Last semester, I wrote an 11-page paper for school on the urgency of entering another conflict in Iraq, crafting my own military strategy to dismantle and destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The title of my paper was Operation Perilous Fight, to which I appropriately ended with, “The threat of ISIS and Islamic jihad is indeed perilous, and we must fight fire with fire to destroy this evil and ensure it never provokes Mother Freedom ever again.”
I wrote this paper on October 1, 2014. Today is now February 11, 2015, just a little over four months since. To say my views on how to handle the situation of ISIS have changed dramatically would be an understatement. My entire foreign policy has drastically shifted directions and I have had a complete change in heart about the excursions of our past and their effect over our liberty. I have always had a deep veneration for the Constitution and tried to place it at the epicenter of my politics, yet when it came to foreign policy, as a conservative, it seemed as though our founding principles did not matter much. Crushing our enemy seemed to take priority over liberty, which is why war has in turn led to more abuses of our freedoms than anything else. Through reading a bunch of books from Judge Andrew Napolitano in recent months, I was able to humbly realize this and come to “convert” to the ideology of libertarianism.
It is the American way of thinking to desire and expect immediate results. It is commonplace in the workforce when accounting for profits and losses, as well as in the classroom when keeping tabs on our grades. However when it comes to the state of the Union, we are daft to believe that results should be immediate. We expect our politicians to immediately provide solutions to the problem of unemployment and the problem of terrorism. These are legitimate issues, however Americans are often leading the wrong discussions. The legitimate role of government is to protect our lives, our liberty, and our property; alas government is to exist in a limited form solely to protect that which is natural and inalienable. Redresses to unemployment (an economical issue) and terrorism (a defense issue) are needed, but more often than not the answers agreed upon unfortunately infringe upon our lives, our liberty, and our property.
Rarely in life are we as individuals willing to take a step back and ask ourselves, “How have we gotten here and how may I have played a role in this outcome?” The blowback theory is widely discussed by libertarians. Simply put, it presumes the following: big government has big consequences. Meddling in affairs that government ought not to be meddling in often garners in stark repercussions. Seeking quick fixes to our country’s ailments has unfortunately gotten us into very sticky messes internationally, and here domestically has spiraled us into more than $18 trillion of debt.
There is an awful lot of blame to go around for America’s mediocre standing in the world today, but one cannot make objective claims without first getting to the root. When it comes to the problem of ISIS and Islamic jihad in the Middle East, conservatives are quick to place blame on the shoulders of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and liberals are swift at pointing their fingers at George W. Bush. They have all played their role no doubt, however they have only stuck with the status quo. The root to the issue predates all of their presidencies and makes its way to the lap of every Republican’s favorite president, Ronald Reagan, as well as his predecessor Jimmy Carter.
Jimmy Carter was a rather restrained president on the foreign stage, a true conservative. However one of the largest blunders of his presidency was setting the dark precedent of arming and funding the Mujahedeen insurgency against the Soviet Union. When the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979, our federal government made the grave mistake of believing the enemy of our enemy is our friend. Carter started this initiative, but Reagan put it on steroids, going so far as to even invite the Mujahedeen into the White House in 1985. Conservatives are outraged when President Obama invites the Muslim Brotherhood to Washington D.C. yet are strangely passive of Reagan’s behavior which set this precedent.
President Reagan wanted to be the hero that brought down the mighty Soviet empire, and lucky for him, history has been kind in sticking with that narrative. He so badly wanted to bring the regime to its knees that he gave rise to Osama bin Laden in the process. The Soviet Union has been demolished for nearly 24 years now, but the repercussions of arming bin Laden and the Mujahedeen still plague us to this day.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States entered into war against the very man that Ronald Reagan gave aid to. Three weeks after entering the war, Congress signed the PATRIOT Act into law, effectively stripping us of all of our inalienable rights listed in the Bill of Rights, and we Americans blindly cheered it on. A few months later, President Bush opened up the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, where due process and natural rights have gone to die.
Two years later, President Bush illegally invaded Iraq, and further abuses of power ensued. Albeit a cruel dictatorship, Iraq was a predominantly stable nation that posed little to no threat to us. Our ousting of Saddam Hussein did little to secure freedom for Iraqis and only destabilized the country, leaving it in the hands of terrorists when we eventually left. We have seen the same occur in Libya and Egypt after brief military expeditions there as well.
Now today, we are left with the inevitable problem of ISIS. ISIS is no ordinary terrorist organization, but rather a terrorist state, which controls large swaths of land and valuable resources in Iraq and Syria. They are truly callous and sadistic, as they routinely behead, stone, burn, and rape innocent men, women, and children. I do believe they deserve to be wiped off the face of the Earth.
However after 14 years of perpetual war, the United States is war weary, and while I despise ISIS with every fiber in my body, it is neither our responsibility nor our prerogative to return to being the policemen of the world. The legitimate responsibility of the United States Armed Forces is to protect our homeland, yet the justification for these pointless wars has been to “go to the enemy before they come to us.” Such flawed thinking is logistically no different than saying “we should go arrest the criminals before they commit crimes.” This aggressive foreign policy is what leads to great blowback towards the United States, making us the most hated nation amongst Arabs.
So how do we deal with the problem of ISIS? Everyone is saying we have to do something, right? We do have to do something, but by we I mean the civilized world. By we I do not implicitly mean the United States. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran (all of the neighboring nations of the Islamic State), have rightly condemned ISIS and vowed to crush them. After just one Jordanian pilot was burned to death by the terrorist state, Jordan responded aptly with a barrage of bombings and assurances of hell.
Nearly half of our nation’s debt is attributed to the wars of the last decade. Unless we wish to expend the lives of thousands of soldiers and pile on additional trillions of dollars in debt, we need to humbly take a step back and understand what we’re asking for by waging another war. We need to be able to differentiate between freedom and national security and accurately assess if entering another war in the Middle East will truly protect our freedom.
In my paper Operation Perilous Fight, I acknowledged the fact that fighting ISIS would mean inevitably reentering Iraq again down the road after the nation repeats its cycle of destabilization. The United States exists not to be the policemen of the world, but rather to be a shining city upon a hill. Freedom is not coerced, but desired. If the Middle East cannot get their act together themselves, then there is not much we can do. But if our goal is to help them aspire to be more like us, the least we can do is stop meddling in their affairs and let them at least try to correct themselves (a truly conservative method we have yet to try). Then and only then will they get a glimpse of what liberty truly looks like, and if they so desire it, they will follow in reverence.