IRAQ-SYRIA: The case against intervention

by Adrian Bonenberger, Commonweal

IraqCrisis-smallOn September 10, President Barack Obama delivered a widely anticipated speech addressing the alarming growth in the scope and power of the militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The president announced that in order to defeat ISIS, the United States would ramp up military intervention in the Middle East, arming insurgent groups in Syria and Iraq and using airstrikes to support allies in the region. The speech was important. For the first time since he announced a surge in Afghanistan at the beginning of his presidency—a surge in which I played a small role, as a company commander deployed to Kunduz Province—the president is publicly and deliberately committing the U.S. military to ongoing actions in that area. Tuesday, he made good on that promise, hitting Islamic State and Al Qaeda targets in Syria and Iraq with airstrikes and cruise missiles.

The civil wars in Syria and Iraq have provoked widespread outrage: anger at the unscrupulous and repressive leaders, Assad and al-Maliki, who have governed the countries so ruthlessly; horror at the brutal sectarian violence; grief for the shattered families, the refugees—over 2 million and counting—and the nearly two-hundred-thousand lives lost so far. The natural human response to such suffering is to try to end it as quickly as possible, by any means necessary. In this case, however, acting on that desire is the worst thing America could do. Recent historical evidence suggests that if we intervene, we are less likely to end the suffering than to compound it, stretching the killing out over decades instead of years…

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One response to “IRAQ-SYRIA: The case against intervention

  1. Julia Smucker

    “Recent historical evidence suggests that if we intervene, we are less likely to end the suffering than to compound it….”

    I agree completely insofar as this is understood to mean intervening militarily, but this type of shorthand is problematic in that it feeds the equation of nonviolence with passivity. If it is truly the case (and I desperately hope it is) that “there are ways to fight ISIS and Al Qaeda without using bullets or bombs”, the question that follows from this should not be whether to intervene, but how. It should be made clearer that this is actually a case FOR nonviolent intervention.