Debate Forum: 09/23

Forum Center: The president may be taking the fight to Islamic State

By Alex Culpepper

Islamic State is no longer the little brother of al-Qaeda. The Jihadist group has grown powerful as of late and is making some noise in Syria and Iraq. Since its separation from al-Qaeda, Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, has taken control of towns and cities across Syria and Iraq in its fight against government forces. ISIS really raised eyebrows when they wrested Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, from public control. It has considerable military power and has won victories, and it has also gained impressive assets. Experts report the group has roughly $2 billion at its disposal. ISIS is arguably the world’s “public enemy number one” right now, and a coalition of forces has vowed to stop it. The United States has already racked up more than 160 air strikes on ISIS-held targets in an effort to weaken it and support Iraqi and Kurdish troops. Another effort is underway as well, and that includes sending U.S. military in the form of training and arms into these war zones.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said sending on-the-ground military aid is necessary if the situation in Syria and Iraq doesn’t improve. Now, the U.S. Military said  it is not necessarily going to line up soldiers and march them onto battlefields. Rather, high-level military staff said advisors would help Syrian and Iraqi government forces with strategy and target location, not actually fire weapons in combat. Reports also said U.S. advisors would help train and arm local forces in an effort to stop ISIS. Whether as advisors or troops, however, military experts see them as practically the same thing: ground forces.

Supporters of the U.S. military training and arming of forces in Syria argue the effort against ISIS needs a new dimension because air strikes have limitations, especially when conflict turns to urban areas with large civilian populations. They believe having a coalition aligned with forces fighting ISIS is the way to go about preventing the Jihadist group from growing more powerful – and even forming a sovereign state. They say the ultimate goal is to create an atmosphere in which a political solution addresses Syria’s crisis and brings stability to the region.

Opponents of U.S. tactical aid on the ground for Syria say this is déjà vu, and it opens the door for another long military engagement, such as the recent war in Iraq. They also argue the violence has grown worse, alliances have shifted and forces in the area may prove unreliable. As a result, opponents suspect we could end up supporting the wrong people. Opponents add that such a situation seems even more uncomfortable when America’s dubious reputation in the region is considered.

As of last Thursday, both the House and Senate passed a bill containing the go-ahead for arming and training Syrian rebels in their fight against ISIS. There is some additional dissatisfaction about having the arming and aiding plan tucked into a spending bill because some people believe the Syrian plan should have been voted on separately. The bill now gives the president the power to step up involvement in the fight against ISIS, and the debate is on about whether it is sensible policy or the beginning of another expensive and misguided offensive.

 

Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at AlexCulpepper@DaytonCityPaper.com

 

Debate Forum Question of the Week:

Should America deploy military personnel to train and arm forces fighting against ISIS? 

 

Debate Left: This is as stupid as it gets

By Marianne Stanley

No, no, no, no! How can we even consider mucking things up more than we already have in the Mideast? We don’t belong there. We never should have gone there in the first place – not to Kuwait, nor to Iraq, nor to Afghanistan. After blowing lives and cultures apart, we’re still not satisfied? After lying so many times to our own citizens, the government thinks we can be hornswaggled again into a no-win situation in a part of the world that is not ours to begin with?

Would we welcome any other country coming into ours if we were in the midst of a civil war? How would we feel about, say, Egypt intervening in our domestic or even regional affairs like the immigration situation along our border with Mexico? Where do we get off going wherever we want and doing whatever we want in countries with their own sovereign governments and cultures? The key question to ask is, “Would we be in the Mideast at all were it not for our corporate interests there?” Isn’t this really all about oil, and perhaps other valuable resources, rather than about ideology or feigned concern for others? If we don’t care about our own hungry and hurting, our own diseased and dying, how can we even sustain the pretext of caring about the Kurds, or the Syrian “rebels”? When we can’t provide universal health care to Americans as all other industrialized countries do for their citizens, how can we come up with the billions of dollars it will take each and every week to start yet one more stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid military action in a far off land that poses no immediate threat to us?

U.S. Intelligence says ISIS is no threat to the United States, and the CIA also opposes arming these supposed “rebel” Syrians who often give or sell their American made weapons to ISIS. As we discovered to our dismay in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is really no way to know who we are helping or if they are really the good guys or the bad guys. Congress voting to send more weapons into Syria to arm these fighters is just pouring gasoline on a wildfire burning out of control in a region where we’ve supplied almost 80 percent of the weapons there, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Don’t think just because we are America, there is no propaganda machine cranking out the kinds of stories that will provoke so much fear and trepidation we’ll jump on the bandwagon that is once again headed into another unwinnable bloody disaster, where we offer up the expendable bodies and/or minds of our young soldiers to keep the gears of our everlasting war machine well oiled. Offering up these precious people on the altar of corporate profits is a moral fiasco.

What we are NOT being told:

1. ISIS is NOT a terrorist group. ISIS is an army of extremists who have operated with our knowledge and without our concern until recently. We didn’t seem to mind when they took control of Fallujah, only 43 miles from Baghdad in January. Calling them “terrorists” is just part of the propaganda, since most of us now have a knee jerk panic reaction to that word following 9/11.

2. ISIS is an army, albeit a small one of approximately 10,000 fighters – hardly a reason to call out our “big guns,” including war resolutions, more presidential unconstitutional powers and Congressional (read: “taxpayer”) funding.

3. This isn’t our fight! Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and most of the Middle Eastern countries are tribal nations where hostilities can be traced back hundreds of years. The complexities behind ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other fundamentalist Islamic radicals and tribal rivalries are beyond our knowledge and grasp. They have been, and will continue, fighting each other. Yes, people will die, including innocents. If we step into the middle of this fight the outcome will be the same, only this time, many of those innocents will be our own young men and women who don’t belong there in the first place.

4. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Fox News last Sunday that Obama needs to rise to this occasion “before we all get killed back here at home.” Nothing like promoting insane, baseless mass hysteria in order to please his corporate buddies! Remember Saddam’s supposed WMD’s? No one even seemed to remember it was the U.S. that put him in power in the first place … other countries must be so grateful for our pathetically short memories and lack of historical knowledge.

5. The atrocity of severing an American’s head should not succeed in pushing us into “doing stupid stuff,” aka, enlarging our aggression in Iraq and going into Syria to fight another losing battle. That would be fulfilling ISIS’ dream – increasing their recruits exponentially as they portray America as the devil, pitting Christianity against Islam and the West against the East. For God’s sake, literally, leave this can of worms alone! Let countries fight their own battles while we clean up our own mess of prisons stuffed with people who don’t belong there, millions of needlessly hungry American children, millions of parents and good people who can’t find a good job, millions of homeless in this wealthy nation. Let’s put our own house in order before we go looking for other places to clean up.

 

Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

Debate Right: U.S. response against ISIS is just

By Rob Scott

The War on Terror began in full force the moment the U.S. was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. As a nation, we never have been the same.

The theory put forward by the Bush Administration was, instead of playing defense, the U.S. would go on the offensive by taking the fight to the terrorists. This was deemed just. At the time, President Bush enjoyed the highest approval ratings of any U.S. President in history. Eventually, Bush’s approval rating changed, but the strategy remained the same – even through President Obama’s administration.

However, war has changed in recent decades. Once, it was about opposing armies facing off across a battlefield. But in the War on Terror, one side attacks with air strikes and drones that can be operated by a U.S. Air Force lieutenant in Nevada, putting in a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift before going home for dinner with his wife and kids. And the other side responds by chopping the heads off journalists and aid workers – and is now threatening to do the same to anyone who aids the U.S. and allies. Society truly has entered a new era of how wars are fought by either side.

Notions of what is proper behavior in battle have evolved throughout centuries. Cicero, in ancient Rome, wrote about clear views on what should justify taking up the sword in the first place – vengeance, honor and self-defense were considered approved motives. However, war has never been merely that all morality is set aside, but rather has its own set of ethical constraints.

The classical idea of a just war goes back to the 4th-century religious thinker Augustine of Hippo. He wrote, for war to be legitimate it must be declared by a competent legal authority and it must have a just cause – such as to recover something stolen or to punish evil. Injustice was a greater evil than war. A prime example: World War II against Nazism.

Taking ISIS, U.S. air strikes against ISIS will not and cannot succeed on their own.

The aim in Iraq, Afghanistan or wherever, is to defeat the enemy without alienating the civilians, among whom the enemy moves. Massive military responses can even be counter-productive. On the other side, the fanatics understand this; they have made the calculation the Sunni population of Iraq and Syria sees even ISIS’ brutality as a lesser threat than the murderous sectarian menace of Baghdad’s Shia militias or the Syrian government.

The other side of the coin in today’s warfare is that grassroots operators, such as the fanatics of ISIS, cannot counter the high technology of U.S. air strikes. But they can kidnap hostages and cut their heads off, perhaps in an attempt to provoke Washington to send in U.S. troops whom ISIS can try to kill.

Terrorists know atrocity will outrage a democracy and steel it to fight, but they also know continued relentless atrocities can eventually sap a democratic public’s will to continue that fight. That is why President Obama wants to minimize U.S. casualties by having the on-the-ground fighting against ISIS done by local people, with hi-tech support coming from the U.S.

Also, President Obama has political reasons as well, since he was a high critic of the Bush administration’s policies. However, President Obama’s commitment of “no U.S. boots on the ground” in Iraq is a drastic mistake militarily, politically and diplomatically.

Militarily, it is never a good idea to let your enemies know what you will and will not do. It’s like playing chess and telling your opponent you will never use your queen piece. Politically, it is a mistake because the U.S. may be required to use “boots on the ground” in Iraq. By President Obama saying this, he could later be required to change. Finally, diplomatically, the announcement was a mistake because it publicly paints the U.S. in a corner as well. It says we are not truly committed now to a free Iraq in a situation the U.S. has a key responsibility in.

Ultimately, President Obama’s decision and Congress’ approval to train locals to fight ISIS is a good decision, but is a band-aid on the situation. In the type of warfare ISIS is lodging against the people of Iraq, the surrounding areas and ultimately the world, drone strikes will not be enough. ISIS will blend into the regulars and make knowing whom the enemy is nearly impossible. This has been the issue with completely winning the War on Terror, since the “enemy” is good at hiding.

In my opinion, the U.S. is in for the long haul when it comes to the ISIS threat. ISIS is a new form of terrorism and is extremely barbaric in nature. I approve of training Syrian forces and Iraq forces to fight the ISIS threat, but that will not be enough. Eventually, the U.S. will need to commit more. The ISIS threat will demand it.

 

Rob Scott is a general practice attorney at Oldham & Deitering, LLC. Scott is a Kettering City Councilman, founder of the Dayton Tea Party, member of the Dayton Masonic Lodge and Kettering Rotary. He can be contacted at rob@oldhamdeitering.com or www.gemcitylaw.com.

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