The West Cannot Solve the War with ISIS
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The chaos engulfing the Middle East and growing by the day could probably not have been avoided. Those who suggest differently do not recognize that no one could have stopped the growing demands for change in parts of the Middle East; the widespread rise and conflict engendered by radical Islam; the growing seductive power that radical Islam has cultivated among so many in the West and not only among the have-nots; and the unwillingness of Europe to challenge in a timely manner efforts to destroy their democratic way of life. While many political leaders have made mistakes and continue to do so, especially since 9/11, clearly powerful forces have not stripped these terrorist groups of the power. They have only postponed the inevitable clash of civilizations which so many believe they can avoid.
This analysis begs for a consideration of what, if anything, can the U.S. and the West do about ISIS and the rapidly deteriorating crises in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. While Obama and others in the West are desperately focused on reaching a viable agreement with Iran over its nuclear weapons program–in which Iran will totally overreach in its demands or the West will give away the entire store—there is a recent signal apparent in the region which may be the true signal of what lies in the future. When Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States attacked the Houthis in Yemen, the new king sent an important signal to his friends, enemies, and patrons. As the Israelis had said for years, so too now the Saudis were saying, “Give us weapons and intel and we will fight our own battles.” While blood may quite likely come gushing out from numerous sources, it will be the blood of the actual belligerents and not that of their surrogate Western allies.
The West forgets that Iran and Iraq fought a war for over eight years. The West does not remember the Saudis stopped U.S. forces from finishing the job in Iraq during Desert Storm, because they did not want their brothers totally destroyed—only spanked– by the hated evil West. In Egypt, the repressive forces of Mubarak were defeated by a wave of democratic spirit that spread throughout the land; but it only survived for a year until a different but equally repressive regime returned to power.
In all these places, radical Islam has been engaged and involved, but it has reached its nadir now in Syria and Iraq. The dream of an Islamic caliphate does not ring hollow among many in the Arab world. As they chase their dream, the West needs to finally make some honest judgements as to how it wishes to confront radical, Islamic terrorists. Only Islam can solve this situation; if it wishes to do so.
Washington must cease denying the reality and face this fundamental threat to the West. It must be isolated and then must be accepted as a problem that at this time cannot be solved by Washington. To do this Washington needs to swallow hard because this war is not its to conclude; it is also not within Washington’s ability to solve. All Washington can do is try to contain it.