I want to you wander down the streets of New York or Paris or Amsterdam and ask a handful of folks whether they know or care what’s happening in Iraq. I’d reckon you’d get one of two responses:
a) An incomprehensible answer not grounded in fact
b) The person would in so many words kindly inform you that they don’t care
When the people of an entire culture aren’t interested in a problem, it creates a break in thought that is almost impossible to fix. The West must do something about ISIS because if given the chance they’d kill everybody on the planet who disagrees with them. Plus, by any reasonable standard of humanity, they’ve got to go.
However, the people of the West aren’t interested in confronting the problem and would prefer to ignore it. So the leaders of the West have to do what little they can to battle the forces of darkness, without actually saying they’re doing anything.
Thus, you get Britain (a country that used to matter) emphatically stating in the strongest possible terms that they won’t engage in combat operations to stop ISIS. That they’ll just drop humanitarian aid. Because anything more than that would cost David Cameron two percentage points in the upcoming general election.
And then we get this from Obama:
“We’re not going to let them create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq,” he said. “But we can only do that if we know that we have got partners on the ground who are capable of filling the void.”
1) The only way to stop ISIS from creating a Caliphate through Syria and Iraq is to deploy Western ground troops to kill them all.
2) Since (1) won’t happen, he seems to think they can still destroy ISIS if the West has partners. By partners I suppose he means an effective multi-ethnic government in Baghdad and a non-murderous government in Damascus.
3) Since (2) is impossible, what’s he actually saying? He’s saying the United States and the West will do the bare minimum because that’s all he’s got to work with.
Don’t get me wrong on what I’m saying. There’s no right answer here. You can’t ask a democracy to go to war when something like three-quarters of the population would oppose it. On the other hand, sometimes true leaders need to tell a country exactly what they don’t want to hear. What if Cameron or Obama said something like this:
“We’re not going to let them create some caliphate through Syria and Iraq. These monsters go against all our values, liberty, and morals. If necessary, hopefully without ground forces, but however it needs to happen, we’ll annihilate their evil from the planet.”
No Western leader will ever say this today. I suspect though, that fifty years ago or even thirty years ago, that they would have. In the meantime if you are a moderate Sunni, a Kurd, a displaced Iraqi Christian, or an ISIS foot soldier? What’s been said in the last three days that gives you any confidence that the West is reliable and generally does what is promises?
Instead, I suspect all of them are making their own plans, good or bad to address the situation without the West’s serious involvement. Maybe you think that’s a good thing? That they’ll figure it out on their own. And then the West can get back to the mall. But I’m certain you won’t like the result when you see it.
You can bet that whatever these folks are thinking, that nowhere in their brains are they counting upon the free world to save them.