Friday, September 12, 2014

Who's Afraid of ISIS?

There's plenty of talk in the blogosphere and among network television regarding the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS, or ISIS). Reason editor Nick Gillespie weighs in with an article on The Daily Beast, and as usual, proves Libertarian ideas are not suitable for the foreign policy realm.
Gillespie spends most of the article railing against the "threat inflation" in American politics, and for the most part he's not wrong. TSA certainly doesn't make us safer from terrorism, and labeling every potential extremist group as the perpetrators of the next 9/11 is counter-productive.
While it is certainly true that Americans have no stomach for another protracted, possibly unwinnable war, ignoring threats to international security, especially those as  widespread and financially sound as ISIS, is unwise and downright dangerous.
Years ago, during the wonder years of the Clinton administration, another extremist group borne of a regional conflict appeared on the world stage. Throughout the 90's, al-Qaeda carried out various attacks against Americans and American targets, culminating in the attacks of 9/11. Initially, the U.S. government held the same opinion of al-Qaeda that Gillespie holds for ISIS: on the radar, but not a transnational threat, and certainly not a threat to the U.S. homeland.
Gillespie maintains that sheer numbers of opposing fighters are enough to defeat ISIS. Apparently 250,000 poorly trained Iraqi troops, many of whom have already dropped their weapons and retreated, are more than enough to defeat ISIS, whose numbers are much lower. The U.S. had a much larger footprint in Vietnam than the North Vietnamese Army, and struggled mightily before withdrawing decades later. Believe it or not, tactics matter much more than troop numbers, as any Iraq veteran could certainly attest.
In fact, it is the policy of doing nothing that allows groups like ISIS to flourish. The al-Qaeda example not withstanding, the U.S. withdrew from Iraq with an Iranian puppet in power who isolated the Sunni minority, giving ISIS a foothold in Iraq's north and west. Also, the Obama administration drew an imaginary red line in Syria, which was ignored. As a result of policymakers standing idly by, ISIS grew stronger and stronger and are now a force threatening regional and international security.
Looking around for a war is never the answer. However, standing on the sidelines while terrorists flourish and flaunt the world order also isn't an answer. Gillespie may want to reconsider his ideas before ISIS becomes too much to handle.

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