Targeting ISIS: U.S. involvement in foreign affairs
Whenever an international crisis takes place, the world looks to the United States to see how the federal government will react. As a global super power, the spotlight is thrown on the U.S. as much as it is on the country or crisis in question.
Just last month, the U.S. chose to involve itself in another conflict in the Middle East against the violent group ISIS. Making large territorial gains over the summer, ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has seized and occupied land in both Iraq and northern Syria. While ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi claims to be creating an Islamic State, the barbaric actions of ISIS do not follow the teachings of Islam.
Rather than furthering Islamic ideals of peace, which one would assume from a group claiming to be an Islamic state, ISIS instead perpetuates negative stereotypes surrounding Islam and Muslims by committing violent acts including killing fellow Muslims in the Middle East and the recent beheadings of Western journalists.
Engineering junior Trang Nguyen said she thinks U.S. involvement may not be the best solution, even if it seems necessary.
“Often it feels like the U.S. ends up doing more harm than good, so I’m hesitant to completely support U.S. involvement,” Nguyen said.
For ISIS, the creation of an Islamic state is merely a guise for its desire for power and control of land in the Middle East.
According to the Quran, Muslims may only engage in fighting when it is against those who wage wars without just cause and against those who engage in religious persecution. Ironically, ISIS happens to be guilty of both.
Muslims around the world are condemning the actions of ISIS. In fact, British Muslims began trending the hashtag #notinmyname to argue against the belief that ISIS’s actions reflect Islamic beliefs.
Time reports that initial airstrikes began on Aug. 7 in ISIS controlled areas in Iraq. President Barack Obama decided to go through with the attacks in an attempt to halt ISIS expansion into the Iraqi city of Erbil where U.S. troops are stationed.
While Obama initially wanted to protect U.S. troops in the area and curb ISIS expansion, his new mission is to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, as the U.S. now acknowledges the group as a potential threat to national security.
On the night of Sept. 22, the U.S. began sending airstrikes into ISIS targets in northern Syria, including the city of Raqqa, which ISIS has declared its capital. Due to the strikes, over 160,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey.
The Washington Post reported that while airstrikes have hit several oil refineries, ISIS makes its money from crude oil. These latest strikes are not enough.
Currently, Obama has no plans to send U.S. ground forces. Military advisors have been sent to both Iraq and Syria to train soldiers from the region, however.
The U.S. is also building an international coalition to combat ISIS and keep it from infiltrating the city of Kobane that lies along the border of Turkey and Syria. Other western nations including France, Britain, Denmark and Belgium have also begun launching airstrikes into Syria.
Kurdish Syrian leaders have been asking for American assistance.
“The strikes have shown no effect on the ground, and resistance is very difficult,” said Kurdish activist Abdul Azzizi from Kobane.
“(The) bases of ISIL and all their heavy weapons, vehicles and equipment are in the open air, visible to everyone, but yet they haven’t been targeted by the airstrikes,” said Redur Xelil, a spokesman from Kurdish group People’s Protection Units.
Although Obama has announced that U.S. armed forces will do nothing more than advise Iraqi and Syrian rebel soldiers, it is questionable whether or not this will remain the case. The U.S. and its allies may have hit ISIS strongholds, but keeping ISIS from expanding is only one of the goals. It will be much harder to rollback ISIS influence in its occupied territories.
While it may seem unavoidable to some, the U.S. should reconsider the extent of its involvement in the Middle East. Though it is difficult for the U.S. to avoid involvement in such situations, it is important to consider that one reason why ISIS was able to expand is because it has overtaken countries weakened by war. U.S. troops have been stationed in Iraq — the country in which ISIS originated — for over ten years now.
Because ISIS claims to be an Islamic state, people are misguided in believing that the core principles it acts upon are Islamic. As the Guardian suggests, ISIS is formed on the basis of modern western political history and culture — not traditionally Islamic ideals.
The belief that there is a need for an Islamic state lies in the ideology of the French revolution, in which a state is “founded on a set of principles” rather than the people governed. Politicizing the Islamic religion to fit these revolutionary western ideas is what fuels extremist groups such as ISIS.
The U.S. has been in Iraq for several years, and the weakened state of their army was acknowledged by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey when he explained that it could take eight months to a year to train soldiers to get them up to standard to fight ISIS. Likewise, even if the U.S. advises Syrian rebels, Syria is in a current state of ruin due to the civil war.
Even if the U.S. does prove to be effective in halting ISIS, there is no guarantee that another group will not emerge in the future. The Middle East may boast imperfect governments, but U.S. involvement only fuels the fire.
The U.S. has become so entangled in Middle Eastern affairs that any move that it makes can disrupt their stance in another conflict. For instance, the U.S. has decided to support Syrian rebels and condemn the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, but by trying to contain and drive out ISIS, the U.S. is still assisting Assad in ridding the country of another opponent.
Likewise, by neglecting to consider the inclusion of Iran — the only other Shia government in the Middle East — in their international coalition building, the U.S. loses out on a more powerful ally than Kurdish and Iraqi forces.
Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are also part of the coalition, but have had a history of financing extremist groups. Turkey, another ally, has tolerated a cross border oil trade that helps fund ISIS and has allowed militants to enter Syria through its border.
Pressure is rising for the U.S. to send ground troops if the U.S. is unable to train sufficient troops or if other allies are unable to commit enough ground troops. As ISIS continues to grow and airstrikes prove to have little effect, the U.S. will need to reconsider whether or not Iran is a greater threat. To defeat ISIS, differences may need to be put aside to partner with Iran and drive ISIS out of Iraq and Syria.
Opinion columnist Rama Yousef is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected].