Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why It Matters That the West has no Real Goals in Syria & Iraq

This is a military post again, but allow me to start off by saying how proud I am of my fellow Canadians for doing stupid, criminal, hateful absurdities like burning mosques and attacking Muslim women on the street. Jesus Christ, people. Almost every single one of you is, I'd wager, the descendant of a refugee who came to Canada with the wrong religion, the wrong ethnicity, and an empty wallet. And that counts especially if you're descended from Irish Catholics. We didn't like you when you came over, either, but we gritted our teeth and tolerated you. That toleration is wearing mighty thin.

So why are we in Syria and Iraq, again? And why is it so bad that Justin Trudeau might drop our CF-18 commitment? I'm going to keep hammering on this point because it actually does matter: we don't have any idea what we are doing over there. And contrary to what the inept media has convinced themselves, ISIS does not represent an existential threat to the West. We can afford to take the time to think this through to make sure we get it right.

So your goal is to intervene in the Syrian Civil War and the Iraqi civil war to destroy ISIS so that it can't hurt us anymore? Great. How is that going to happen?

As I said before, ISIS isn't the problem. There is a civil war, in both countries, because they are failed states. It does not matter if you bomb ISIS from now until the end of time. Bombing these states will not magically restabilize them. Right now, there is a power vacuum that Islamists seek to fill. If you just bomb ISIS, you will be left with a power vacuum that Islamists seek to fill. Those Islamists just won't be ISIS. They will have a new name, and new grievances, and a similar agenda.

We're not sending ground troops to do a new nation-building exercise like we tried in Iraq and Afghanistan before, presumably because it didn't work and because (despite how we claim that ISIS is an existential threat) we also can't bear to think of our soldiers dying to defend us from it. Weird, that. So instead, we're going to support groups like the Kurds and the so-called moderate Syrian rebel groups.

Does that make sense? Are their goals remotely similar to ours? Are the Kurds remotely interested in seeing the restoration of the unified Syrian state? Why would they be? I do not think they will be pleased to learn that many in the West think of them as sort of 21st-century colonial regulars, there to do our imperial bidding in their mysteriously fierce and loyal way. The Kurds want a Kurdish state. Are we prepared to give it to them? Are we prepared to tolerate Kurdish violence directed against our ally, Turkey? What about our ally, Iraq?

I don't mean to be nasty to the Kurds about this. It's not their fault. They got left out of the nationhood privileges a century ago and have been hoping to redraw the boundaries to redress that wrong. Incidentally, ISIS also denounces the boundary-setting exercise of a century ago and hopes to redraw the boundaries to, as they see it, redress that wrong. That, and lop off the heads of anybody who disagrees with them, apparently.

There is at least one group in the Syrian Civil War that is committed to maintaining the unity of Syria and the integrity of its borders. That group is the Syrian regime. That regime is now receiving military aid from Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah. We are committed to toppling that regime.

So should we switch sides and join that rather dubious coalition? I don't think so. But it illustrates the morasse that we're cheerfully leaping into in search of vengeance here. Some of our enemies have goals resembling ours. Some of our allies have goals at odds with ours. What possibly useful endgame is there going to be here?

There's another group out there that hates ISIS at least as much as we do, if not more: the refugees. But it turns out that the West doesn't like them very much anymore, either.

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