to run in 2016 weigh the outcomes, make decisions that protect me, my children, my community, our soldiers, and the long-term viability of our republic. I’m as scared as anyone else by those who justify murder through divine providence. Every religion has done it, but there’s limited historical examples of a political superpower policing those religions to the point where they concede and chill the hell out. I doubt this time will be any different.