Monday, September 22, 2014

Are We on the Eve of Destruction?

Shades of Nazi Germany
There was a song in the 60s by Barry McGuire called Eve ofDestruction. It was a protest song written in 1965, when the Viet Nam War was just beginning to heat up. These are its opening lyrics:

The eastern world it is exploding
Violence flarin', bullets loadin'
You're old enough to kill but not for votin'
You don't believe in war but whats that gun you're totin'?

And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin'

But you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend
Ah, you don't believe
We're on the eve of destruction

The point being made by Mr. Mcguire is that if the Viet Nam War continued as it had, it would basically lead to World War III and nuclear annihilation. Well that is not exactly what happened. 

If we look at the world situation today, one might have the same fears. Some have in fact expressed exactly that fear. The world today faces today an enemy who would bring death and destruction on a mass scale if left to their own devices.  That group is ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). While they are relatively small in number, they have managed to spread fear across the globe with their terrorist videos of beheadings and mass murders of non Salafi Muslims. 

Those images were reminiscent of Nazis during the Holocaust. non Salafi Muslims that refused to convert were led to a mass grave with their hands tied behind their backs, told to lie down in front of graves and fired upon by a group of ISIS gunman until they were all presumed dead. Their belief system requires them to eventually do this all over the world until Salafist Islam rules the world.

This is something to contemplate as we enter the New Year in a few days. That said, I am not among those that today believe we are in the eve of destruction. But because of ISIS, there are a lot of people that do. Thankfully even our President understands the danger. Many people feel, however, that he could have prevented ISIS from achieving their goals in Iraq had he done something sooner. Just about all of his military and civilian advisers  have criticized his non interventionist foreign policy in Syria where ISIS mostly resides. Had he addressed this problem sooner we would not be in this mess.

I’m not so sure about that. His advisers said he should have armed some ragtag rebels called the pro west Free Syrian Army fighting in Syria. Had he done that ISIS would never have grown to what it is today. The President, on the other hand felt that if we armed these amateur and untrained soldiers, those arms may very well have ended up in ISIS hands. I tend to agree with him. So I’m not so sure what he could have done about this in the past. My criticism is that he pulled the troops out of Iraq too soon.

But that was then. This is now. What do we do next? Well I agree with the approach he President is taking,although I think he did not go far enough. He wants the world to join him. He has convinced many countries to do just that in various different ways. Most importantly, he has convinced Arab Regimes like Saudi Arabia and Jordan to participate… and if I understand correctly. They will actually be putting boots on the ground. This is a good thing and unprecedented.  We need religious Muslims to fight ISIS so that they cannot claim that they are fighting the infidel west… or Christian invaders.
But here is where I disagree. The President has made a categorical statement that no American soldier will be placed in combat. I hope that it isn’t necessary. But if it is, he better be prepared to do just that. Because if ISIS cannot be defeated without Americans in combat, then we have no alternative but to send in the troops. I know that the President ran on the promise to end the war in Iraq.  He did that. 

But he left a void that ISIS filled easily by overrunning the an unprepared (and some would say cowardly) Iraqi troops. And in the process taking over large swaths of Iraqi territory, while killing and raping innocent civilians along the way.  That was a mistake on the President’s part. He should have kept Americans in place long enough to train the Iraqi military. And to prevent the kind of ISIS takeover that happened there.

But ever the reluctant warrior he still insists that there will be no American boots on the ground there in combat. They will only be there as advisers. For me, that is a serious failing for a Commander in Chief, which in my view is the President’s primary responsibility.

We’ll see how all this plays out. But so far, Isis is not running scared. If anything they seem more emboldened.

One final point. In all of this there is no mention of Israel. They will not be a part of the international coalition put together to fight ISIS.  On the one hand, I’m happy that here will be no Jewish blood spilled in this fight. I would never advocate for Israel’s inclusion for that reason.

On the other hand, wouldn’t it have been a great step forward towards eventual peace with its Arab neighbors to have included Israel in this coalition? ISIS is after all a common enemy of both Israel and the Arab States. Especially those states that have agreed to join the coalition. 

Why has Israel not been asked to join? I think the answer is obvious. When it comes to Israel the old Arab adage of ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ does not apply. But is Israel  a bigger enemy than ISIS? At this point I’m no longer sure.

I’m sure that the President feels that Israel is still seen as an enemy of the Arabs . And that perhaps Joining forces with them would be seen like joining forces with the devil. By asking Israel to stay out of it, the President felt he has a better chance of getting the Arabs to participate.

That is sad. Had he had the courage to do so and still ask the Arabs to join a coalition that included the mightiest power in the region, they may have done so this time. ISIS is a real danger to them. It would have been amazing to see an allied force against ISIS that included both Arab nations and Israel.  That may have opened the doors to even more cooperation between Israel and the Arab States. 

But alas, it is not so. As I said, I’m glad that there will be no Israeli soldier put in danger because of this. But at the same time, it might have been worth the risk for Israel to do that in order to forge a better relationship with their Arab neighbors. I guess we’ll never know.