Why retaliating against ISIS won’t help

Evil did not come into the world with the first murder.
Evil did not come into the world with the first execution.
Evil came into the world when the people killed an innocent person because he was the same family or tribe as a murderer.
                 ==Author unknown

I admit I don’t know what to do about the so-called Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).  But I do have a good idea of what the French, U.S. and other governments should not do.  They should not do what ISIS wants them to do.

imrsTerrorist attacks are the classic strategy of rebel and guerrilla movements that lack popular support.  They provide governments into striking out blindly at innocent people, creating grievances that enable the rebels to recruit.

These were the tactics of the left-wing guerrilla movements of the 1970s.  It was the tactic of Osama bin Laden in the 9/11 attacks.  His goal was to provoke the United States into getting bogged down in a quagmire war in Afghanistan.

French bombing raids won’t destroy ISIS.   Neither will they deter ISIS.  The ISIS fighters see their own attacks as retaliation for what the French and other Western governments have done to Arab peoples.

Instead the attacks help ISIS recruit new members and depict its movement as the defenders of the Arab world against outside aggression.

Cracking down indiscriminately on France’s Muslim population in general won’t hurt ISIS.  It merely creates animosity for the enemies of ISIS.

Turning Syrian refugees away won’t hurt ISIS.  The leaders of ISIS want people to migrate to the territory they control, not flee from it.

these-maps-show-the-progression-of-isis-control-in-iraq-and-syriaAnd continuing the campaign to overthrow Bashar al-Assad;s government in Syria most certainly help ISIS.   The arms given to “moderate” rebels have wound up in the hands of ISIS and other radical terrorists.

The U.S. government has a history of supporting radical Islamist terrorists when they are fighting left-wing regimes that American leaders want to overthrow.  That’s the situation in Syria.  U.S. policy-makers think it is possible to intervene in a civil war against both sides at once—against Syria’s ruler and against his strongest enemies at the same time.

French Jets (AFP)

French jets (AFP)

If we Americans were willing to make the same kind of military effort that we made in World War Two, I feel sure we could obliterate ISIS and its supporters.  But we—and I include myself—are not willing to even make an effort equivalent to what we did in the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts.   If our nation was directly in peril, we would.  But it isn’t.

That being the case, the most the U.S. government can do to bring about the downfall of ISIS is to support its strongest enemies—namely, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the Kurdish militias.  And if it can’t do that, then it can get out of the way of the Russians and others who will.


France’s target

And meanwhile figure out ways to stop the flow of oil and antiquities out of territories ISIS controls and the flow of money and arms back in.  And stop attacking foreign countries such as Libya and creating bloody disorder in which terrorist organizations flourish.

And if Washington is not willing to do any of these things, then a certain vulnerability to terrorist attacks will be the price we pay.

If this our current interventionist policy was necessary to achieve goals that are important to the American people, I would say a certain amount of individual risk is a price worth paying.  But I don’t perceive any such goal.  All I see is a military policy which has not spread democracy, gained control of oil, demonstrated American military supremacy, made Americans safer or achieved any other positive goal.  We have been on automatic pilot for 12 years.


What I Discovered From Interviewing Captured ISIS Fighters by Lydia Wilson for The Nation.  The young ISIS fighters have little knowledge or concern for the doctrines of Islam, and are mainly bent on revenge.  (Hat tip to Anne Tanner)

This Muslim TV Host Gave An Incredible Speech Following the Muslim The Paris Terror Attacks by Shami Sivsubramanian for BuzzFeed.   Good sense from Australia.

Do Not Ask Western Leaders to Fix Anything by Ian Welsh.

Bombing, Air Power and “Winning” in Syria by Ian Welsh.  [added11/18/2015]

We created Islamic extremism: Those blaming Islam for ISIS would have supported Osama bin Laden in the 1980s by Ben Norton for Salon.  (Hat tip to my expatriate e-mail pen pal Jack)

Paris attacks: No security can stop ISIS – the bomber will always get through by Patrick Cockburn for The Independent.

Paris terror: Air strikes will have little effect if they are the only weapon in the war against ISIS by Patrick Cockburn for The Independent [added 11/17/2015]

Not Just Paris: Why Is Beirut’s Brutal Terrorist Attack Being Ignored? by Anna Lekas Miller for Rolling Stone.  And why no mourning for the 224 murdered Russian airline passengers and crew in Egypt?

Mindless terrorism? The truth about ISIS is much worse by Scott Aran for The Guardian.  (Hat tip to Jack)

The Mystery of ISIS by an anonymous writer for The New York Review of Books.

Top Ten Ways Islamic Law Forbids Terrorism by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.


Note:  I added the Tom Toles cartoon several hours after making the original post.

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One Response to “Why retaliating against ISIS won’t help”

  1. jgiambrone Says:

    ISIS, Al Nusrah and the other radical militias there were built by arms, money and training supplied by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, quite a few others, and the C-I-A.

    They exist because the western consensus wants them to destroy Assad’s government, Hezbollah and then Iran. These people have done absolutely nothing to stop the money flows from “40 countries” as Vladimir Putin accused last weekend.

    The US has covertly supported these same types of people since 1979, including the heroic “freedom fighter,” Osama bin Laden.

    The war on ISIS has been a fraud and a sham so far. Square one.


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