It’s all in the back story. Not the divide between Shia and Sunni: that’s ancient history. It’s still relevant today, but I don’t think the religious clash within Islam is the main reason we have ISIS today. The question I’m exploring is how a bunch of terrorists take over 2 cities with a joint 3 million people.
I put it down to Jus Post Bellum, otherwise known as Just Settlement of a Just War.
Did we learn nothing from the Weimar Republic, when the victors of World War 1 placed such hard conditions on Germany that it set the scene for Adolf Hitler and World War 2?
The rules of a ‘just war’ are that we finish it, and let the country rebuild. But in 1990 we busted up Iraq’s infrastructure in GW1, pushed Saddam’s troops out of Kuwait, but failed to go all the way to Baghdad. Then we placed crippling sanctions on Iraq for decade which crippled their economy and devastated their national health services. Statistics show maybe 500,000 Iraqi infant deaths as a result of failed immunisation schemes and medical services. We failed to give them resolution. We failed to help them recover. Unlike Germany and Japan, both of which quickly bounced back to become serious economic players, we kept Iraq caged and in pain.
We should have either marched into Baghdad and finished GW1 properly, or aleft Saddam’s police state in charge and tried to win him over, Gaddafi style. I know the man’s police state stank. I hated it, and was urging the troops on in GW2. In the context I almost considered it a ‘welfare war’, removing Saddam seemed — at the time — like an act of mercy for the Iraqi people. Yet it seems delayed Jus Post Bellum doesn’t work. GW2 won the war, but lost the peace. We didn’t respect the different ethnic tensions within Iraq, didn’t handle the nation building process very well, and didn’t protect places of historical significance from looting. Not only that, but we ignored the Syrian conflict — probably because the country is not known for oil reserves — and let Assad drop chemical bombs on his citizens. Al Qaeda grew in Syria and then spilled over into northern Iraq and mutated into the ISIS we see today. The situation is so horrible that some popular bloggers are even suggesting America requires its own foreign legion, permanently stationed in hot spots around the world. I would love to see that debated by the experts. In the meantime, I’m keen to continue the current policy of arming and training locals and providing air cover. We’ll see where we are in a year. But the thing makes me wonder where Iraq would be now if we had provided Jus Post Bellum first, and gone all the way to Baghdad in 1991? What if we had replaced Saddam’s regime then? What if we had planned for the ethnic tensions, and maybe even created a Federation of united mini-states within Iraq to empower the different people groups? What if instead of decades of sanctions and further wars, Iraq had experienced 23 years of economic growth?
With prosperity and education and security, we could have dulled the allure of Isis.