In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on USNews.com
The Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) is dominating foreign affairs news reporting, with particular focus on its territorial gains, brutality against two American reporters, and the question of whether or not the United States will launch an offensive against it. What is somewhat lost in this is an appreciation of how evil the Islamic State is. There are many euphemisms used, with words like torture, brutality, atrocity, violence and murder; these do not indicate the real level of barbarism at work.
The Islamic State is making a specific point of committing acts of evil against Christians, Sunni Muslims, Yazidis, Turkmen and Shabaks. It is using slavery and rape against women as a method of control and fear. It is using public executions as a method of population control, kidnapping to fill its ranks and murder to silence opposition.
It is difficult to ascertain exact numbers on the countless acts of evil performed by the Islamic State. The U.N. Human Rights Council is investigating war crimes committed by the group, but this is likely to go nowhere should the United States not act. As difficult as it is for one to read the horrible list of atrocities, it must be done to expose the nature of this group that has transitioned from terrorist organization to insurgency.
The number of civilian deaths at the hands of the Islamic State is well over 2,000. Many of those killed are put on display by crucifixion. In areas where the Islamic State has control, it has reserved Friday as the day for public executions, public amputations, torture, beatings and stonings. The killing and torture of children is commonplace. It is believed that at least 2,000 people, primarily women have been sold into slavery. The group often kidnaps young boys, some as young as 10 years old, and forces them to join its combat teams. Finally, the New York Times reports that more than 1 million people have been displaced by the fighting.
It is a puzzling question as to why the United States has not acted on a threat that was made clear more than one year ago. Often you hear people talk about the Holocaust of World War II in terms of surprise. It is quite common to hear the promise of “never again,” often coupled with laudable sentiments that if only we had known about the extent of the Holocaust, we would have done something. This is an anti-historical comment, since many knew what was happening in Europe then, just as we knew about the Soviet Gulag (and of the Chinese Laogai and North Korean concentration camps). We know about the evil that is the Islamic State. We know it will not respond to anything other than massive, demonstrable violence, just as we know that limited air strikes are of limited value. We know that in order to remove the threat and stop the evil that is being committed, we will need to root the Islamic State out of Syria.
There is an attempt by many to justify inaction by arguing that the situation is far too complex and far too ambiguous. But there is nothing complex or ambiguous about this situation. There was nothing ambiguous about the Nazi concentration camps or the Soviet Gulag. There is nothing ambiguous about the Chinese Laogai or the North Korean totalitarian nightmare. If ever there was a clear-cut case for American military intervention on the side of the innocent, it is here.
There is no place in American foreign policy for moral ambiguity; we will leave that to some of our European and Asian counterparts. We know that the British have already clearly spoken up for what is right. There is no alternative to the United States, though there is an alternative to America alone. If America leads, many will follow; if America declines, no one will lead. It is a simple formula. If anyone suggests otherwise, they are attempting to justify inaction through pseudo-intellectual wind.
Those who served in government in the 1990s looked at the events in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia with disgust. There were many cries in the 1990s that “never again” also meant that America would “never again” shirk the duty that it alone has. We have now come full circle with a group that is trying to create another tyranny, with the most vile and hateful methods that have not been present on the world stage in this particular form for a long time. The Islamic State will not stop. It has promised to bring this evil to our doorstep. What more is our ship of state waiting for?