Dr. Hussein Rashid, 9/23/2014 [Archive]

More than a Military Response Required to Beat ISIS

By Dr. Hussein Rashid

As ISIS appears to be gaining ground in Iraq, there seems to be a lack of a grand strategy coming out of the White House. The low hum of drone warfare, as opposed to coordinated decisive victories like in Irbil, creates a greater potential for feeding ISIS' propaganda machine. The United States must think more comprehensively than a military intervention.

We need to increase aid for rebuilding Iraq. Our experience in Afghanistan shows us that we need to invest in infrastructure development. Without rebuilding the country, there is no popular belief in the future of the country or the end of armed conflict. Infrastructure also creates the jobs a post-war state needs.

It's no accident that the Taliban constantly attack hotels and restaurants in Kabul; though these may be soft targets, they are also places that represent the idea of what a stable society could be--therefore undermining the story of what the Taliban say it is. Between success in Bosnia and struggles in Afghanistan, the importance of building infrastructure and civil society in post-war nations is abundantly clear.

We have to take the potential threat from ISIS seriously, but we do not have to treat them seriously. An extremist organization's greatest recruiting tactic is the appearance of being forceful. They appropriate the terms "Islam," and "caliphate" to bolster delusions of grandeur. The disgusting acts of violence that they carry out serve as a show of control and strength, and to goad responses from major states like the US and UK. A response gives them the legitimacy they crave.

Indeed the appropriate response is to mock them, as many in the Arab world already are doing with name-based puns, faux odes, and social media campaigns. In the English speaking world, every time we say "ISIS," we ought to post a picture of the Egyptian goddess Isis and the subtitle of "return to the age of ignorance," a reference to the area's pre-Islamic history and lack of relevance to Islam or Muslims. We could even superimpose the head of Califake Ibrahim on the video of Ice, Ice Baby--the possibilities for parody are endless!

We must also carefully consider the coalition against ISIS. There is a necessary military coalition, but for building a civil society we need a very different set of countries.

For example, Saudi Arabia repeatedly proves itself to be a two-faced ally and a malignant force not only in the region but in Muslim communities around the world. At its inception in the 18th century, the cult of Abd al-Wahhab was declared non-Muslim by the founder's highly respected family of scholars for its break with religious tradition, austerity, over-simplification of religion, and reliance on violence. Essentially, the founder was told he was creating a new religious movement. However, access to capital and weaponry allowed the tumor to grow and establish itself in Saudi Arabia. It has metastasized into the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS; Saudi Arabia can only keep itself form succumbing to this sickness by sending it out into the world. We cannot cure the disease by bringing the source with us.

To regain a sense of stability in Iraq, we need to more than a military solution. We have to put together political and social strategies that engages a civilian population that is currently caught between warring armies. We must also avoid self-defeat when making alliances with those whose interests we are unsure of.

ISIS is not an existential threat to the United States, but if not dealt with properly, it will attempt to drain us of our resources and remain a persistent annoyance for years to come.

——

©Copyright 2014 Dr. Hussein Rashid, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dr. Hussein Rashid is a professor of Islamic Studies at Hofstra University, a fellow of the Truman National Security Project, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He can be reached at HusseinRashid.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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