ISIS or Islamic State is a radical militant group currently making waves across the Middle East. Most notably in Iraq and Syria, the group has recently created a stronghold that stretches between multiple borders in the region. You probably haven’t been able to watch the news or read the paper without seeing some mention of this popular militant group.
Let me start with my opinion, then we’ll follow it up with some facts. My opinion: the threat of ISIS as a rebel group and among rebel groups has been greatly exaggerated. My rationale in this regard stems from two factors, one being a long history of the United States and other western nations exaggerating regional threats and exploiting their ominousness to promote action. The second being the current 24hr news cycle in which video, images, and news can be spread throughout the world in a viral manner not based on merit or authenticity but on public interest (think the show Nathan for You and the Pig saves Goat video) Some recent examples of the US exploiting a regional threat include our willingness to trump up the Taliban as a globally dangerous terrorist network when in reality they were a strict political party/ governing force confined to very specific tribal areas of the Middle East. Our use of the attacks on 9/11 to scare people into invading Afghanistan and later Iraq when in reality the terrorists we took issue with were trained in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. You can also stretch as far back as the McCarthy era invasions of Southeastern Asian nations to stop the rise of communism.
Okay back to how the threat has been exaggerated. Lets think back to a time when you couldn’t just look down at your phone or tablet and see the latest breaking news. At that time, for example 10 years ago it may have taken at least a day to get word of a captured journalist or beheading. During that time an actual person, not a computer, would have had to draft up a story, do some research, and run it past an editor before it hit the front page. These days any crisis is fluid. This presents a problem to any rational thinking individual. The fact that we see the beheading videos as they happen brings the story so close to home that many cannot even attempt to ignore it. This stirs debate and quick responses from arm-chair politicians. To be clear ISIS has existed for quite some time. Only recently in their brutal be-headings of captured westerners have they gained the ear of the American public. ISIS claims to be creating an Islamic Caliphate, this includes much more than bombing American embassies and attacking villages. This includes taxation, the enforcement of global Sharia law and the appointment of many leaders to manage assets, property, and people. These aspirations are much too high and their leaders are being given far too much credit as they have only recently taken over their first power source (a dam near Tikret) and quickly lost it back to Kurdish fighters assisted by US airstrikes. They have to our knowledge plotted and completed ZERO terrorist attacks throughout the world and this does not seem to be their primary focus. We give this militant-of-the-month group far too much credit when really all they have done is captured a global audience through the use of viral video.
We must limit the reach and influence of this group by not putting any more of their videos on front page news! We must not trump up this group as Mr. Hagel said as the deadliest force we have faced, their not! Their only power comes from our willingness to fear them. If we stop spreading fear and hatred, it will not infect us.
If the United States decides to continue our campaign of nation building in the Middle East we will continue to fail. By putting no more soldiers on the ground in Iraq we eliminate the risk of those soldiers then being captured, injured, or killed. It would be wise for the US to keep its distance and confine any military strategy to that of air strikes and covert operations. We will never build a peaceful country in the Middle East, that is something it will have to do on its own.