After the attacks in Paris the world stopped turning its head to the crisis in the Middle East. It was clear that the ISIS threat had to be neutralized. Yet, as the United States, we could not just go back to another 10 years of war. We had already committed 4,815 American lives to liberate and stabilize Iraq.
Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom there has been much debate about the U.S. presence in the Middle East. While our next Presidential elections were drawing near in 2008, our politicians took a firm stance to reflect the will of the American people. The President that was elected followed the will of the majority of American people. The consensus was to “bring our troops home.” During a speech at West Point our President gave unrealistic expectations were made to move out of Afghanistan and Iraq by 2011 “Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011. That we are doing so is a testament to the character of the men and women in uniform. Thanks to their courage, grit and perseverance, we have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people.” (President Obama, West Point, 2009)
This deadline did much to serve the will of the people. However, it was not in the best interest of the military’s top advisers and commanders, who represented a minority in this dilemma. When fighting a war of any type for an extended period it is important to thoroughly execute all six phases of warfare effectively. Phase IV (Stability Operations) and Phase V (Enable Civil Authority) according to the Continuum of Operations was not seen to “mission accomplishment.”
When you reflect on the military (and ultimately diplomatic) success of the United States post WWII you will notice that 70 years later bases are still maintained in Germany and Japan. After the war their mere presence helped to enable stability in the entire region. You can see this in history by the demolishing of the Berlin Wall and the establishment of the demilitarized zone in South Korea. The presence of military bases also helped to ensure diplomatic relations between nations.
When a power like the United States, backed with all of its allies, completely abandons an entire area of command it creates a vacuum of security in the region. Our historical examples lay right before us. Post WWI, the German Army was only allowed a small force cap militarily, also paying mass war reparations. This allowed extreme right and left wing elements to exert dominance, ultimately leading to creation of the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler. Jumping forward in time, the United States and Russia pump a mass amount of weapons and money into Afghanistan. When the Soviet Union then withdrew in 1989, leaving the Afghans to fend for themselves during the vacuum of security (with an arsenal of weapons to exploit it). One of the few military forces to dominate and bring law at that time was unfortunately the Taliban. This was in the form of a twisted mixture of Pashtunwali and Sharia Law. Much the same as the Nazis rise to power. The basic truth to be learned is that instability due to the lack of security can be exploited to the point of causing a complete polarization of local ideology.
When the United States left Iraq, after pumping so many weapons, so many troops, and so much money, we created a void. This void was one local corrupt politicians, religious leaders, and fighters were jumping to fill. The vacuum of security created by leaving sucked in all the malign elements to its core. The warning signs were in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria. At this time one of the top commanders in CENTCOM (Central Command) General Mattis was forced into early retirement, during May, 2013. This shift in command, like General McCrystal and General Petraeus, created a rift in security by bringing the game of “politics” to the war zone. We should use post WWII Germany and Japan as a success model for our current operations. This was done by maintaining a constant presence in each theater.
Now more than ever are we able to communicate and travel faster than ever thought possible. This is connecting our world at an unprecedented rate. “Pulling out”, adopting isolationist policies, and decreasing our presence across the world during this day and age of evolving information technology is imprudent. We cannot stand divided in issues of international terrorism. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and look at ISIS as a Middle East problem any longer. The attacks in Paris, Kenya, Beirut, and Chattanooga are just a few examples of how ISIS has become a “world” problem. The warning signs were all there, staring us in the eye for over two years. Many across the globe were more concerned with the unveiling of the I Phone 5 or MW3 hitting stores to care that genocide was taking place half a world away… I mean sure it hit media. It was “sensationalized” for a few months, but was later replaced in the minds of many Americans by Kaitlyn Jenner, or the Boston Riots. Many seemingly unimportant national issues deflected the truth to what was internationally happening right before us.
The tragedy at Paris could have been averted with sound diplomatic policy in the Middle East. Yet, we did not have any will to commit. Our global society is intertwined. When we turn our back on one part of the world, it will affect everyone. How many more attacks, like the one wrought in Paris, will it take to wake the world up enough to act? The more desolation in the Middle East, the more migrants will pour across the borders of Europe. When this happens Middle East and Western cultures will undoubtedly clash.
I used to think, growing up, that there is no way that in our modern and cultured society that we would ever allow animals like Adolf Hitler to be in power. Yet even as we speak, many are being singled out and murdered at an unprecedented rate and in horrible ways. We need to globally take a stand for the children that have not yet had the chance to enjoy life, to be able to live in peace. It is not too late. We can avert another Paris.