Raqqa and the slippery slide to war

!cid_797DB763-8767-4ECF-AC9F-54DC08AA9E93BY ED FELIEN

Is it Mission Creep?
Does the sending of 50 commandoes into Syria to take back Raqqa constitute an act of war?  Is it unconstitutional?  Isn’t it only Congress that can declare war on another country?
Doesn’t the sending of ground troops into Syria break Obama’s pledge to “not put American boots on the ground in Syria”?
It’s all of these things, but more than that, it’s stupid, and Obama said his foreign policy mantra would be “Don’t do stupid sh*t.”
Why are we attacking ISIS?
Is it because they’re right-wing Islamic fundamentalists who treat women as second class citizens and behead people who disagree with them?  If that’s our criteria for peace and war, then why aren’t we attacking Saudi Arabia?  The Saudis are horribly repressive to women.  They have committed criminal acts of war against civilian populations in Bahrain and Yemen, and they behead political dissidents.
Are we attacking them because ISIS is trying to secede from Iraq and Syria and form a Sunni Caliphate?  Then, why didn’t we bomb Scotland and Barcelona when they tried to secede?
Why is ISIS trying to secede?  The Sunni Arabs in eastern Syria and western Iraq feel persecuted and abused by the governments of Syria and Iraq.
Global warming has made a desert out of what was once barely subsistence farmland in eastern Syria.  The peaceful protests that began the civil war in Syria were meant to call attention to the fact that there was no government support for farmers who had lost their land to the desert and were forced to live in the cities.  Bashar al-Assad violently crushed these protests and, in doing so, created a violent opposition and a civil war.
The Sunnis felt they were being persecuted by the Shi’a majority government in Iraq.  To support the Sunnis, Bush, Petraeus and the CIA supported the creation of “Sunni Awakening” paramilitary units that led directly to the creation of ISIS.
From the Sunni perspective, it’s Sunni Arabs against the whole world.  And that seems like a fair description of the forces aligned against them in Raqqa.  They’re being attacked by Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds, Russians and Americans.
What claim does ISIS have to the city of Raqqa?
!cid_628102C5-3D0C-485B-893C-319BBEA1CE5ERaqqa is a Sunni city in the center of the broad Sunni area that is quickly becoming a desert, but it was once the center of an Arab Caliphate that stretched from Damascus in the west to China in the east and as far south as Northern Africa.  It was the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mansur who moved the capital of the Caliphate from Damascus to Raqqa.  He was asked by the Tang dynasty emperor of China to help put down a rebellion in western China.  He sent in 4,000 Arab mercenaries.  They put down the rebellion, and they stayed and extended the caliphate, and the Muslim Uighurs have been a headache for China ever since.  In an interesting parallel, the Tang Chinese called the Abbasid Arabs “Black Flags,” which echo the black flags ISIS waves today.  For 13 years, at the end of the eighth century, Raqqa was the center of the Islamic empire.  These are some of the reasons Raqqa has cultural and religious significance to Sunni Arabs.  The city has no such historic significance to Syria, Iraq, the U.S., Russia or the Kurds.
It will be years before we find out the hidden role the CIA played in the protests against Assad.  We know that its clumsy efforts to arm an opposition ended up delivering arms to ISIS.  We know that many of the troops they trained went over to ISIS.  Were these the unintended consequences of the haze of battle, or were these the deliberate objectives of CIA policy?
The governments of Russia and Syria consider U.S. intervention in Syria a continuation of the Cold War doctrine of anti-communism.  The governing party in Syria is the Baath Socialist Party.  It’s an oversimplification to say that France and Britain drew up the borders for countries in the Middle East after World War I, and the U.S. and Russia divided up those countries after World War II, but there is some validity in that characterization.  Russia got Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the U.S. got Iran.  After crudely overthrowing the democratically elected socialist government of Mosaddegh in 1953, the CIA installed the Shah on a Peacock Throne and collaborated in a period of brutal repression of the Iranian people.  Afghanistan was part of the Soviet orbit until Jimmy Carter and the CIA gave a billion dollars to the Pakistani military to create a religious resistance that morphed into the Taliban.  Iraq was nominally pro-Soviet until the CIA convinced Saddam Hussein to overthrow the Iraqi government in 1979.  Syria is Russia’s last good friend in the Middle East.  They’re neighbors, so it’s reasonable Russia would take an interest in developments there.
What would be the smart thing for the U.S. to do with regard to Syria and ISIS?
The smart thing would be for the U.S. to do nothing—to withdraw all military support for rebels against the Syrian government and to stop all military action against ISIS.
What is the military and political objective in the battle for Raqqa?  Does anyone seriously believe that a military occupation of a Sunni Arab city (that was at one time the capitol of the Sunni Arab Caliphate) should be done by either the Alawite Shiite government of Syria or the Shiite government of Iraq?  Does anyone seriously believe that Russia or the U.S. or the Kurds have any sympathy for the indigenous Sunni Arab population?  If ISIS surrendered tomorrow and was occupied by Syrian, Iraqi, Russian, U.S. and Kurdish troops, wouldn’t we eventually want to turn the city over to the people who live there?  And wouldn’t that mean they would probably set up a government sympathetic to Sunni Arab cultural traditions?
Why don’t we leave them alone.  Let them work it out.  We have problems enough with poverty and violence here at home.  Let’s deal with that before we go out and try to remake the world in our own image.

Letter to the Editor:
Now that Tony Blair has also come forward and said the “Iraq War” was a mistake, what then makes the violence done by ISIL a crime, and why will the seven Minneapolis Somali-American men go to prison for trying to join ISIL, if Blair is not going to prison?
How come only certain people get the freedom to do wrongful “wars” and not be in trouble for it?
How come only certain people are able to be “interventionists”? Blair calls his actions in Iraq an “intervention.” Why can’t ISIL legitimize their violent actions by calling it an “intervention”?

Frank Erickson

One Comment:

  1. I agree with the opinion that the U.S. should not have gone into Iraq in the first place and if Mr. Felien wants to argue that we should not have chosen a side when Syria’s dictator was gassing his own citizenry, fine.

    I do take issue with his conclusions on what is happening now and what should be done about it. ISIS is not attempting to secede, they are attempting conquest to bring about the apocalypse. An article, which appears well researched, discussing the motivations and goals of ISIS was printed in The Atlantic and can be found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/

    It also seems presumptive of Mr. Felien to infer that left to their own choice, the residents of these ISIS captured areas would freely choose a political structure much like what ISIS is now imposing. Does ISIS terrorism, perpetual war, and apocalyptic interpretation of their religion equal “Sunni Arab cultural traditions”?

    Unfortunately, there do not appear to be many good answers in how to respond to the situation in Syria; but insisting the “smart thing” to do is to leave a terrorist organization with international reach alone seems like a particularly poor option. The suggestion to “let them work it out” is perplexing to me. Who are the “them” – ISIS and the people they have subdued through violence?

    Finally the argument that the Saudis wage war on civilians and behead people, so why can’t ISIS comes across as juvenile. This is akin to a student exclaiming ‘Billy skipped class, why cant I” or “OJ got away with murder, so why can’t everyone”

    I hope in light of the recent bombing of a Russian passenger plane, ISIS explosions near Beirut, and the Paris massacre; Mr. Felien and the Southside Pride editors will reconsider their the views expressed in this apology piece.

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