There has been much talk about the Islamic State, and their current campaign of fear and domination. All the while, there’s news about the West’s attempts to stop them. Despite a series of air bombings from coalition forces, the I.S. have gathered momentum and have demonstrated themselves to be a very serious threat in the Middle East. Today, they are notorious for an extreme wave of human atrocities, the likes of which have not been seen since the days of Nazi Germany. These include beheading innocent people (and uploading the footage to the Internet), committing mass murder, enslaving women and children, stoning people to death, flinging homosexuals from buildings, capturing the territories of other nations, destroying ancient monuments and cities, and they’ve even carried out crucifixions. If that doesn’t represent evil in the post-modern age, then I have no idea what does.
Mere air bombardments have failed to intimidate the I.S., and as long as they believe themselves to be a caliphate, politics will not work either. As grim as it may sound, I believe that the only way we can stop them is through full-blown war. This sounds grim given that I already outlined my anti-war leanings, but I’ve given this much thought, and I believe that war against I.S. is the only effective solution, as well as the only morally sound solution.
I think I should first start with why I think it’s an effective solution. Clearly the I.S. are fighting with carefully considered military strategy. They’re taking key cities in Iraq and Syria, and they also hold key ports in Libya, a nation that lies geographically close to Italy. If they wanted to, they could probably try and move into Europe, or other parts of the Mediterranean. Given America’s military might, it should stand to reason that America, in a coalition with Britain and other allied nations, should be able to defeat the I.S., but only if we start engaging them on the ground with our weapons. Perhaps the main reason why the I.S. has had such success is because the Middle East has been so thoroughly destabilized by the West’s previous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. As ill-advised as it sounds, only the coalition forces have any chance at repelling the I.S., and the local governments are damn near powerless to act against them.
The second, and more difficult part of this, is the moral rationale. Critics would cite the 2003 invasion of Iraq as the example of why a military operation in the Middle East would be a bad idea. As immoral, unjustified, and ineffective as that war was, the current situation is entirely different. As I see it, not only is there a just cause for military action against the I.S. (the just cause would be intervening in the humanitarian crisis the I.S. created), but there’s also the opportunity for the West to clean up the mess they made in Iraq, and perhaps helping to undo the damage they did a decade ago. On top of that, there’s the far more serious issue of the I.S.’s mentality. We’re dealing with a group that sincerely believes that they’re in battle for the end times. People from here and abroad are joining I.S. because they believe they’re succeeding. Only if the West intervenes can we challenge that perception, and hopefully save the lives of those at the threshold of I.S.’s barbarism.
The only question is can the West fight this war ethically? I say this because I still find it difficult to trust that American forces can fight a war with pure integrity in mind, even in spite of the just cause for fighting the Islamic State. Unfortunately, I’m not able to answer that question, but in my opinion, whatever the ethics of fighting another war in the Middle East, I can say with absolutely certainty that this time, we’re the lesser the two evils. After all, it should be illegal to allow the I.S. to continue what they’re doing in the first place, and the sad reality is that force appears to be the only thing they understand, and thus the niceties of politics and diplomacy will be completely ineffective in bringing about justice.