FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Who’s Afraid of ISIS?

by

Paris.

For French President François Hollande, the attacks in Paris on November 13, carried out by French and Belgian citizens, changed everything.

His prior, oft-repeated mantra that “Assad must go” was consigned to the memory hole, defeating and destroying the Islamic State became France’s urgent priority and he set out to pull together a “grand coalition” of all concerned states to achieve the defeat and destruction of the Islamic State – a worthy goal if it were possible.

However,  Mr. Hollande’s peripatetic travels this week and his meetings with David Cameron, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Matteo Renzi and Vladimir Putin have made clear that the attacks in Paris have not changed the priorities of the other states that might be concerned.

For the Sunni Gulf states, the priorities remain regime change in Syria (regardless of what might replace the regime), keeping Shiite Iran down and fighting perceived “Iranian proxies” (most notably now in Yemen).

For Turkey, the priorities remain regime change in Syria (regardless of what might replace the regime) and keeping the Kurds down, both in Turkey and in Syria.

For the United States and the United Kingdom, the priorities remain regime change in Syria (regardless of what might replace the regime), keeping Russia down and keeping the Sunni Gulf states happy.

For Russia and Iran, the priorities remain preventing another successful Western regime change in the region (after the Western “successes” in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya) and preserving the Syrian state, their long-time ally, and its state structures (with or without Bashar al-Assad).

For other countries without strong views on the merits or demerits of regime change in Syria, the Islamic State does not appear to be cause for undue concern. Their governments may also recognize that even modest or token involvement against the Islamic State would, without having any constructive impact, raise the risk of retaliation against their own people – perhaps, as in Paris, by “their own people”.

For many Sunnis living in the Islamic State, its harsh, austere and often savagely brutal rule appears preferable to restored rule by what are widely perceived by Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis to be Shiite-dominated or even Iranian-dominated governments.

Since it is widely recognized that aerial bombardments alone cannot defeat and destroy the Islamic State, since Western “boots on the ground” would be an avidly sought boon to the Islamic State and since the Sunni states of the region, which should logically fear the Islamic State more than any other states elsewhere, currently show no interest whatsoever in deploying their own ground forces against fellow Sunnis, what are Western states to do?

Perhaps, rather than succumbing to hysterical calls for yet more and intensified violence in the Muslim world (regardless of the consequences) and intensified restrictions on civil liberties at home (certain to stimulate more conversions to jihadi militancy while diminishing the quality of life for all), Western states should relax, accept that the Islamic State is an ugly reality that is here to stay (at least for some considerable time), accept that containment is the best that can hoped for and achieved in the near term (and that containment can best be achieved by the Iraqi and Syrian governments and their own military forces) and sit back and wait for the Islamic State’s aura of excitement to wear off, for it to become a failed state like so many other regional states in which the West has previously intervened and for the peoples of the region to sort out their own problems in their own way.

While it would clearly be desirable for the Islamic State to cease to exist sooner rather than later, that could only be achieved by a massive commitment of ground forces by the Sunni states of the region, and that would only become conceivable if Western states were to cease to claim “leadership” or “ownership” of the “war” against the Islamic State and to cease to ensure through their aerial bombardments the effective containment of the Islamic State which permits the Sunni states of the region to sit back, rest easy and commit their resources to pursuing other priorities which they deem more pressing.

Since, through its ill-conceived experiments on the Muslim world, the West has played the role of Dr. Frankenstein in creating the monster now called the Islamic State, it can be argued that the West has a moral responsibility to do everything in its power to right its wrongs in the region.

It would take a level of wisdom and courage rarely attained by Western politicians to recognize that, in the current circumstances and notwithstanding their moral responsibility, Western states can now achieve more by doing less and to act accordingly.

More articles by:

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who as advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail