It has been called “the single biggest threat in [America’s] 200-year history.” With a death toll of over 5,500 Iraqi citizens since the start of the new year and an uncountable Syrian death toll, this is something that is already a global threat. As of September 23rd there have been three very public killings and one more confirmed kidnapping by the extremist group known as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff along with British aid worker David Haines were murdered while videotaped as a way to intimidate the world. Now it is known that they also have a British aid worker by the name of Alan Henning also being help captive. The last two American deaths have brought the approximate death toll for journalists covering the Syrian civil war to around 70 and no one is completely sure how many captives the group still holds.
With all the publicity this new Sunni extremist group is acquiring it’s hard to believe that people would not know who they are. But let’s give some background information just to refresh some memories.
During the Syrian civil war a new group started to emerge. Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a man that got himself kicked out of Al-Qaeda when he wouldn’t conform to their ideas, ISIS is a group of rebels fighting for their own independent Islamic state. They are believed to have around 4.5 million civilians under their rule and reportedly bring in $2-6 million a day from oil, wheat, taxes, and even donations. There is no one consensus on how much land ISIS is currently in control of but there are two distinct ways of looking at it:
The United States have stayed away from this civil war for over two years now but when the Kurdish government called Washington they decided to help out by starting air strikes. This is what the ISIS leaders took as a reason to start their American attack. They have stated in their brutal execution videos that the killings would stop if the American government and their allies would just walk away.
This is not a problem that is going away but it is getting worse.
The UN mission to Iraq says at least 5,576 civilians were killed and another 11,665 wounded from 1 January until the end of June. Another 1.2 million have been driven from their homes by the violence, it adds.
The pace of civilian deaths over the first six months marked a sharp increase over the previous year. In all of 2013, the UN reported just over 7,800 civilians killed, which was the highest annual death toll in years.
Just recently the American government has teamed up with various Arab nations, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Qatar, and recently focused airstrikes over 14 major points of ISIS control to try and weaken the ranks. The main reason for these increased airstrikes comes from the fear that the American people are now feeling.
Esteemed judge, prosecutor, and political analyst Jeanine Pirro recently called for the White House to increase the airstrikes in the region to stop the problem before ISIS turns its sights directly on the west. The theory of “get them before they get us” is very similar to Thucydides’s theory that everyone fights for either fear, honor, or interest. In the case of America and ISIS it is mainly fear and honor. The American citizens are frightened of another serious attack like what they experienced on September 11th, 2001 and there is also an element of pride in the call to increase airstrikes. After ISIS brutally killed two american journalists and posted it to the Internet there is no way that the American people will not want justice and revenge for those deaths. However, the American citizen’s are forgetting about the thousands of people that ISIS is controlling who are just as scared, if not more so, than us because they are forced to live and follow the rules of this extremist group. Increasing airstrikes could potentially put all these innocent lives in danger. The leaders of ISIS reported in their video that they would stop the killings if the airstrikes stopped but as Thucydides once said “violence begets more violence” and the endless cycle of death and killing will never truly stop.
To try and understand the point of view that ISIS has one should look no further than the Melian Dialogue, from History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. Those involved with ISIS had believed that the “stronger” countries had too much control in the world and felt like it was unjust for them to control everyone else. It is a distorted look at the quote “the strong do what they will, the weak suffers what they must.”
No matter what the motivation behind either party was for getting involved in this conflict, it is here and will most likely play out until one side loses. 60 minutes released a very well put together documentary about the current situation over in Syria and Iraq and the people that are effected by this conflict. The video is a very good start for anyone that is interested in learning more about ISIS.