US troops: the answer to the Islamic State? Why the Middle East should not want US troops on the ground
Following the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks and into the post 2003 Iraq Invasion era, the American People were genuinely shocked and confused as to why there was so much anti-American sentiment throughout the world. While many tried harder to comprehend the negative impact of our often overly aggressive and inconsistent policies, there is far more to the story than what the United States did wrong.
When something goes wrong in the world, the International Community has had a tendency of either relying on the US to take care of the problem or avoiding the issue until the United States does something on its own, which is then followed by a barrage of global criticism. Too often, the world’s most powerful and influential country has found itself in a “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” scenario where taking action is met with harsh criticism and not taking action is met with harsh criticism.
Not only does the world’s dishonest reliance on US military might breed resentment among Americans, it helped lead to the George W. Bush Administration taking ill-conceived action against Iraq despite objections from experts and world leaders. Although the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the weak state of the US budget/economy, and mounting threats around the world limit what resources the United States can commit to the Middle East, there is growing pressure on the US to send ground troops back into Iraq to fight Islamic State forces.
With Baghdad and the Kurdish city of Kobani under threat, criticism of US and Coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State is on the rise as the strategy appears to be failing. In reality, the airstrikes were never supposed to defeat the Islamic State. The airstrikes were the contribution the United States was willing and able to offer the Iraqi People in order to prevent their military from completely failing. Clearly, the near slaughter of thousands of Yazidi served as a turning point, but the overreaching motivation for the intervention was to break the momentum of the Islamic State and prevent it from spreading to the rest of the region.
In essence, airstrikes against the Islamic State were supposed to eliminate the heavy weaponry the terrorist group had acquired while giving security forces on the ground some advantage over their enemy. We had hoped the Iraqi military, the Kurdish Peshmerga Forces, and the Free Syrian Army could be bolstered enough to repel and eventually suppress the Islamic State threat. The success of the strategy, however, relied upon the willingness of Middle Eastern governments to take necessary action to protect their national and regional security interests.
Because our regional partners were publicly recognizing the woes of terrorism, the Obama Administration decided to take a leap of faith for the greater good of stopping a serious threat to regional and global security while defending the weak from the ungodly horrors delivered by the Islamic State. Clearly, airstrikes have limits and those limits have become apparent as the Islamic State adapts. On the other hand, the Peoples of the world and the Middle East should not want the United States to put US troops on the ground in order to fight the Islamic State.
As the Ukraine Crisis has yet to be resolved, great potential for conflict with an exceptionally aggressive China exists, and something big could come out of North Korea, it would be very unwise for the US to commit too many resources to a small country like Iraq with very limited strategic importance. Given the Middle East is in a state of upheaval, the Iran nuclear issue is still in play, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict looms, the Middle East cannot afford to lose American military support should it be needed elsewhere in the region.
Looking forward, the driving force behind the instability in the Middle East has been the failure of governments to address and balance the interests of their Peoples. Because the governments of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iran fear their Kurdish populations forming their own country more than the Islamic State, for example, they have been more than reluctant to support Kurdish efforts to fight the Islamic State. Meanwhile, a number of groups within these nations have also used the Islamic State as an excuse to stoke sectarian violence instead of using the threat of terrorism to unite both Shia and Sunni alike.
With this in mind, US military intervention simply becomes the easy out way, even though it offers no lasting solutions to regional issues. Instead of addressing the underlying issues behind terrorism, as well as civil unrest in general, Middle Eastern governments are avoiding the problem by not making a serious commitment to deal with issues like the Islamic State. In turn, it shows Middle Eastern governments are not making serious commitments to their Peoples, thus they reveal their main concern is for the survival of their governments and not those they govern.
Unfortunately, a great deal of resentment against America stems from the US supporting governments in the Middle East that have suppressed their populations. In the wake of the Arab Spring Revolutions, the United States learned it had to support its democratic values over convenient alliances while the governments of the Middle East should have learned by now they can only survive when they fulfill their role in society, i.e. to serve the interests of their Peoples. As such, the governments of the Middle East must do more to serve their Peoples. This means doing more to fight the threat of the Islamic State, including providing troops when needed, because even US airstrikes will not be there forever.
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