Friday, August 29, 2014

Do our policy makers know what they are getting into?

New Yorker writer George Packer was "just barely" pro-war about George W. Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq. Then he reported directly from the U.S. adventure on the Euphrates and rapidly came to regret his early enthusiasm.

He worries about current moves toward further U.S. engagement in Iraq and Syria occasioned by the military successes of the terrorist Sunni Muslim group ISIS, AKA the "Islamic Caliphate." He has assembled an excellent list of questions that U.S. leaders need to answer before blundering further into that maelstrom:

Too much of August’s sound and fury over ISIS is taking place in a vacuum of knowing and thinking ahead. Here are a few of the questions that any serious policymaker should address:

  • What kind of short- and long-term threats do ISIS militants pose to the U.S.? What are their capabilities and intentions? Between Obama’s “jayvee team” remark to Remnick, in January, and Chuck Hagel’s “beyond anything we have seen” comment last week, where does the truth lie?
  • What can air strikes against ISIS positions in Syria achieve without coördination with ground troops?
  • Are there any Syrian rebel groups that are still capable of functioning like the Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi special forces in northern Iraq, as ground troops that can take positions abandoned by ISIS under U.S. air strikes?
  • When we talk about remaining “moderate” rebels, who are they, who are their leaders, what are their interests and loyalties, what is their fighting condition?
  • If Haider al-Abadi becomes the next Prime Minister of Iraq, what can he be offered in exchange for a pledge to end government support for the Shia militias that have alienated Iraqi Sunnis and created a base of popular support for ISIS?
  • How extensive is support among Iraqi Sunnis for the anti-ISIS uprising of leading sheikhs in Anbar province? Can American air power be brought to bear in conjunction with their efforts without strengthening ISIS? How much support would the Saudis offer in Anbar?
  • How can Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and the Emirates be brought into a loose coalition against ISIS?
  • Is Iran willing to discuss a post-Assad government in Syria as part of a larger negotiation over coördinating strategies with the U.S. to destroy ISIS, the common enemy? If not, is there any ground for American-Iranian coöperation in the fight against ISIS?
  • Can Iran play any part without alienating the Gulf countries?
  • What is the larger American strategy to contain and defeat ISIS? What are its military, political, diplomatic, economic, and cultural aspects?

I have added emphasis to the items I consider the bare minimum about which the people of the United States should demand answers as our leaders drift toward a wider war. Vox provides a set of useful refutations of common myths about ISIS, in case you are looking for more food for thought.


tina a non-Sunni Ayrab from Beirut said...

So your president declares (my translation from Arabic): "I don't see any scenario in which elAssad would be able to bring peace to an area with a Sunni majority." This means that a person from a religious minority (Alawi) cannot rule a religious majority (Sunni).
But hey, African-Americans have become a majority in the US?!
I wonder if anyone in the US media paid attention to this sentence?

Rain Trueax said...

tina, what you read is wrong. African Americans are not the majority in the US. It's minorities that have become the majority which also includes Hispanics, Chinese. The big problem is to make sure here the majority and minority vote to work for their ideas on what should be done. A minority too often rule this country because the majority don't vote. To me that is a big mistake. More voter registration has to happen to get us all involved with our solutions. As for the Middle East countries, I think most of us hope someday they will be ruled by the vote. And we hope we hold onto our own ability to make our decisions that way rather than with violence. The whole world has gone a lot toward violence and it's not a positive direction L(

Hattie said...

Doesn't this simply refer to the fact that our president is African American? It's confusing anyway. And thanks for the map,Jan. Can't have too many maps!

janinsanfran said...

Tina writes more: Bravo Hattie!

What should be confusing is that it was not pointed out by a US citizen. And more confusing is that it was not understood when I wrote it. Most probably I don't know how to express myself in English and couldn't express properly the implicit irony :)

Related Posts with Thumbnails