JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

The existence of ISIS

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 10.55.08 AM
Scott Walker (left) and Ted Cruz. “We must attack ISIS, before we attack ISIS!”

ISIS is an entity that scares you because, 14 years ago, we did something really dumb.

In the aftermath of Al Queda striking the United States, we went after Iraq, a nation that had—literally—nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks. We cooked the intelligence so it leaned negatively toward Saddam Hussein, built up this nonsense case, went in, dominated, had the leader executed and clapped as our president—dressed in a Ken Doll military outfit—saluted the flag while exclaiming, “Mission accomplished!” Then, as questions began trickling in, we repeated one line over and over and over: “Saddam Hussein was a mad man, and the world is a safer place without him.”

Um … no.

Here we are. It’s 2015. Saddam Hussein—not a good guy—is dead. And Iraq is now home to ISIS, an operation 1,000,000,000 times more threatening to the United States (and the world) than Iraq under Saddam ever was. There is, I believe, no denying this: Without the Iraqi invasion, ISIS either doesn’t exist or is a fraction of what we now behold. Both physically (the literal invasion of a nation) and emotionally (Look at what the Americans are doing in Gitmo!), our actions resulted in thousands of young Middle Eastern men to loathe/detest/abhor the United States; to believe (understandably) that we were the enemy, determined to change their way of life to our (supposed superior) way of life.

Think what you may about Barack Obama’s foreign policy. It’s a hard one to figure, and I’m often befuddled by the president’s decisions. But right now, as GOP presidential ambitions turn vibrant, I am dumbfounded and scared by the saber rattling emerging from the right. Listen to Scott Walker, to Ted Cruz, to Jeb Bush. There’s this idea—repeated endlessly—that we need to take the fight to ISIS, in the same manner Ronald Reagan took the fight to communism.

The problem, however, is that ISIS is to the Soviet Union what a glass or orange juice is to scissors. Namely, they’re totally different entities, at different times, with different complexities. You “take the fight” to ISIS by putting American troops on the ground, you’re basically filming a powerful ISIS recruiting video starring the invading infidels. Young men would come running to join the fight. You’ll have increasing numbers of American troops captured, beheaded, captured, beheaded. Yeah, we’ll have our wins. But we’ll also have our nightmares. It’ll be like hatching cockroaches.

So, please, can we chill with the bluster, think this thing out, figure out a way to handle this with intelligence, with righteousness, with conviction.

Word.