There has been a lot of talk lately about this problem in Iraq with the militant group ISIS and what to do about it. Sure what is happening over there is horrific and disgusting, but is it the responsibility of the United States to do something about it? Far too many Americans simply watch a four or five minute news story about what is happening over there and have no real understanding of who Isis is and what they are doing. Yet these people either support or oppose our government getting involved based upon the barest amount of information.
ISIS, otherwise known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is a self proclaimed caliphate which claims religious authority over all Muslims in the region. Some of you do not understand what a caliphate is, and therefore don’t understand what Isis is trying to accomplish. A caliphate is, according to their belief, is similar to the pope, a direct successor to Muhammad. Therefore they claim the authority to direct all religious activity in the region. This includes their requiring that all sects adhere to the dictates they impose. If anyone opposes them, or differs in their beliefs, they can, and routinely are, executed.
What Isis is trying to do is to establish control over all Muslims in the Middle East with their version of Islam as the foundation for their control. The problem is that there are differing sects in the region whose beliefs, although rooted in the teachings of Muhammad, differ from theirs. So they are either told to convert or die. For Isis there is no tolerance for religious freedom like we have here. To put it in a way you might better understand, it would be like the Pope declaring religious authority over all Christians and anyone who opposes the Pope, or refuses to convert to Catholicism is condemned to death.
Aside from the moral outrage many feel towards the treatment of those who oppose ISIS, you have to understand that that entire region has always been a hotbed for varying religious factions. Wars and sectarian violence are as much a part of their history, and their nature, as football and Christmas is to ours. Most Americans simply cannot fathom the level of belief these people have and the fanaticism that goes along with it. We are naive, at best, to believe that anything we might say or do is going to change that. This goes as much for the current problem with Isis as it does for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
For many of these people their religious beliefs are the underlying, or driving force in their lives. Their beliefs and centuries of fighting are not going to be swayed by U.S. diplomacy or the threat of U.S. military strikes. In fact, all our meddling in the region has only achieved in the region is causing them to hate us even more. To them we are infidels and they despise us for our intervention in what they believe to be a religious war.
This anger and animosity dates way back to ancient history. During the Ottoman Empire Sultan Selim the Grim declared “…the killing of one Shiite had as much otherworldly reward as killing 70 Christians…” To those who profess belief in strict adherence to Islamic law, those who belong to different sects are just a step above Christians and must either submit to their views or be exterminated. You cannot fight that kind of ingrained hatred and animosity.
I admit that the world is a far more complicated and intertwined place than it was centuries ago when our nation was founded, but our Founders were firm in their belief that we not become involved in the intrigue of foreign disputes.
In his first Inaugural Address, Thomas Jefferson outlined our nation’s foreign policy by saying, “Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none…”
Then in an 1821 speech to the House of Representatives, soon to be president John Quincy Adams declared, “America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity. She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, of equal justice, and of equal rights. She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.”
Yeah that’s long, but it is crucial that we understand that our nation’s earliest statesmen did not believe in becoming entangled in the intrigue and wars of other countries. Yet this current crisis with ISIS, and the recent past terrorist attacks against America and her interests are not the first time we have had to deal with problems in that region of the world.
In 1786, after the U.S. had been an independent nation for awhile, the U.S. had to deal with pirates in the region now under discussion. America was paying $80,000 annually for them to leave us and our interests alone. At that time $80,000 was an astronomical amount. I could only find inflation calculators that go back to 1914, but even going back that far, $80,000 is equivalent to over a million dollars today. You can imagine how much more it was back in the late 1800’s.
After Algerians captured two ships and demanded an additional $60,000 ransom President Jefferson decided enough was enough. He felt it better to raise funds to build ships to fight the Barbary Pirates than to pay them off in bribes every year.
What differed then is that Jefferson went in with a Naval force and kicked their ass sufficiently so that they knew better than to mess with the U.S. or our interests. Now look at us. We meddle internally in the affairs of these countries, we support Israel, their sworn enemy, and we wonder why they hate us the way they do. Not only that, after we go into a country, no matter how justified, or not, our actions may be, we try to force them to install a democratic form of government, while American profiteers grow rich off the contracts to rebuild the country we just finished demolishing.
Yes, Isis is a threat to the region. But a few isolated military strikes here and there are not going to stop them. We could send troops over there again and kill enough of them to settle things down for awhile, but that would only stop this type sectarian violence for awhile until it sprung up again later.
As a friend of mine stated the other day, there are but two choices we have. We can either stay out of what is happening over there or we can go in and do what needs to be done to make sure this type thing never happens again. Anything else is a half measure that will not be effective.
The problem is that America has this guilt complex that makes us believe that we need to be the defender of what is right, making us the ones to go in and settle every little squabble that arises internally in the affairs of other nations. Does anyone remember Bosnia and Croatia?
Our Founders believed that was not our responsibility. Yet it seems that is what our leadership, the UN and a vast number of America believes, that we are the police force of the world who ensures that all the world enjoys the freedom our Founding Documents outline for us.
The problem is that most Americans don’t realize the extent of the animosity in the region and that our small military incursions into these countries are not going to erase centuries of hatred. Aside from complete and total genocide nothing is going to put an end to the violence in that region. Anything else will be futile. And I don’t think America has the stomach for that. Beside the backlash from the international community would stop that before it ever happened. All one has to do is go back to the Viet Nam war to confirm that. We went in and then would not allow the military to end the war by doing what needed to be done. Far too many U.S. servicemen died in that war because the country, and the government didn’t have the stomach to do what is needed to put a quick end to that war.
But for some Americans to say that we are the only ones capable of stopping a group such as Isis is a lie. China has far more military forces than we do. In fact they outnumber us 2:1 in total members of their armed forces. They could easily go into Iraq and put an end to this uprising should they choose to do so. And the thing is they could probably do it because they would not be afraid to eliminate the problem in its entirety.
But then our government would cry foreign intervention by China when that is exactly what we would be doing should we become entangled in this mess. Besides, we don’t dare let the Chinese get involved as it might give them control of the oil in the region.
All I’m saying by this is that nothing we can do is going to change anything over there. We don’t have the stomach to do what is required to put an end to this type sectarian violence once and for all, and anything else we do will never put an end to it.
But for Americans to say we must do something, then pull back when what we do crosses the line and becomes too horrific for our own sense of morality, is a waste of our time and any lives that may be lost by U.S. Servicemen who are forced once again to go off and fight in a land whose history is filled with such uprisings and wars.
I have always believed that Islam is a threat to the U.S. Sure there are moderates who only want to live in peace, but the moderates never end up becoming a major political force. It is always the fanatics who gain control, and their belief system is incompatible with ours. We must either come to terms with that and do what needs to be done to put an end to the threat radical Islam brings to the region, and the United States, or stay out of it entirely. On this there is no middle ground.