"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."


December 17, 2015

This week Iraqi forces took back some territory on the outskirts of Ramadi, according to a press release issued in Iraq on Tuesday.  One neighborhood and a glass factory were named.  This meager progress, it is said, "could advance government efforts to fully retake Ramadi" (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 18, 2015).

The capital of Anbar Province, once a city of 900,000, fell to ISIS on May 15, 2015.  For months Iraqi leaders in Baghdad have promised an imminent campaign to retake the now largely deserted city, which is said to be held by a few hundred ISIS fighters.

The same day the press release was issued, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was in Baghdad to counter criticisms of the Obama administration for not doing enough to combat ISIS.  Also on Tuesday, President Obama spent time with a dozen journalists in order to address these criticisms, which have been heard by millions of Americans in debates featuring the candidates for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

In Baghdad, the secretary of defense pleaded for Iraq to let the U.S. help in the Ramadi campaign.  In a meeting with Khaled al-Obeidi, his Iraqi counterpart, Ashton Carter said:  "We do want to help you build on your success in Ramadi, to move toward Mosul.  It’s your victory, and it’s your advance.  But we look forward to . . . increased opportunities, at your request, with your permission, to assist you in making that move" (Washington Post, Dec. 16, 2015).

The American public, however, is unenthusiastic about sending American soldiers back to Iraq.  On Dec. 11 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorialized that Ashton's wish to provide attack helicopters and American field advisers was "astonishing."  "Americans fought and died once already to liberate Ramadi during the Sunni uprising," the Post-Gazette said.  "To do it again would be re-fighting the same Iraqi battle.  For what?"

This was the battle of Ramadi, from April to November 2006, in which about 80 American soldiers died fighting Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's forces.  They called themselves al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), but when Zarqawi was killed in the course of the battle, the Islamic State of Iraq succeeded AQI.  Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was proclaimed the emir of the group, which was the nucleus of an entity that has, as all the world knows, now extended its reach from Iraq into Syria and become the Islamic State.  This remarkable development occurred after Abu Omar was killed in 2010 and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took charge.  In June 2014, just after his forces took Mosul, Abu Bakr declared himself the Caliph Ibrahim, with religious, political, and military authority over all Muslims around the world.

ISIS's amazing successes on the battlefield and even more amazing appeal to young recruits have now put it at the center of international geopolitics.  Since attackers killed 130 in Paris on Nov. 13 and fourteen in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2, reportedly in the name of the ISIS, discussions of what to do about it have achieved a new prominence.

In ISIS the world confronts an unspeakably brutal, fanatical ideology.  Since Americans are among its targets, it is doubtless inevitable that the United States participate in the campaign to defeat it.  But having launched an illegal war in Iraq in 2003 and violated its own laws and principles, why should the U.S. play more than a supporting role?  To have the U.S. at the head of such a campaign is precisely what ISIS wants.  But is it in the interest of the United States to boost the appeal of ISIS's unholy quixotism?


"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."