Another take on ISIS (perhaps) being un-stoppable by the West

To understand the progress of ISIS, a rag-tag
militant group raging across the Middle East, it’s not a bad idea to take a
look at the circumstances that made such savagery possible. Nationhood has not
served the area well and ISIS builds upon ancient tribal cultures that cannot
help but feel disenfranchised.

Like a forest that has been artificially prevented
from the periodic burnings nature provides, the Middle East has long been
accumulating tinder on its metaphoric forest floor. That build-up occurred
because of its centuries of neglect of the common man and his hopes for a
future—not a better future, but any
future at all. It only awaited a spark to ignite an inferno no fire-fighters
could control.

That spark was
provided by a Tunisian street-vendor by the name of Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed
Bouazizi on the 4th of January in 2010. Bouazizi set himself on fire
to protest the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation
that was inflicted upon him by a municipal official and her aides.  
The municipal
authorities (as is usual among the poor) repeatedly ignored his complaints. His
self-immolation was a catalyst for Tunisians taking to the streets in pent-up
anger and the birth of what has become known as the Arab Spring. Two others followed his lead and those three were immediately
hailed by Arab commentators as “heroic
martyrs of a new Middle Eastern revolution.
Public anger and
violence intensified after his death, leading Tunisian President Zine El
Abidine Ben Ali to step down on 14 January 2011. His twenty-three years in power collapsed within ten days. Demonstrations
and riots throughout Tunisia quickly spread across the Arab world in the manner
of an out-of-control and very dangerous forest-fire.
Speaking of fire-fighters, a quote from
moralist-humorist George Carlin might not be amiss: “If crime-fighters fight crime and fire-fighters fight fire, what do
freedom fighters fight?”
The Middle East is awash in freedom-fighters,
which ISIS claims to be.
That’s my point. A
revolution against injustice cannot possibly be repaired or constrained by the
very national governments that committed the injustice. Not those in Saudi,
Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Tunisia and across most of Africa.
Certainly not in Egypt, where the
first democratically elected president in
its 5,000 year history
lasted less than a year before the military put democracy
out of business and on trial. The message behind that travesty was (and is)
crystal clear.
It’s much the same
across the entire Middle East, where national governments hang on by brute
force against a rising tide of such injustices. You can include Israel and Iran
(both non-Arab states) in that category if you care to.
A great deal of the blame attributes to
colonial powers that drew national boundaries over afternoon tea and without
any thought or concern given to ancient tribal associations. Those who grab
power and territory care not a whit for antiquity. This is true of ISIS as
well, as they destroy ancient historic sites in a frenzy to obliterate all that
lies in the past.
Shia and Sunni were arbitrarily
split both by artificial borders and military intervention, with no proper
Kurdish nation ever allowed into existence. After meddling for several hundred
years and properly screwing things up, the colonial powers left and sulked home.
But as they left (or were thrown out)
power-vacuums occurred everywhere and political power-struggles began.
Nature loves a vacuum
and so does politics.
But getting back to ISIS, Western powers have
no viable place in that dangerous and un-winnable game, no matter their desire
for what serves (in their own interests) as peace. The vacuum left in their
wake was quickly filled by unsustainable hierarchies. As the walls come tumbling
down it’s beyond their power (or ours) to put a fallen Humpty-Dumpty back up on
his wall:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again (1797)
For the West to ally itself with Saudi or
Jordanian kings, let alone the tyranny of Egypt or Israel, is to side with
brute-force against the Tarek Bouazizis of the Arab states. Are we really proud
of how our guns and money have been squandered supporting the powerful against
their poor and unrepresented? We’re currently in this mess on the wrong side of
history, without an end-game.
An Arab League exists and it’s more their business than ours to settle the issues
of their area, but do they do it? With the exception of Syria it’s not their boots on the ground, it’s ours. They cleverly used the United
States and various mercenary forces as proxies, with the loss of oil and influence as a threat. We can buy oil more cheaply on the market than the $3 trillion cost of unending
military intervention. We will never successfully influence the ancient adversaries in their wide and growing civil
The spot in which we
put ourselves is simply unsustainable. I am a great fan of unsustainable as an adjective,
using it as a measure of advancement over time. The brutal national forces
we support against ISIS, al Qaeda and its various offshoots are simply
unsustainable and we will wear ourselves out in an ill thought-through attempt
to sustain them. 
If you remember, this very war between the West and Islam was
Osama bin Laden’s first and major goal.
Innocents are dying in huge numbers, as
innocents have always done. Those who flee, drown in the Mediterranean or waste
away in refugee camps as we refuse them immigration. Obviously Europe cannot absorb all African and Middle Eastern
refugees, but the circumstances that enabled this ultimate chaos are largely of
Islamic animosity—a scene set by twenty centuries of neglect, mismanagement and
Those circumstances continue today and I wish
I had a solution to offer other than the West getting the hell out and letting
the region reconfigure itself. To allow these deaths is to turn our backs on their
misery in favor of drones and armaments that support brutal national
governments. All because they sell us oil or are momentarily useful in the
parlor-game of power politics.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
. . .

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