May 12, 2015

Okay, so we destroy ISIS: Then what?

MJ SheppardRebel Blogger

For almost a year now, whenever someone has told me that we absolutely destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant without delay, I’ve unfailingly responded with a question of my own. “Okay. Then what?” 

That isn’t an example of my being a smart-alec or a cutie-pie, both of which I’m fairly well known for. It’s a deadly serious question: “Then what?”

I understand that ISIS represents the living personification of evil in the modern world. I get that they’re supposed to be keeping us up at night with their vile ideology and less than ideal table manners. I know this is what currently passes for news, but it really isn’t.

Okay, so we have to defeat them. Then what?

I believe that this is a question so important that virtually no one is asking it. It used to be that when the West went off to faraway lands to destroy monsters, we did so with at least the expectation that we wouldn’t be going back every three to five years to do battle with a new set of them.

Lost in most of the mainstream news coverage and partisan spin is the fact that ISIS exists for a reason. They are the consequence of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. When the Sunni yoke of Saddam Hussein was lifted from the Shia majority, the Shia suddenly found themselves free to persecute the Sunnis, who, it turns out, weren’t thrilled by that.

The 2007-08 U.S surge failed in its dual missions to destroy al Qaeda in Iraq and provide for sectarian reconciliation in Iraq. The anarchy resulting from the collapse of Syria turned a guerrilla force into something that suddenly looked and acted like a conventional military, which swept through both countries with stunning speed.

There are two reasons for the success of ISIS in Iraq. First, the Shia regime in Baghdad made the conscious decision to purge the military of Sunni elements, primarily in the officer corps, that historically had been its backbone. Second, the Sunnis themselves felt more comfortable being governed by even the animalistic ISIS than they did by a demonstrably hostile government in Baghdad.

All of the bombing and training in the world – and Western leaders are insistent that that is all we’ll be doing – is going to do very much to change those two facts.

So we bomb the stuffing the ISIS from the air and train the barely competent Iraqi National Army and Kurdish peshmurga to rout them on the ground. It might actually work.

Then what?

Just as ISIS rose from the ashes of al Qaeda in Iraq, something is certain to rise from the ashes of ISIS unless Iraqi society is either fundamentally reformed or the nation itself is trisected into smaller ethnic states. There is no shortage of determined and capable Sunni fighting forces being produced by the chaos in neighboring Syria, so the idea that ending ISIS solves the problem is little more than a fantasy.

The West has neither the will nor the means to impose a settlement on Iraq’s competing religious factions. We can’t rely on the neighbours to do it, since Iran and Saudi Arabia are each using the situation to further their own proxy war, and the Turks are too determined to stop the emergence of an independent Kurdish state to focus on anything else.

Something like the Congress of Vienna probably has the best chance of success, but such things tend to occur only after catastrophic wars. Otherwise, the self-interest of the individual nations overrides the necessity for regional harmony. And no one trusts the only country capable of sponsoring such a conference, the United States, nor is likely that Israel would participate, regardless of the consequences.  

Our leaders should be telling us that there is every probability that we’ll be returning to the region in short order to slay another dragon that looks remarkably like the one we’re burying our swords into now.

The Middle East, as we’ll soon learn, is not unlike the Hotel California; you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.


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commented 2015-05-14 03:45:04 -0400
I like the Whac-A-Mole analogy. Nature abhors a vacuum. But I also take issue with the oversimplification of the origins of ISIS. It is equally arguable that the roots of ISIS trace back to the Muslim Brotherhood, which emerged in Egypt after the First World War, in the late 1920s. Others point to beginnings in Salafi/Wahhabism, which dates back to the 18th century.
You can clearly see examples of militant, fundamentalist Islamism in fin-de-siècle British fiction, particularly by authors like Bram Stoker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle’s The Tragedy of the Korosko is especially worth the quick read.
commented 2015-05-13 23:55:55 -0400
Why do you people always have to get so deep ? Be simple like me. Whomever the USA goes to War against will be our new Immigrants. Pick your war-Communism ,drugs, Islamics—- No?
commented 2015-05-12 22:04:04 -0400
I dunno. Your question is obvious, of course.

Saudi Arabia may evolve rather quickly, under the regional pressures, into a constitutional monarchy, just to survive, and modernize to curry western arms and support. As a modern state, SA can replace fundamentalist Wahabbi political upstarts and restore balance to the Nation of Ishmael.

China will expand her commercial interests in the region and, under the guise of providing stability for her commercial ventures, introduce security throughout the region, including in Israel.

Russian interests will clash with Chinese interests in the region and a cold war for control will subvert and subdue the Islamic infighting of gangs like ISIS and those that replace it, including in Iran.

The western democracies should focus on American, European and Pacific partnerships and leave dealing with middle-eastern communism until after it defears Islamic fascism.
commented 2015-05-12 17:28:33 -0400
The author pre-supposes some fundamental premises that are very flawed:
1) " ISIS exists for a reason. They are the consequence of the 2003 invasion of Iraq"
This is a dangerous view of Muslims in ISIS as automatons with no responsibility or control for their own actions. ISIS does exist for “a reason”, for many reasons, actually. These include the drive for a global Islamic caliphate, domination of non-Islamic peoples, lands and resources, etc.
But to say that ISIS is a consequence of the 2003 invasion of Iraq is wrong. ISIS is made up of individuals with free will. No one forced them to behead Coptic Christians, rape women, enslave infidels, etc. These were choices. Do not fall into the “liberal” trap of treating people like infants.
2) Perpetual interventions will be needed.
This is not a foregone conclusion. Now, it has been this way until now, but precisely because the interventions have been so meek, restrained and frankly, pathetic. The Islamic extremists have grown accustomed to these interventions, and know how to play the game. Kill, rape, and enslave non-Muslims, then when the intervention comes, fade into the civilian population. Plant IED’s when no one is looking, fade into civilian population. Rinse, repeat.
What is needed is a robust, no-nonsense, hands dirty approach. Yes, it isn’t going to be pretty, and no one like to admit it, but that is how we pacified Germany and Japan in WWII. It is the only way that works.
commented 2015-05-12 15:49:37 -0400
This is an excellent point. The Germans in the 1920’s and 1930’s were not an embryonic liberal democracy waiting to be liberated…that democracy was foisted on them by their enemies, quickly commandeered by leftists who ruined the country and not missed when overthrown by what was seen as a benevolent dictatorship…we had to occupy Germany for 50 years for the habit to actually set in. Same thing in Japan.

Bringing the troops home might have seemed like a good idea…but here we are. And we also see what arming and supporting proxy overthrows does.

If their children are not raised in a different perspective nothing will change.
commented 2015-05-12 14:26:00 -0400
The question “Then what?” is a very legitimate question. I think the answer to “Then what?” is we respond to whatever comes next, and next after that, and so on, and so on. First of all, I believe the threat to our National security isn’t coming directly from ISIS or any other single group within Islam, but rather from the global caliphate dictated by the hegemonic ideology of the Islamic religion itself. We are not threatened by attacks from abroad, but from the spread of their radical ideology through the internet and radical Imams to our own youth. Sleeper cells in our own country are the real threat. I don’t believe it’s a matter of “if” but “when” that the middle east blows up into WW III but in the mean time we must keep fighting the Devil that’s in front of us.
commented 2015-05-12 12:04:15 -0400
It is a game of Whac-A-Mole. There is no incentive for the Middle East countries to sort it out for themselves as long as we are willing to try to do it for them. Dictatorship seems to be the natural form of government in the area. If we didn’t want something from the area we would pay no attention to it. Oil is a strategic commodity and provides the wealth to undertake nuclear weapons development. Everything else is melodrama.
commented 2015-05-12 11:45:58 -0400
While I respect the author’s viewpoint, I have to somewhat disagree. In my view, the main reason the Islamic State has to be destroyed is to send a clear message to other such terrorist factions that wish to harm the West. And, yes, other groups will take its place if it is destroyed. That’s a given. But that doesn’t mean destroying ISIS is a futile exercise. When the West is threatened, like it is by ISIS, you destroy it abroad before it hits home or before it becomes a dominant force in the Middle East, and creates a haven for terrorists (re: Afghanistan). If it reconstitutes under another name and threatens us again, then it has to be destroyed again. It is only a perpetual war if THEY make it a perpetual war.
And I’m not saying we should favor a policy of nation-building or democracy building in the Middle East. These places as they exist today cannot transition to western-style democracies because to have democracy you need a civil society. There is no foundation upon which to build a civil society in most of these places, therefore none can exist. Furthermore, it is not the West’s job to create democracies, or to engage in democracy building projects like the Bush Doctrine called for. The role of the West is to protect the West and its allies from aggressors. To do this we need to find pro-West leaders who will help keep the peace among the warring factions, by supporting them military and politically.
If we choose not to act in the face of threats from ISIS, Iran, or any other regime/faction whose stated goal is to destroy the West, then we risk these threats becoming larger and more menacing and the next generation could potentially suffer mass casualties (re: an Iranian regime with intercontinental ballistic missile capability).
This is why I favor an aggressive air campaign using heavy bombers to obliterate ISIS, like we did in World War 2 against the Axis forces. The world needs to get the message that the West will not stand idly by and be threatened by evil regimes and factions that vow to destroy us.
Until reform (or maybe Enlightenment) comes to these hellholes, these are the unenviable choices we face.
One final point. Iraq was a won war. The 2007 surge worked. Iraq was stabilized. There were still pockets of violence, but they were mostly manageable. After president Obama pulled troops out without leaving a residual force behind (against the advice of almost every military expert), Iraq was lost. We saw the rise of ISIS in Iraq before our very eyes on TV, city after city falling to the terrorists, while the president was on the golf course ( he infamously referred to ISIS as the “JV team”). The problem is Democrats loose won wars.
There is no doubt that this U.S. administration’s actions, or non actions, is at the root of most of the danger we face in the world today.