Academics and professional experts on the Middle East are hard at work trying to render a strategy on how best to combat the Islamic State(IS). And while some, like myself in the past, have ventured to call for the utter annihilation and destruction of the extremist group; reason, logic and reality now beg to differ.
How could a philosophy be defeated on a battlefield? Social, political and economic conditions in the Middle East have facilitated the rise and the expansion of the IS. Failed and fractured governance and the failure of international organizations to ameliorate festertering conditions within Syria and within Iraq, have all attributed to the expansion of the IS. Moreover, perceived compromises of the principles of human rights and of some tenets of democracy have facilitated the staffing of the IS.
Hence, to destroy the IS would involve the killing, jailing and mind erasing of thousands of young people; thus, an impossible task.
Therefore, at the pinnacle of any strategy on the IS must be the prevention of the slaughter of innocents. Furthermore, any lawful and humane strategy on the group must involve capturing and bringing to justice those who have directed and carried out and continue to commit unspeakable crimes against humanity. Then the group could be pacified and forced to function under international law and accepted norms and practices.
However, the task to pacifying the IS remains highly dependent upon the forms of governance in the Middle East, especially in Syria and in Iraq. As long as Bashar al Assad remains at the helm of the Syrian regime, it will be virtually impossible to avert the violent nature of the IS. Assad's regime continues to represent a fertile recruiting symbol and tool of the IS based upon the atrocities committed against children and civilians by that regime, which has radicalized thousands of Syrian, Eastern and Western youths. Also, any signs of fracture within the Iraqi government will also facilitate the violent expansion of the IS.
It was a year ago today that the IS shocked the attention of the world when it took the city of Mosul in Iraq with lightning speed and overwhelming fire power. To understand how the IS was able to accomplish this feat along with others throughout Iraq and within Syria, a brief comprehension of Middle East is merited.
Hereditary monarchs, sectarianism, dictatorships and the failure of nations to adapt to modern times and the needs and aspirations of their people, have contributed to instability and the ensuing rise and expansion of the IS. Goat herders, small scale merchants and non-privileged families have grown tired of second-tier citizenship as they have watched the privileged flourish. Dictatorships once propped up by the West for the sake of stability have crumbled under social and internal political pressures.
Thus, Syria and Iraq are what they are today, so are Libya and Yemen and others. And the notion that just bombs will extinguish the IS, is a tall tale. The protection of the innocent and the apprehension of those responsible for high crimes must be the focus of strategy on the IS while working to pacify the group by expelling Assad from Syria, forging unity in Iraq and reaffirming the tenets of democracy in the West.