The Way I See It: The ISIS Dilemma
Should the U.S. increase its efforts in the fight against ISIS?
Whether you know it as the Islamic State, or as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or as media continues to cover it, as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), this Sunni jihadist group in the Middle East is one of the most sophisticated and powerful terrorist groups across the globe.
To put it in perspective, ISIS was tied to Al-Qaeda, the most renowned and violent global terrorist group – but that was only until February. Al-Qaeda has since broken ties to ISIS, reportedly due to its "brutality" and "notorious intractability."
Yes, Al Qaeda – the group that boasts Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam; they find ISIS too extreme.
ISIS continues to make headlines, most recently because of the brutal treatment and killing of American journalist James Foley. Foley had been missing in Syria since 2012, and on Aug. 19, ISIS murdered him in retaliation to U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. The taped beheading was publicized globally, emphasizing the evil incarnate that emanates from this group of 50,000 militants strong – and it's growing.
Currently, at least 69 other journalists from countries around the world have been killed covering the war in Syria, and more than 80 have been kidnapped, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In addition, "approximately 20 journalists, both local and international, are currently missing in Syria," the Committee states on its website.
Initially, journalists were welcomed in Syria. But as conflict continues to grow, they are viewed as meddlers and ultimately targets – and as strategic components to terrorists in an effort to capture greater attention of the westernized world
Before Foley's death, ISIS was utilizing social media to draw attention, both to appeal and threaten – in one capacity to recruit young westerners, in another to terrorize, such as the creation of a mock death video of Steven Sotloff, another American journalist being held by ISIS. After the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, the terrorist group responded with a hashtag campaign, #AMessageFromISIStoUS, threatening the U.S. with retribution. Prior, the messages were in Arabic; now, they are being distributed in English.
Things are only getting worse.
Saudi King Abdullah ibn Abdilazīz recently warned that Middle Eastern terrorists could soon reach Middle America unless something drastic is done. Thus far, the U.S. has relied on airstrikes, President Barack Obama stating the U.S. will not put boots on the ground. Since Aug. 10, the Obama administration has deployed more than one-hundred strikes through the use of drones and fighter jets to stymie ISIS' objective: To expand its self-declared caliphate – an Islamic state led by a supreme religious leader known as a caliph (successor) to Muhammad. While there had been talks of increased efforts in Syria [read: additional air strikes], on Aug. 28, Obama stated he had no plans to expand the effort. Media have criticized him after his most recent press conference, as he essentially stated that, presently, there is no direct strategy to address ISIS. However, the reality of the situation is there is no great present solution.
ISIS has claimed the establishment of the caliphate and announced their leader: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Their goal now is to grow by conquering the entire Muslim world, spreading the Caliphate farther.
They haven't reason to surrender; they're an ideology, not a state, without borders with civilian centers and political structures and can't be defeated with political prowess. Their strategy is to grow in numbers through fighting. When attacked, they retaliate, and through their retaliation create more power and influence.
And there's the financial cost. Any escalation of war will be expensive. Current air strikes are costing the U.S. $7.5 million daily. Daily. The total cost of the Iraq operation against ISIS, which started June 19, stands at $560 million. And the President, Congress, and the citizens of the U.S. have little appetite for additional U.S. debt.
Conversely, the reasons for increased involvement are significant. The point of the War on Terror, the conflict that we have been fighting for 13 years, tallying more than $4 trillion, was to eradicate terror-based organizations. If we are to hold to George W. Bush's 2001 declaration, it seems simple: We forge ahead and increase U.S. efforts to use the full force of the U.S. and international coalition military power and to make defeating ISIS our number-one priority.
But at what expense do we make such a decision?
Obama has already promised to not allow the U.S. to be dragged into another war in Iraq. A mission like this would substantially burden the U.S. by most likely weakening our already vulnerable economic state and depleting resources at home and globally. But if we don't act, we risk the expansion of ISIS and its mission.
All of this lingers around one question: Members of ISIS know what they stand for, but, more importantly, do we?
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