Let locals take the lead on ISIS


There may be a continuum between the purportedly non-violent Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State, or ISIS. Nevertheless, “it bears repeating that ISIL’s campaign is not fundamentally a religious phenomenon, or manifestation of mainstream Islam,” said Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Here is a great example, he told  the launch of the Senate Human Rights Caucus:

Here is a great example: Last year, two wannabe jihadists, Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed, set off from England to join ISIL in Syria. Before they left, they ordered two books from Amazon: Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies. This is a movement for people whose only religion is nihilism. The fellowship they seek is not from people seeking God, but from those who get their kicks from killing. And they will be destroyed first and foremost by those whose traditions of faith they have hijacked.

Let locals lead

When western forces fought in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003, they quickly defeated the armies fielded by those states. But then the west took primary responsibility for defeating the insurgencies that had taken root inside the borders of those states, notes Emile Simpson, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and author of ‘War From the Ground Up’:

The follow-on mission, which I experienced as an infantry officer in southern Afghanistan, became indistinguishable from local politics. Given the need to tackle all the problems that stoked insurgency – poor governance, corruption, land rights, ethnic prejudice – it could not have been anything less. The hard military objective of defeating an enemy evolved into an open-ended commitment to stabilise politics and civil society.

“If the mission is to remain within clear bounds, it cannot take responsibility for the permanent defeat of Isis, which must lie with local actors and regional states,” he writes for the Financial Times. “Their security is what is primarily at stake, and the long-term stabilisation needed to defeat an insurgency requires them to fix their politics

The West should also be wary of inadvertently enhancing Iran’s regional power, say analysts.

“ISIL is a five-year problem,” Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s strategic affairs minister, said a few hours before Mr. Obama addressed the nation on Wednesday night, using the acronym the Obama administration employs to describe the Sunni extremist group. “A nuclear Iran is a 50-year problem,” he told the New York Times, “with far greater impact.”

“The Iranians may well think we need them to help defeat ISIS and that this will make us more accommodating in the nuclear negotiations,” said Robert Einhorn of the Brookings Institution, who had responsibility for enforcing sanctions. “If they do think that, it is an illusion.”

ISIL did not emerge from nothing, Malinowski told the Senate Human Rights Caucus:.

There’s a reason why such a destructive force ascended in this part of the world at this moment in history. It ascended because a dictator in Syria has spent three years trying to crush what began as a peaceful democratic movement, destroying towns and cities, driving half the people of his country from their homes, until some of them became so desperate that they turned to the false deliverance and destructive fanaticism ISIL offered. It ascended because many in Iraq’s Sunni population felt legitimate grievances were ignored by the government in Baghdad. ISIL not only abuses human rights; it is the product of the abuse of human rights.

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