WASHINGTON November 16, 2015 – We cannot invade Syria.
This point cannot be stressed enough, it cannot be reiterated with enough fervor and passion. We cannot invade Syria. Why? The answer is extremely simple and honest if not brutal and cold; it is because that is what they want us to do.
This is not a grand reveal, this is something that many people know and have come to realize. ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other extremist organizations are pestering the west into confrontation, because they know that eventually with enough bloodshed, we will respond. Now after so many dead in Paris, it looks as though the entirety of the west will soon respond. To groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, this is the dinner bell ringing a fine, charming tune.
The US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were carried out with the textbook precision that the leaders of the greatest war machine in history have perfected to a science. Using combined arms, the US plows into enemy territory crippling their defensive capabilities and occupying their urban centers. This strategy, while not new, has been perfected by the US. It is what made the US a world power, it is what makes state actors and conventional forces fear a confrontation with the United States and her Western allies.
But where the US seems to fall short is the occupation and the aftermath. All formal opposition was swept aside in both Afghanistan and Iraq, no standing army or formal military force was capable of confronting the Coalition on their own terms. But the objects of our mission soon became a burning coal in the hands of the allies, we could hold on to it, but doing so irreparably scorched our flesh.
What caused the burns? We became occupiers, conquerors who refused to leave. In Iraq we toppled the oppressive government of Saddam Hussein but we replaced it with a weak and ineffective government. And so to bolster that government, the great monster of American military might became stuck in the mud as flies slowly tore at its flesh. The people who we freed soon came to resent our presence, and for good reason. No matter the flag on the tank, when that tank patrols your streets it causes resentment.
Over time, as the US withdrew and the power vacuum grew even greater, elements of radical Islam such as ISIS and al-Qaeda moved in to take advantage. That is the name of the game for radical Islam; take advantage of an unstable region, further that instability, then offer an alternative once war weariness has taken its toll on the native inhabitants of a region. This pattern is repeated in Afghanistan, Syria, and much of Northern Africa. Seeing the wounded animal that is the state of Iraq, numerous groups vied to take control once the Americans fully withdrew. Iraq became a training ground for numerous fanatical groups, as Saudi and Qatari money flowed in to teach the next crop of raw Jihadists how to wage ceaseless insurgent war. Billions of dollars flowed from the Gulf State to sponsor Jihadists in the Levant, while those same nations sold oil to the very nations who would use it to fight the Jihadists.
In comes Syria with their civil war that pits Bashar al-Assad against the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds. Of course, the Free Syrian army needed help, so they turned to some of the more radical Islamist groups such as ISIS. ISIS then took control and as we know, radicalized the movement. Now nearing its fifth year of continuation, Syria and Iraq have become playgrounds for Radical Islam to wage their own type of Maoist style Protracted War in a region bereft of any sort of solid power structure. The instability in the region has only made it easier for new recruits to bloody themselves in combat, receive training and weapons, and then take their knowledge to other groups around the World. This is nothing new.
But this is why we cannot invade. This is also why we cannot bomb them into submission. Both of these options will only address the symptoms of the illness, not the illness itself. Sending tanks and men to establish bases and take territory inch by inch will not solve this problem, it will only create further animosity towards the West as the inhabitants of these areas trade Sharia law for Western occupation. Nor can we bomb them, each bomb that falls only serves to show those in the region that the West cannot distinguish between combatants and civilians. Airstrikes cannot dispel this threat, it will only make the problem worse.
If the West wants to see an end to ISIS they cannot give them what they want. And ISIS wants the West to invade. They want tanks rolling through the streets of Syrian and Iraqi cities with NATO flags on the side. They want Marines kicking in doors, they want barbed wire, and warplanes, and occupation.
We cannot allow this to happen.
What we need to give them is terror, and we need to give the people of the Levant an option. As of now, the only alternative to ISIS is death. Speak with local leaders, with regional leaders, to discuss what can be done to provide Iraq and Syria with an alternative. Does that mean allowing for the partition of some of this land? So be it. Does that mean allowing for an independent Kurdistan? So be it. These national lines were drawn on a map over cigars and brandy following WWI, they can be altered.
ISIS wants the West to invade with all their military might. They want to use their small war capabilities to goad us into fighting a large war. They want us to fight them with the broadsword. Let’s instead use the dagger. Unleash the SEALs, the Delta Operators, and all of Special Operations Command. Develop the indigenous forces; make them see that ISIS is not the answer. Work with other nations who share a hatred for ISIS, and yes that may mean Russia and Iran. But do so with as little an occupational footprint as possible.
We cannot invade, and we cannot continue to believe airstrikes are a viable option. This lesson does not need to be drawn from history but recent memory. If we do not think before we attack, we will once again find the greatest military machines that the West has to offer bogged down in a war against an enemy is not shocked or awed by our strategy, but one who depends on it for their own success.
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