The Left on War with ISIS
Over the past few months the Islamic terrorist group ISIL, now commonly referred to as Daesh, has carried out multiple large scale attacks. The group is believed to have been behind the bombing of a Turkish peace rally on October 10th, which left 97 dead. Daesh also claimed responsibility for the October 31st downing of a Russian passenger jet which killed all 224 people on board. On November 12th they killed 43 people in a bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. Most recently on November 13th, Daesh coordinated a large scale attack on Paris killing 129 people.
There is no question, Daesh is despicable and must be stopped. The problem is that this is an incredibly difficult task to do.Currently, the primary tactic of the United States uses to combat Daesh are airstrikes. The United States has carried out over 6,500 airstrikes on Daesh targets in both Iraq and Syria, killing an estimated 23,000 Daesh members. Many U.S. politicians and military officials do not believe this is doing enough. Senator John McCain has called for sending as many as 20,000 troops to counter Daesh, but President Obama has repeatedly stated there would be no more “boots on the ground”. The President has also authorized sending 100 special operations troops to assist fighting Daesh forces in Iraq. These special operations troops will be working alongside the 3,050 American troops currently located in Iraq.
The current American plan to defeat Daesh is working to some extent, but how long will it take? The United States began the airstrikes over 15 months and through Daesh hasn’t really gained any territory or power, they haven’t lost any either. Is a large scale military intervention the correct answer?
To find the answer first look at the history of the United States military in the Middle East. Many of the large scale U.S. military interventions in the region have been incredibly costly, not only financially, but also in the loss of American and civilian lives. The most notorious example of this being the Iraq War.
Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time, was quoted saying the conflict “would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer”. In reality, the Iraq War officially ended in December 2011, having lasted over eight years. Rumsfeld also stated the financial cost of the war would be “something under $50 billion”. Once again he was incredibly mistaken. The war cost the United States $1.7 trillion, which is projected to increase to $7 trillion by the year 2053 due to interest rates on borrowed money. In the span of eight years, 4,488 American soldiers lost their lives, along with 134,000 Iraqi civilians. The Iraq War cost the United States seemingly unimaginable amounts and in the end left the region completely destabilized.
Results were similar for the Afghanistan War, which was part of the “War on Terror”. The war began in 2001, following the September 11th attack on the United States. The U.S. withdrew the vast majority of its troops from Afghanistan in 2014, ending the 13 year war. In the end it cost the United States $685.6 billion and over 2,300 American lives.
A war against Daesh would most likely bring similar results. It would cost billions, if not trillions of dollars in a country which has $18 trillion in debt. Any war would also bring thousands of preventable American deaths and injuries. The United States currently has an estimated 22 million veterans, many of whom are not receiving proper healthcare for injuries or mental damage sustained in war. It is estimated 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or depression. The United States cannot afford to go to war against Daesh, it must continue to explore other options.
The terrible truth is that sometimes there is no solution to a problem other than war, but in this situation the United States must take every possible opportunity to avoid another potentially catastrophic war. As of right now, the means to finally stopping Daesh may be unclear, but the United States and the rest of world will continue to work together until a solution is reached. Ultimately, the Middle East needs to become stabilized and as time has shown again and again, war is not the way to do this.
The Right on War with ISIS
With many unnerving videos of public execution and other heinous acts of terrorism flooding the main stream media since the eruption of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the United States feels hard-pressed to procure a solution to this ever-lurking menace—and rightly so.
The Islamic State has been expanding beyond its base in Iraq and Syria since it declared a caliphate in June 2014. While its regional affiliates breed chaos across the globe, the organization aims to expand, and perhaps incite a global apocalyptic war.
ISIS has declared official provinces in areas of Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen that have networks loyal to the terrorist confederation, many of which have adopted its signature brutality.
The New York Times reports that ISIS has plotted and instigated major attacks in over 16 countries worldwide in the past year alone, including Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, France, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt, Afghanistan, and the United States.
The terrorist organization has claimed nearly 1,000 lives in the regions outside Iraq and Syria since January.
Up until the recent raids in Paris and the explosion of Russian Airbus A321, the Islamic State has relied chiefly on “lone wolf” followers to strike Western targets with relatively low-tech assaults—shootings, hit-and-runs, and the like—that draw wide attention but do not cause mass casualties.
Thousands of Christians are believed to have been killed or driven into exile in various regions of the Middle East.
Taking into account these daunting developments, it is all too easy to jump to conclusions and follow a rash course of vigilante justice.
However, it will require disciplined, conscientious planning to repress such a fierce adversary.
When it comes to deploying military operations, the victim countries should heed to the principles outlined in the Augustinian/Thomistic theory of a just war and the historical tradition of the Geneva and Hague conventions. The former stipulates the following requisites:
1. A just war can only be waged after all peaceable options for political settlement have been considered and exhausted. The use of force can only be used as a last resort.
2. A just war must be waged by a legitimate authority and not by individuals or groups who do not constitute a lawful governmental body. Private individuals should instead seek for redresses of their rights from the tribunal of their superior. Those in authority have accepted the responsibility of providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and protecting the natural rights of their citizens. Thus, it is only lawful for them to have recourse to the sword in defending these assets.
This component proves particularly relevant in the case of ISIS, where many of the victims have been attacked by rogue assailants. Thankfully, instances of vigilante justice have not frequently appeared in the headlines.
3. A just war is waged in response to a wrong suffered. Self-defense against an attack always satisfies this requirement; however, the war must be fought with the objective to correct the wound inflicted or to restore what has been seized unjustly.
4. A just war should seek primarily to re-establish justice. The peace which can expectedly arise out of the conflict should exceed the peace that would have otherwise succeeded.
“The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and such like things, all these are rightly condemned in war,” writes Saint Augustine.
5. The violence employed in a just war must be proportional to the casualties suffered. The countries implicated in combat must avoid the use of inequitable military exploits and resort only to the amount of force absolutely necessary.
6. The use of force must distinguish between militia and civilian populations. Innocent citizens must never be the target of war. The deaths of civilians are only justified when they are unavoidable victims of a military attack on a strategic target.
Unfortunately, the latter element carries with it complications in this particular instance as ISIS has proven an elusive foe which recruits from the civilian population.
7. A just war has a rational possibility of success. A nation cannot enter into a war with a hopeless cause.
This point poses the grimmest challenge of all. An idea cannot be defeated through sheer force of arms, but only through conversion of heart. The philosophy of radical jihadism must be crushed before the people who profess it.
To be effective, an anti-ISIS coalition must include all the countries most directly involved in the Middle East, mobilizing to provide humanitarian aid to Christians and other groups suffering at the hands of this merciless band.
“Christians, Yazidis, Shi’ites, Sunis, Alawites, all are human beings whose rights deserve to be protected,” stated Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican representative to Geneva. “Christians are a special target at this moment, but we want to help them without excluding anyone… There’s a common human dignity we all share, and it should be protected at all costs.”
At all costs within the budget of justice, that is…