The President of the United States recently asked Congress for the Authorization to Use Military Force against the Islamic State, ISIS. This is not something that is done lightly nor often, so it is to our benefit as a society to discuss and debate this request.
The Islamic State, ISIS, began as an offshoot of al Qaeda in Iraq as early as 2011 but rose to prominence in the summer of 2014. It is a Salafi extremist group whose goal is to create a Caliphate , an Islamic state. It is willing to achieve this goal by forced conversions to the Islamic faith or killing those who refuse. It is estimated that ISIS has anywhere between 9,000 to 18,000 fighters, yet its ranks continue to grow as it gains new territory and sympathizers from around the world. It is believed that at least 3,400 ISIS militants hail from the West, and as many as 150 Americans have tried to join their ranks. ISIS has taken control of large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, and has spread to Libya, Yemen and beyond. ISIS has billions of dollars in assets, which is has acquired through robbery, kidnapping and the sale of oil.
ISIS has become notorious for its brutal killings and its sophisticated use of social media. Four Americans have been killed by ISIS, two journalists and two aid workers. They are among the hundreds, if not thousands, whom have been killed by the group. Victims are often targeted because of their faith, such as the 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt who recently were beheaded on a beach in Libya by ISIS militants.
The United States, along with allies such as Jordan and Egypt, have been engaged in strategic airstrikes against ISIS for months. While the airstrikes have reportedly killed 6,000 ISIS militants, military intelligence officials believe that ISIS cannot be defeated using this strategy alone. Hence, the president’s request for the authorization to use force, which would not include American boots on the ground and be limited to no more than three years.
Should Congress grant this authority and should we go to war? Are there other greater threats that we should be focused on, such as Russia, China or North Korea?
To fight ISIS we would be forced to reengage in Iraq, take sides in the Syrian civil war and potentially partner with countries or groups that may run counter to our interests outside of defeating ISIS (such as Iran).
This is a serious, complex issue with long-term consequences that we must consider. At the same time, it is forcing us to take our eyes off of other potential threats to our national security.
US INTEL: IS MILITANTS DRAWING STEADY STREAM OF RECRUITS (AP)
Families Beg Runaway U.K. Teen Girls Not to Join ISIS in Syria (NBC News)
Of the 17,891 Deaths from Terrorism Last Year, 19 Were American. (Huffington Post)
What a beheading feels like: The science, the gruesome spectacle — and why we can’t look away (Salon)
An Administration Adrift in Denial (Peggy Noonan, WSJ)
What ISIS Really Wants (The Atlantic)
U.S. to Give Some Syria Rebels Ability to Call Airstrikes (WSJ)