Following the beheading of both American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, the American public has since been gripped with fears of terror attacks since 9-11 (one day before this article was uploaded). Obama, whose first White House bid was fueled by strong opposition to the Iraq War of the last decade, had outlined several reasons his fight against ISIS would be “different” from the conflict.
In his televised speech, Obama was careful to remind citizens that no ground incursion would happen. “Any time we take military action, there are risks involved – especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions,” said Obama. “But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”
Obama’s rhetoric has became more stern as public outcry increases over the cruel actions of ISIS, and I would attribute this to public opinion, which always matters in politics and therefore in policymaking. Most Americans must note that the beheadings are not the most alarming thing ISIS did this summer (they have had bloodier conflicts in Mosul or genocidal violence against religious minority groups). The summer’s most alarming foreign policy crisis (try Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and apparent probing of Estonian and Finnish borders). There is no good reason for the United States to take maximal action against ISIS, not least because none of our potential partners in the region are going to (United Kingdom has already mentioned that they would not join in with the airstrikes in Iraq).
Air strikes against ISIS in Iraq, as things stand, is still the most prudent alternative. Not only will airstrikes prevent ISIS from overrunning any major new strategic targets, it gives other Iraqi factions, such as the Kurds, some breathing space to get their act together and react to the attacks by going on the offensive themselves. The re-capture of Mosul shows exactly that. On the part of Syria, air strikes will prevent ISIS from getting too comfortable. Attempting to aid non-ISIS rebel forces in Syria will, if nothing else, mollify the Arab partners and help encourage them to cut off the flow of money to ISIS.(According to TheGuardian, US officials said that Kerry would be seeking to pressure Kuwait and Qatar to stop their citizens financing al-Qaida and Isis. The Saudis, stung by accusations of support for the jihadis, have already worked to crack down on funding and announced the arrest of scores of alleged terrorist sympathisers in recent weeks.)
On the ideological front, as mentioned in my previous coverage of the articles, countries with a large Islamic majority such as Malaysia and Indonesia have already made moves to stem the number of converts joining the war in Syria. Indonesia has in fact mobilised troops to educate the rural masses on how ISIS has twisted the original teachings of the Koran, and there is no doubting that such swift actions show the commitments by nations to stem the spread of the “Islamic Calipate” that Bakar, the leader of ISIS, threatened to form throughout the world.
The war in Iraq was one shaped by populist sentiments, and stained by opportunism in trying to launch a further offensive in Afghanistan. Whilst the USA remains the world’s superpower and a champion for liberty, she has to know that these wars on terrors are more idealogical than they seem, and the public needs to be rational enough to reason out that terrorist bombings would not be as commonplace as other crimes and accidents in their homeland. When both the public and government can reach this understanding, the next step is for Obama to move beyond his current rhetoric and outline, in further detail, how they intend to deal with ISIS, amongst a backdrop of other ongoing issues around the world at this given point in time.