Baseball great Yogi Berra was fond of the phrase: It's Deja Vu All Over Again! And so it is with our renewed war in Iraq and our new war in Syria. While American frustration with ISIS terrorism, and fear of splinter groups attacking us ala 9-11-2001, are understandable, the present massive bombing is highly unlikely to resolve those problems. Bob Dylan asked in his famous song, When Will They Ever Learn? Apparently, not yet, when it comes to dumb wars.
Several years ago, when the Assad regime in Syria began attacking its own citizens, killing over one hundred thousand of them with apparent impunity, I advocated a no-fly-zone to prevent -- or at least reduce -- Bashir the Basher's brutality. That proposal was ignored, even though a similar approach had worked in Libya, and ultimately that nation's brutal dictator was ousted. Instead, the United States used the excuse that we were unable to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys -- or perhaps the bad guys from the even-worse guys -- in Syria, to essentially do nothing while the massacre there has been taking place. That stance says little for our intelligence effort, if we were unable to distinguish the various groups opposing Assad. That effort never seems to improve.
Now, though, by taking the lead in bombing the forces of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, we have tacitly chosen to aid the Assad regime by eliminating some of the most effective of its enemies. Yes, ISIS is absolutely horrid, with its kidnappings, beheadings, and torture. What America fails to realize, however, is that for every ISIS fighter we eliminate, many more will spring up, lured by their rising hatred of the United States combined with the martyrdom of those whom we have eliminated. Even if we can win the battle now, we will lose the war.
There was undoubtedly a time when ISIS and its offshoots might have been nipped in the bud, but that time is long-past. Compounding the error in American strategy is the obvious reality that few of our normal allies are in on the bombing -- not England, for example, or most of Europe. France is involved, but not as part of our so-called coalition. Instead, we have such enlightened (?) allies as Saudi Arabia and its client states in the middle east. We appear to have forgotten that most of the leaders of the September 11, 2001 terror tragedy were Saudi nationals.
Perhaps worst of all about our heedless bombing by warplanes, ship-launched missiles, and drones, is the inevitable killing of innocent civilians who have absolutely nothing to do with ISIS or its splinter groups or Al Qaeda spinoffs. We are busily destroying urban areas in Syria and Iraq which are allegedly controlled by ISIS, but in the process we are also destroying lives of residents of those areas who are merely trying to survive -- and we are making even more homeless refugees, who will try to migrate to Lebanon or Jordan while many die along the way.
America will unintentionally recruit more ISIS and splinter group fighters by these tactics. We cannot win a war against the Islamic world, all we can do is cause further alienation, distrust, and hatred of America and the West. Those who forget the lessons of history are indeed condemned to repeat it -- and that includes the lessons from the Crusades nearly a thousand years ago. As Bob Dylan sang, When Will They Ever Learn?
Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)