By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
I was struck by how quickly various pundits jumped upon President Obama’s comment regarding ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in which he stated that “…we do not have a strategy yet…” Why the surprise? Why any outrage? The statement was brutally honest.
There is a famous saying, in effect, if you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there. This is the point that many right-wing and liberal commentators seem to be missing. In the age of instantaneous news, there seems to be the expectation of instantaneous decision-making. Real life does not lend itself to such an option.
ISIS is the creation of malevolent U.S. foreign policies. The collaboration with Saudi Arabia that resulted, ultimately in the growth of Al Qaeda; the first war with Iraq (1991) that probably would never have happened had Saddam Hussein been clearer on U.S. intentions; the second war with Iraq (2003) that resulted in the destruction of the country and the proliferation of sectarian conflict; and the ongoing war in Afghanistan have all contributed to a situation whereby clerical fascists, including but not limited to ISIS, have been able to grow.
Added to this has been the U.S.-supported, Shiite-dominated government in Iraq that engaged in the all-too-common retribution against Sunnis after years of persecution. And, of course, there is the Syrian civil war that started with a popular, democratic protest that was violently suppressed by the Assad government, fueling a military conflict which ISIS utilized for its own ends.
Into this situation various nation-states and political organizations have entered, many of them strategic, as well as on-again/off-again allies of the U.S.A. Is such a situation resolved through a few missile strikes? A few bombardments? Perhaps a few hundred paratroopers or Special Operations units?
There are too many people in Washington, D.C. — and in the U.S. as a whole —who would have loved to have heard President Obama suggest that by merely pushing a button that the U.S. could demonstrate its leadership. Perhaps with the click of a switch the entirety of the ISIS leadership can be zapped away into the Phantom Zone? I hate to break it to you – and to Fox News – but it simply does not work that way.
When one is dealing with a criminal organization, e.g., the Mafia, or a clerical fascist organization, e.g., Al Qaeda; ISIS, the problem is not resolved at light speed, regardless of how quickly one receives information on cable news channels.
Yes, the U.S.A needs a strategy. It needs a strategy that begins with the recognition that it cannot and should not attempt to resolve global crises on its own. It needs a strategy that adopts as a truism that it must work with other countries towards regional solutions to problems that are fundamentally political rather than military. It needs a strategy that does not assume that the challenges facing this planet can be resolved as if we were playing a giant video game.
Wake up, pundits: welcome to the 21st century.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. Follow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.