March 8, 2015

Republicans Calling for U.S. Ground Forces to Fight ISIS

Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia
Coat of Arms of Saudi Arabia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One question I've seen popping up with increasing frequency on some of the atheist and/or political blogs I read has been whether it is time for the U.S. to send ground troops into combat against ISIS. I can see some merit on both sides of this argument even though I tend to come down on the side opposing the use of ground forces.

Even if ISIS does not pose a direct threat to the U.S., which is debatable, they certainly offer the sort of disturbing example where an argument to intervene to prevent further suffering can be made. I have heard some comparisons to Rwanda, and our refusal to intervene there was not a proud moment in our history. Sitting by and doing nothing while ISIS continues to butcher people is difficult to justify. Continuing to wait patiently for the air campaign to work is becoming a hard sell as the airwaves are filled with reminders of who ISIS is and the sort of atrocities of which they are capable. Moreover, it is at least possible that we may have already waiting long enough that ground troops are now the only way to regain control of the situation. If we wait longer, might more of them be needed?

On the other hand, there does seem to be at least some sense that ISIS might be trying to bait us into sending troops because this would further their agenda. And of course, there is the question about whether sending in ground forces would accomplish more than another engagement in the Middle East from which we'd be unable to remove ourselves. Once we defeated ISIS, then what? We have not seemed to be able to figure out how to invade Muslim nations and effectively remake them in our image. It could even be argued that our repeated attempts to do so have spawned ISIS and similar groups.

It was interesting to see Saudi Arabia recently calling for a U.S.-led coalition of ground forces instead of committing their own forces. I tend to agree with Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) take on this development. If the Muslim countries in the region do not find ISIS enough of a threat to intervene on the ground, the argument that we should do so becomes less clear. Even if U.S. ground forces ultimately end up being necessary, it seems like the countries neighboring Iraq should be prepared to share this burden. If they are not, what should we make of that?

It is noteworthy that many of voices calling for U.S. ground forces are the same ones who supported our invasion of Iraq following 9/11. That they were wrong then does not necessarily mean they are wrong now, but it does give one pause. Fox "News" is beating the drums of war once again, and many prominent conservatives have recently called for U.S. ground forces. Are we on the brink of another ground war?

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