Most of the nation states of the Middle East, as we know them today, were created in 1916 by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, otherwise known as the Asia Minor Agreement, between Britain and France. The states created include Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. In that agreement, national boundaries were drawn without regard to sects, Shiite or Sunni, and without regard to tribes or clans, setting up an explosive mixture of religious animosities.
After the creation of Iraq and Syria, the French and British drew a line from the Mediterranean due east to Mount Hermon. North of that line, the French created a coastal nation, largely Christian, called Lebanon. While south of that line, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, the British created a coastal Arab nation which they called Palestine. The territory south of Iraq and east of the Jordan River was divided between two Arab tribes that were allied with the British during World War I, but who didn’t care much for each other. The Sauds were given a large tract of land called Arabia… hence Saudi Arabia… while the Hashemites were given a much smaller territory east of the Jordan River, which they named Trans-Jordan… now Jordan. Thus, six nations were created between the Mediterranean and the Tigris, and south of Turkey. These six nations became seven when the United Nations created Israel in 1947.
As might be expected, the many disparate religious sects found it difficult to occupy the same territory and chaos reigned for most of the next century. For example, in early August we learned that some 40,000 Yazidis, a minority religious sect, had taken refuge on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. Their choices were to either stay on the mountain, short of food and water, or they could descend the mountain and be slaughtered by terrorists of the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS). The Yazidis were aware that ISIS forces were beheading children elsewhere in Iraq, so rather than risk that terrible fate, many families killed their own children by throwing them off the mountain. Within a week of that report, Yazidi women were also found to be leaping to their death from the mountain rather than face being captured, raped, and sold into slavery.
In other reports, hundreds of Shiite soldiers of the Iraqi military were captured, executed, and buried in mass graves… some of them while still alive. These were the same ISIS jihadists who recently posted a YouTube video showing American newsman James Foley being beheaded by his captors. According to best estimates, some 191,000 people in Syria and Iraq have lost their lives in sectarian fighting since March 2011.
A strong case can be made that the map created in 1916 is now being redrawn through force of arms, and that what is now occurring in the region represents nothing more than a realignment of national boundaries, consistent with religious convictions and backed by the use of terror and military might. It is a struggle in which western powers find it difficult to decide who’s who without a scorecard, or to find any clear national interest amidst all the violence.
It is into this maelstrom of warring factions that the United States and its coalition partners waded in 2003 to depose the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, foolishly believing that the many warring states and factions could be defeated, pacified, or managed. To paraphrase an old Mark Russell line, “Their plan was to make the Shiites and the Sunnis act like Christians.”
What they should have understood, but didn’t, is that no amount of bombing and no amount of ground forces can win a war against the forces of Islam… in the same sense that Germany and Japan were defeated in World War II. The best we can ever hope to accomplish is to contain the forces of Islam in their home countries and to do whatever is necessary to protect our homeland from ISIS-style atrocities. So whatever “strategy” Obama ultimately decides on, it must have an international component and a domestic component… neither of which involve military power.
For example, what few Americans understand about the James Foley video is that it was far more than an unspeakably grisly scene; rather, it was a political statement intended for American audiences as a means of terrorizing them, frightening them into putting anti-war pressure on Congress and the Obama administration.
Even the normally clueless New York Times appears to have recognized the “information warfare” subtleties of the Foley video. In a story dated August 30, the Times reported that, “ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is using every contemporary mode of messaging to recruit fighters, intimidate enemies, and promote its claim to have established a caliphate, a unified Muslim state run according to a strict interpretation of Islamic law. If its bigotry and beheadings seem to come from a distant century, its use of media is up to the moment.” As crude and cruel as the beheadings were, the video message is proof that radical Islam is far more adept at the use of modern communications than any western power, including the United States.
So why does the United States, the most powerful and resourceful nation on Earth, not have a sophisticated information warfare, or SOFTWAR, capability to use against radical Islam? Why has the Obama administration not spread the word throughout the Muslim world, covertly, that members of ISIS are not good Muslims? Instead, they engage in Hirabah (prohibited war against society), and that their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is a Mufsidoon (an evil-doer condemned by the Koran). Why are we not spreading the word throughout Islam that those who follow al-Baghdadi and ISIS will surely suffer Jahannam (eternal hellfire) unless they repent?
While ISIS is experiencing some success in Syria and Iraq, they should not deceive themselves that the caliphate they are establishing can ever encompass any major portion of the western world. Aside from protecting the lives of U.S. citizens who live and work in the Middle East, our primary national interest is in seeing to it that they do not establish a foothold on our shores.
So, as sympathetic as I may be to any dilemma that might cause Barack Obama some sleepless nights, I understand that no amount of conventional military power will stop the ISIS onslaught in that region of the world. Any time we spend debating whether or not to commit military forces against ISIS, or how much, is wasted time. Instead, we should be spending our time thinking in terms of how to discredit radical jihadists throughout the Muslim world through the skillful use of information technology, and how we might protect our American homeland. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has recently warned, “If we ignore (ISIS), I am sure they will reach Europe in a month and America in another month.” We simply cannot allow that to happen and military power is not the answer.
Instead, we must make the Muslim presence here so unpleasant that they will long for a return to whatever hellhole they came from. To do that, we must make membership or participation in any organization advocating the violent overthrow of the U.S. government a major criminal offense. In the spirit of Eisenhower’s signing statement as he signed the Communist Control Act of 1954, we must resolve that, “The American people are determined to eliminate from their midst organizations which, purporting to be “religious,” in the accepted sense of that term, are conspirators dedicated to the destruction of our form of government by violence and force…”
To accomplish that end, the Congress should take immediate steps to amend Section 2 of the Communist Control Act of 1954 to read as follows: “The Congress hereby finds and declares that Islam, although purportedly a religious sect, is in fact an instrumentality of a foreign conspiracy to overthrow the government of the United States. It constitutes an authoritarian dictatorship within a republic, demanding for itself the rights and privileges accorded to individuals of other religious denominations, but denying to all others the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution…
“As a segment of the U.S. population, Islam is relatively small numerically and gives scant indication of its capacity ever to attain its ends by lawful political means. The peril inherent in the existence of Islam arises not from its numbers, but from its failure to acknowledge any limitation as to the nature of its activities, and its dedication to the proposition that the present constitutional government of the United States ultimately must be brought to ruin by any available means, including resort to force and violence. Holding that doctrine, its role as the agency of a hostile foreign power renders its existence a clear present and continuing danger to the security of the United States. It is the means whereby individuals are seduced into the service of Islam, trained to do its bidding, and directed and controlled in the conspiratorial performance of their revolutionary services. Therefore, the organization known as Islam shall be outlawed in the United States.
With that statute on the books we can make it very uncomfortable for radical Islamists. With eyes and ears planted in every mosque in America, radical Imams such as Anwar al-Awlaki could be quickly exposed and FBI agents could be on the scene within hours to make arrests.
An old adage tells us that “the enemy of my friend is my enemy,” but, as much as that adage has been applicable throughout history, it does not apply in the Middle East today. Recent events in that part of the world should be enough to convince us that the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy. Other than Israel, we have no “friends” in the Middle East; there are only enemies and potential enemies.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself.” Will Barack Obama be wise enough to take that advice? We shall see.