The terrorist group, ISIS, is now responsible for another death of an American reporter. Steven Sotloff was beheaded sometime last month in front of cameras in order to intimidate and antagonize the United States. The organization directed their attention at President Obama and his administration. In recent months the United States has retaliated against incidents of ISIS violence by directing missile strikes towards the group’s locations in Iraq.
ISIS uses violence to antagonize the United States partly because that is how they justify the United States occupation of Iraq and the United States’ longtime stance against Islamic government. With no end in sight, the United States has reached a threshold where they will have to decide how long they want to maintain a presence in Iraq, and how they will retaliate against Sotloff’s grizzly assassination. The United States can chose to either seek justice, or peace.
Iraqi Sunnis are split whether to support a sectarian Shia government, or Islamic fundamentalism. For radical Sunnis the decision is very easy; however, for many fence-sitting Sunnis the decision is much more difficult. Most Sunnis do not agree with ISIS tactics, but with every U.S. missile strike, more are choosing to side with the terrorist group. Although extremists have very little interest in peace, it is my personal belief that most people prefer peace to war.
Peace and justice do not always coincide. World War I ended with the signing of the treaty of Versailles, which brought justice to Germany, who was the main perpetrator of the war. This ultimately set up World War II. An angry Hitler regime sought to bring further justice to the ills that beset them in the previous war. The Paris Peace treaties of WWII had a different tone. If justice had been served, than the allied powers would place the entire debt of the war on Germany, Italy and Japan. Instead, they focused on nation building, and forgiveness, and the debt was distributed. Justice was not fully obtained, and the world is better for it.
The Iraq war and the current crisis in Iraq more resemble the Vietnam War. The United States entered Vietnam with a false presumption that communism was a dire homeland threat, and that its presence in Vietnam would spread to other countries. Having entered with these presumptions, the United States eventually realized it could not win a war with false principles and objectives. Once victory proved futile the United States yielded its troops. Although Vietnam chose to ally itself with the Soviet Union, it has at no point since the Vietnam War waged retaliation against the United States, because Vietnam has prioritized peace over justice.
The United States has ended the War in Iraq, but it has not ended its occupation. It fears that so doing would compromise its security, and evacuating would risk further September 11 attacks, and Shia and Kurd genocide. There is inherent risk in isolation with today’s technology, but there is also inherent risk in intervention. Intervention has proven to be predictable, whereas isolation is not. By intervening the United States believes that it can control terror. This is why President Obama is sending 350 more troops to Iraq. Justice would serve America and Steven Sotloff’s family by landing further airstrikes in Iraq and sending troops as a way to punish ISIS for its actions.
It is time for America to protect itself, not by sending troops and missiles, but by withdrawing itself from Iraq. This will probably result in short-term turmoil. President Obama has recently said that there was no further American solution in Iraq. America has spent the last decade and a half trying to solve an Iraqi problem that it had no answer to. ISIS and other terrorist groups will abuse their power and resources, but I believe that most Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds want peace, and that ISIS is not representative of the people of Iraq. Healing must take place, and as far as the U.S. Military has a presence in the Middle Eastern country, radicals and fence sitters alike will have a reason to distain us. Peace will not come by war, but by peace. It is time for the United States to set the example of peace that it wants to see in the Middle East.