Changed Circumstances Must Equal Changed Assessment

Just recently I encountered a piece by Daniel Pipes in which he took a somewhat dismissive attitude toward the ISIS / ISIL phenomenon as another of those groups that often appear in the Middle East, but eventually collapse due to internal issues and outside pressures; particularly from rival groups or differing sects that contest their proclamation of supremacy. Mr. Pipes appears to be correct within an historic context. But things have changed since the Turkish Empire was destroyed in WWI. And changed circumstances mean that you cannot fight the last war all over again. You must now fight the present war, or the one that is about to appear, if you want to be successful.


In the past islamist / imperialist groups from the Middle East region were constrained by what were largely technological factors. The ability to communicate reliably over long distances, to travel long distances rapidly, and finally, nature of the weapons that were available to them. All that has changed today. With Internet and satellite communications it is possible to get information from virtually anywhere to virtually any other place. A terrorist, who hides out in the Afghan hills, miles from a town of any size, can communicate with the rest of the world and control or direct operations using this new technology.


As electronics has revolutionized communications, so has mechanization revolutionized transportation. The ability to transport large numbers of combatants along with munitions and supplies has changed warfare considerably. It also makes it possible for jihadists from around the world to join the fight by leaving their present locations and

join in because they know what is going on and have the ability to get there with little difficulty. It is a far cry from a century ago when you might not know what was happening until a week after it was over.


The fact that people are leaving their “homes” to fight is another aspect of the changed circumstances. In the past this was much less common because news was delayed, communications were uncertain, and travel to far locations was often impossible on short notice. But in today’s world the terrorists and jihadists brag about their accomplishments on social media. The news gets out that they appear immensely successful. Success breeds recruits who flock to join the “army.” If they don’t, they are, at least, more likely to support it. The unrecognized fact is that any muslim is a potential jihadist, who may join up when they believe that victory is in hand. If they believe that defeat is likely then they will surrender, as the Iraqi soldiers did during Desert Storm.


Finally, we must address the issue of arms. When the most that a person could do was hack with a sword, stab with a spear or shoot an arrow, the damage that they could do was extremely limited. The development of firearms and artillery changed everything. You could stand off and shoot at the other side from a distance, and cause harm to people who were non-combatants with ease. The use of airborne weapons magnified this further. The ability to use nuclear and intercontinental weapons is, perhaps, the last stage. We are well aware that Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Iran is in the process of developing them, and may have them shortly because the present US government declines to take any action. Either one may be a source of such weapons to militant groups. This is aside from the American arms that the militants have already captured, which make them a very difficult enemy to deal with. The results of an atomic explosive or a dirty bomb could be catastrophic. And we should understand one thing very clearly. If the islamists get these weapons they will use them because it would be a tremendous recruiting tool. Combine this with their present abilities, including their access to real financing and they become a serious threat to the rest of the world.


What remains is that under the present circumstances the threat is more real than it has ever been in the past. With a government that believes in open borders, diversity in immigration policy, regardless of who it brings in, and appeasement of enemies as an institutionalized approach to diplomacy, the threat becomes even greater.


The present issue, to those who are not blinded by wishful thinking, is whether or not the present situation poses a significant threat to America and its interests. This depends, in part on how you identify a threat, and what America’s interests are. The fact is that a threat exists, and the longer it is allowed to develop the greater it will become. If American interests include defense of its allies and / or world stability, then threats such as this must be dealt with before they become an imminent danger. Unfortunately, we are at a stage where the ISIS / ISIL threat may have already become such a danger, particularly because they may have infiltrated the US, directly or indirectly, by crossing the porous Mexican border, and by picking up recruits through the success of their recent campaigns in Iraq. We have already experienced attacks here. There is no reason why more cannot happen.


What also must be recognized is that a threat may exist even if someone refuses to recognize it. The refusal to recognize the changed circumstances from an Iraqi government with US military backing to one without is one such instance. No one who knows the region would expect the new government to survive long without a strong military backing. The only source of such backing had to be a foreign government because the native troops could not be counted on in a crisis. They didn’t fight for Saddam; why would they fight for anyone else unless that government was perceived as extremely powerful. It was not.


A short sighted and ignorant foreign policy is the stuff disasters are made of. Electing an ignorant president who had no real world experience and did not believe that enemies actually existed was a mistake of mammoth and suicidal proportions. His failure to recognize how his presence changed things was even worse. We can only hope that the American people learn from this mistake and soon.


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