2 December 2015

UK airstrikes would play straight into the ISIS strategy

By Brett Linley

Following the horrific and tragic events in Paris the House of Commons is considering today whether it should commit to airstrikes in Syria, in order to combat the threat posed by ISIS. As the times’ current agent of evil, it is necessary that action be taken to eliminate this barbaric threat to civilization. That being said, the actions should not come from Great Britain but from the region where these attacks are originating.

It is important to understand the nature of how ISIS operates in the region, and how it draws in new recruits. Their goal is to establish an Islamic caliphate, and they seek to achieve this through whatever violent means they deem necessary.  But ISIS’ strategy relies as much on recruitment as on  their ability to keep those within their sphere of influence docile and subdued. Airstrikes from western nations only seek to strengthen their hand on both these counts.

In reality, there is nothing that ISIS would like more than for the UK, and other western nations to not only send airstrikes, but to launch an invasion with boots on the ground. This may seem counterintuitive, but there is a method to their madness.

The children of Iraq who faced the operations of our military in 2003 are the fighting age males who are now joining ISIS. For every wedding or village hit by a western drone, more and more people have been spurred into joining Islamic extremists.

This is certainly not a justification for their actions. But we must understand that intervention in the middle east comes with heavy consequences. Even if involvement is kept only to the level of airstrikes, it is unlikely to have positive results.

Airstrikes are just as, if not more, capable of inadvertently hitting civilian targets as boots on the ground. Civilians who may have been indifferent to the extremists operating in their area may quickly join them if someone close to them dies as the result of a careless airstrike in the area. This is unavoidable.

As more people in the Middle East become frustrated with the western response, more will be willing to join ISIS, who happily capitalize on these developments. The more recruits they get, the easier it is for them to keep control of, and expand, their territory. It’s something that can very easily spiral out of control.

The most that should be done by the UK, or any western government, is to give aid to the states in the region that are combatting the threat of Islamic extremism in their own territories. This is no panacea, but at least it will make it  harder for ISIS to claim blood is on our hands—a crucial tool in their recruitment.

Middle Eastern countries, quite intuitively, have a better understanding of the region’s culture and geography than we can ever hope to. This threat is in their backyard, and only extends to us to the level at which we instigate them by carelessly carpet-bombing the area.

War is an expensive endeavor. It demands a countless level of resources, both in blood and treasure. Indeed, national security is a top priority that must always be contemplated with the utmost severity. That being said, airstrikes will only serve to undermine national security in the UK. More recruits will be drawn to ISIS, and they will be even more motivated to to strike at the West with a vengeance.

When it comes to western action, we should look to undermine the legitimacy of ISIS’ rule. If there’s anything that conservatives should believe in, it’s that wars should be fought in an intelligent way that gives us the best chance to win. It is an abject necessity to know the type of enemy being fought.

The deadliest aspect of ISIS  is their ferocious conviction that their abhorrent barbarism is the one true way, and their will to fight to the end. The more recruits we make for them, the longer they can hold out.

For every victim of a western airstrike, ISIS has a new claim to the depravity of western civilization. Once more, identifying the problem does not give the actions of ISIS any legitimacy, but we must be willing to identify the problem. If we show that western values truly entail the spirit of liberty and opportunity, rather than the values of war and devastation, we have a much greater shot at winning the hearts and minds of the region. To this end, we should be providing a sanctuary for the refugees that flees the barbarity ISIS has created.

This is the fight of the Middle East. It is both unfortunate and devastating that Europe has faced the plague of extremist violence. But what these people want is for us to become entrenched in a conflict on their home turf. Airstrikes will inevitably lead to taking responsibility for a region that won’t fight for itself. In order to end war, the UK and the west must be willing to choose peace.

Brett Linley is a Young Voices Advocate and a student and Hofstra University.