We are about to played the sucker again. The good old USA is putting on its boots to muddle through a field of manure. In part it is because as Obama said he hasn’t developed a strategy with respect to ISIS. Leave a vacuum, others will gleefully fill it.
How can it be we have no strategy? Have we not learned anything? Is it Bush’s fault we have none? Did Obama just take office? It makes my head spin.
I’m dragged back to this topic by two news items I read today.
The first item of news is spelled out in a headline in the NY Daily News “ISIS terrorists could be in America in just months if ‘neglected,’ warns Saudi king.” Many other news agencies splashed similar headlines. Fox News noted “Saudi king warns jihadists could attack US, Europe within months.”
The other item of news was in a NY Times article “ISIS Displaying a Deft Command of Various Media.”
Its an interesting article about how ISIS is using both the old tools, horror executions like that of James Foley, and the new tools, the social media with its slick recruitment videos, to intimidate people and spread its teachings.
Having read the latter article first and then the news about the Saudi king I said to myself: “the Saudi foxes are up to their old tricks. We will be suckered in to follow them.” We will if we don’t have a strategy based upon the lessons we should have learned from our history in the Middle East.
Recall Iraq War #1 under the first George Bush. Iraq invaded Kuwait. Saudi Arabia was under threat. We gathered a coalition of nations and rushed to its defense. The Saudis had us covering their back and doing the work they should have done.
Recall Iraq War #2 under the other George Bush. We went in to take down Saddam Hussein under several mistaken beliefs promulgated by Bush’s advisors who didn’t necessarily have our interests foremost in their mind. The Saudis sat back and watched us clean up another mess in their neighborhood.
An editorial this year in the Economist discussing the USA and Saudi Arabia noted: “the two countries need each other. America retains a strong military presence in the Gulf, and cannot be replaced as the ultimate guarantor of Saudi security in the foreseeable future. In the midst of turmoil across the region, and with the threat of jihadist terrorism ever-present, America still relies heavily on the Saudis as the leading local policeman.”
The problem with statements like that, and the past American policy, is that as far as being policemen, the Saudis have not left their station houses.
We are now back in Iraq without a strategy with several hundred ground forces and our air planes. We are fighting ISIS with a little help from the Iraq and Kurd armed forces who at the best of times are reluctantly dragged into the fight. It’s clear they would prefer the US to engage with ISIS while they watch from the sidelines.
That’s what the Saudi king is calling for with his dire warning. He too wants American troops to come to his aid. He too wants Americans to die in a fight that is really his.
Saudi Arabia has an army of over 225,000 troops, over 1,000 tanks, and over 500 aircraft including the latest fighter planes, attack planes and attack helicopters. If it is threatened, shouldn’t it be in the fight. What about the other Arab or Muslim countries?
I recognized ISIS is a horror show. It is the most brutal and barbaric group of fundamentalist Muslims that has existed in our time. But the fight is not ours. It belongs to those ISIS threatens.
Which brings me to the other news item in the NY Times.
It noted that a voice in a recent hour long recruitment video from ISIS said: “Don’t you know that you, your citizenship, your laws, your constitutions and your threats are under our feet? . . . Don’t you know that we are the soldiers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and that our state will expand until it removes the thrones that you sold your religion for?”
The authors noted that nowhere “in the hourlong production — full of threats, drive-by shootings, explosions and gunfights — does an ISIS fighter mention the United States or directly mention or threaten Israel, apart from the allusion to the Aqsa mosque.”
The authors also provided information from a expert in the area, Fawaz A. Gerges who said: “ISIS had so far consistently focused on what militants call “the near enemy” — leaders of Muslim countries like Bashar al-Assad of Syria — and not “the far enemy” of the United States and Europe. “The struggle against the Americans and the Israelis is distant, not a priority. It has to await liberation at home.”
ISIS is not a threat to the United States. It is a threat, as it has said, to the Islamic states in its area, including Saudi Arabia.
Now I humbly offer President Obama some simple advice with which to formulate his strategy. Start with the proposition that the states threatened by ISIS be willing to fight their own battles. Insist that they use their armies to go into battle against it. Insist they defend themselves in the first instance for it is they who are being threatened. Be guided by the idea that Americans should not be made into suckers by others.