Monday, April 06, 2015

Why The "Fight Against ISIS" Is A Farce

Prime Minister Harper's current political "divert the public's attention" strategy is to beat on the war drums over ISIS.

Yes, ISIS is a brutal lot, and they are doing a lot of horrible things.  Should they be held accountable for their actions?  Absolutely.  Are the western powers the right people to "hold them accountable"?  No.  Not in the slightest.

Way back in 2002 (before I started this blog), Bush the Lesser decided to invade Iraq, turning one foolhardy war in Afghanistan into two wars.  Invading Afghanistan was foolish enough, invading Iraq was ludicrously stupid.  Both of these were essentially colonial wars of occupation.  Over a decade later, the invading forces pulled out after fighting bloody wars against insurgencies in both countries with dubious results.

Those of us old enough to remember the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, will remember the western powers pouring vast sums of money and munitions into the "Mujahideen" resistance, which ultimately gave rise to the Taliban.  Yes, the same Taliban which eventually took control of Afghanistan and gave support to the development of al Qaeda under Osama bin Laden.

Starting to see a pattern here?  Namely that factions and squabbling among quasi-militarized groups in the area are incessant, and more importantly that foreign interventions have this nasty tendency to end up creating the conditions for the next escalation.

So, returning to Bush the Lesser and Iraq, there's an important bit to consider.  Bush wandered into Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein, declaring "Mission Accomplished" a year later.  The fighting in Iraq would continue for a decade after that.  However, deposing Hussein and banning the Baath party was the beginning of the problem, not the end of a problem.  You see, the United States in its usual ham-fisted manner left some half-million Iraqis wandering around loose with no money and lots of weapons.

These people became the military leadership of what is now ISIS.  That's right.  You can pretty much blame the existence of ISIS on the ham-fisted approach taken in Iraq (and to some extent Afghanistan).

So, fast forward to today, and Canada's current government is in a mad rush to get into a shooting war against ISIS.  Quite frankly, this is a ridiculous thing to do.  Even if we (the western powers) were successful in dismantling ISIS, the odds are that whatever intervention we make will create the conditions for yet another violent, paramilitary organization to arise.

The simple reality is that wars of occupation are guaranteed not to succeed in today's world.  An aerial campaign against ISIS is unlikely to be effective in the long run.  It is not terribly difficult for an organization like ISIS to disperse in ways that make aerial attack ineffective, and even if a ground war were to be undertaken, it will create the same problems that we saw in Iraq.  WWII style heavy equipment warfare simply is the wrong solution here.  This is a war that needs to be fought behind the scenes.  Dismantling ISIS cannot be done using standard military approaches.  Attempts to do so will simply result in the rise of a new rival - likely originating by whomever becomes the  local "resistance" against ISIS.

There is a role for western powers in the region, but it is not the military role that Harper has been putting forward.  Ultimately, we have to take a "hands off" approach, and allow the region as a whole to settle its own squabbles.  The current borders are the consequence of a failed exercise in nation creation as the colonial powers pulled out of the Middle East in the early 20th century.  Those borders were created to satisfy the political and economic objectives of the colonial powers, not the peoples who live there.  While we can, to some degree, provide humanitarian intervention and relief, beyond that, it is not ours to prop up states which have only limited validity in the eyes and minds of the people who live there.

Harper wishes to style himself a "War PM" to deflect attention from Canada's growing economic woes (pay no attention to the 20,000+ jobs lost since November, 2014 in Alberta).  Make no mistake, by committing Canada to an expanded role against ISIS, Harper is hoping that Canadians will forget the mess that he has made in this country.  He is hoping that Canadians will be so scared by the horrific behaviour of ISIS that we will rally behind his brand out of fear.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not only is ISIS a mythological 'enemy' that has been manufactured by the ruling class (think dragons in medieval times), we are spending billions to both fund AND fight this and other organizations. It's disgusting and we have to find a way to end it.