Since the World War II era, the United States military has grown consistently better at two things: eliminating threats from the air and providing humanitarian aid from the air. The Obama Administration’s decision to bomb Islamic State targets in Northern Iraq and provide relief supplies to tens of thousands of Yazidis hiding in the Sinjar Mountain from the jihadist fighters, who seek to eliminate the small religious order, certainly took advantage of these specialties for the right reasons. Given the threat the Islamic State posses to the stability of the Middle East, broad national/regional support for such intervention, the Iraqi military’s apparent willingness to finally cooperative with Kurdish force, and the low cost, low risk nature of a bombing campaign, expanding this type of intervention to include other parts of Iraq and other countries under siege by the Islamic State would normally be the best option.
Unfortunately, the cost of the protracted Iraq War and the many lessons learned weighs heavily on the minds of Americans, especially considering the Iraqi government’s ongoing failure to govern effectively in an inclusive manner. That said, the targeted bombing of Islamic State heavy weapons and vehicles is a meaningful way the United States can limit the damage done by the Islamic State’s militant expansion. Just as the Taliban were able to conquer Afghanistan and impose their strict interpretation of Islam onto the entire population of Afghanistan by using relentless threats of violence to suppress the country’s economic and cultural development, the Islamic State could, ultimately, be ushering in a supersized Afghanistan, i.e. a failing state. With all of the threats and dangers that have come from Afghanistan, including the sheltering of Al Qaeda, groups like the Islamic State should not be allowed to possess high powered weapons as they are more than willing to use them to burn the world to the ground.
There is, however, the Sunni issue. While the US is attempting to frame America’s intervention in Iraq as a humanitarian effort, which may well be a goal the Obama Administration is achieving, jihadist and jihadist sympathizers are particularly good at framing American action in ways that demonize and rally support against the United States. With America’s special relationship to Israel in the spotlight due to the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas, which is Sunni, America’s uneasy relationship with Sunni dominated Pakistan, America’s invasion of Sunni Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, America’s war against Sunni Al Qaeda, and the fact the Islamic State is a Sunni militant group motivated by the Shiite dominated Iraqi government’s failure to address Sunni interests, there is a very compelling case for Sunnis that the US, the West, and the rest of the Middle East have declared war on Sunnis. Even if Middle Eastern governments support US intervention, the views of average Middle Eastern must be considered while the United States needs to take steps to discredit the notion that the US is targeting Sunnis as failing to do so opens the doors to reasonable doubt.
Furthermore, the fact the Obama Administration has framed US intervention in Iraq as a humanitarian effort and there is concern Russia may use the guise of humanitarian intervention to invade Ukraine, there needs to be a careful distinction made. Going back to Russian 2008 invasion of George, as one example among many, Russian leaders tend to view Western action as hypocritical and use our failures to properly justify Western intervention, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, to aggressively act on its interests. Consequently, it is very important to differentiate between potential Russian action in Ukraine and Iraq. Clearly, the Iraqi government, including all conflicting parties, want US intervention while we are acting to protect populations facing genocide. Militant pro-Russian separatists can, however, depart from Ukraine, so the Ukrainian government will no longer need to fight near populated areas. More importantly, the pro-Russian separatists are the initiators of the conflict, just as the Islamic State fighters are, while the Ukrainian government would be more than willing to allow humanitarian monitoring and intervention from countries not closely aligned with Russia. Islamic State fighters are threatening and attacking anyone who will not conform to their views.
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