It's not a secret, we are at war in Syria and Iraq. The politicians support it, as do "we the people."
In the U.S. House of Representatives, the vote was 273-156 in support of arming and training Syrian rebels in the fight against ISIS (after all, we do have a pretty good track record training rebels). Only 1/3 voted no - 71 Republicans and 85 Democrats (now there's bipartisanship!). The U.S. Senate also voted in support of intervention. 44 Democrats and 33 Republicans voted yes; while only 22 voted no.
Public support remains high for intervention, with 71% advocating for the use of airstrikes in Iraq and 65% for launching airstrikes in Syria (about a year ago, 45% of Americans favored military intervention in Syria).
And people may soon be demanding more intervention. In a recent poll, about 55% of Americans believe that the United States either intervenes too little in the world or just the right amount. Only 39% believe it does too much (about a year ago, 51% of Americans believed the U.S. does too much).
It's pretty scary. All it takes is the beheading of two American journalists to increase public support by almost 26% (In June, 45% supported airstrikes in Iraq; this jumped to 54% three weeks ago and is currently at 71%).
It's hard to believe we are living in the "libertarian moment." On the "intervention spectrum," foreign military intervention is quite possibly the worst kind of intervention (as war is mass murder). Yet, the public supports military intervention in both Iraq and Syria. Are people really advocating the libertarian philosophy?
Maybe I am too cynical, after all, "only" 48% of Americans currently support assisting Syrian rebels; while 40% oppose arming them. In other words, 60% of American support arming Syrian rebels. Have we not learned anything from history? We don't even have to go that far back - just last year we provided arms to Syrian rebels; shortly thereafter, we even trained rebels who would later join ISIS. Yet, we want to intervene even more?
And, what happens when we intervene? When we intervened in Pakistan a few years ago, we killed about 50 civilians for every militant killed - a success rate of 2%. Would we accept such failure from the private market? Let's say you buy $100 worth of groceries, but when you leave the store only $2 worth of it remains in your shopping cart (and it's SPAM btw). You would be okay with this? Of course not, you would walk back in the store and demand the other $98 worth of food! And we are just dealing with food, not a human life! We call ourselves "civilized," yet we would likely get more angry about getting screwed at Publix then we would hearing that a recent U.S. air strike killed two ISIS leaders and 100 Syrians.
It's depressing how little we learn from history (especially when it is so recent). It's also terrifying how easy it is for Americans to support the mass murder of innocent people overseas. And, just wait until a few terrorist plots are unfolded here in the U.S. - support for intervention will increase even more! Indeed, it's already beginning to happen (a man in New York was recently indicted for supporting ISIS and planning to kill Americans in the U.S.).
The propaganda and fear tactics will work as they always do. And, like always, we will forget our role in creating this mess to begin with. Instead, we will demand even more intervention - maybe this time, a strong charismatic Republican leader. He will demand even more military intervention overseas. Public support will reach through the roof. And, as always, U.S. airstrikes will kill innocent civilian; a few militants will die, but hundreds more will join in its ranks. The leader of ISIS may die, but another Al-Baghdadi will take charge. ISIS may dissolve, but a new group will take its place.
In all of this mess, thousands of human beings will die. But, there is a bright side: American corporations will profit (during the Iraq war, contractors made over $138 billion) . And that money will be spent in the U.S., which will create jobs. Our economy will grow again! The lives lost are just collateral damage - a means to an end. It's all for the greater good, right?
Well, it seems the title answers itself. At least that's the hope of members of the Islamic State (IS). Unfortunately for IS, the government continues to call the group the Islamic State of Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It makes sense; the government doesn't want to give credibility to ISIS. Neither does the government want a new state in the middle east causing even more problems in the region.
How about we question the government this time? Let's begin by defining the word itself. According to Max Weber, a state is an entity that possesses a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. The dictionary defines a state as "a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government."
Under the dictionary's definition, ISIS is likely a state. After all, it is is an organized political community in the territory of Syria and Iraq. The group has some support of the people in the territory due to the heavy resentment and anger with the Iraqi government. Many Sunnis - including Baathists of Saddam Husein's former regime in Iraq - have joined forces with ISIS because of the current Shia led Iraqi government (imposed by the U.S. government).
Fitting Weber's definition may be a little more difficult. ISIS does possess a monopoly of the use of force in the region. After all, they have seized a number of territories in Syria and Iraq. Indeed, in Raqqa, Syria, ISIS has an all women brigade that is tasked with policing other women - using force - under the group's interpretation of Sharia law.
But is this monopoly legitimate? Well it depends on how one defines legitimate. Is the United States government legitimate? If so, under what theory? The social contract? Well, then, yes, ISIS is legitimate (I've purposely chosen not to discuss this theory because it's basically any support for a government, which is simply the default status of the people in any territory). However, if consent is the requirement, then neither the U.S. government or ISIS is legitimate (as not all people adhere to control by the state). So, in other words, ISIS is legitimate. After all, we can't question the social contract.
Maybe it would help to look at the acts carried out by the average state. Most states go to war with other states in the guise of protecting its people; raise revenue through taxation to pay for the state; and create and enforce rules within the state in order to maintain order.
Well, it would seem ISIS fits all three of these criteria.
First, ISIS is currently at war with Iraq and Syria. Most notably, ISIS recently seized Mosul, Iraq's second largest city (even though ISIS fought a military of 30,000 members with only 800 troops). It also has an established base in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Second, ISIS raises revenue from its territories through a variety of taxation schemes. ISIS earns millions of dollars every day from oil fields it controls in Syria. Additionally, in all of its controlled territories, ISIS has developed a tax system. In Mosul, ISIS enforces taxes on commercial activities. In Raqqa, it imposes a poll tax.
Third, ISIS has created and enforced rules within its territories to maintain order. ISIS runs schools, courts, and civil services. Sharia law is imposed on its people, including rules such as the prohibition of certain music and the separation of boys and girls at schools. But, similar to the United States, ISIS also has a welfare state - the dawa - that includes social welfare programs, recreational activities for children, and free clinics.
So, it would seem, ISIS is indeed a state. This doesn't necessarily give it the same credibility as the United States. But, it does show the world that it is legitimate (at least as legitimate as any other state).
What does that mean for the concept of the state? Will we begin to question either its usefulness or its duties? Only time will tell.
Learn more about ISIS and blowback as a result of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq/Syria/etc by listening to the podcast below. Thanks for listening!
One of the many things progressives and libertarians can agree on is limiting the role of the United States military overseas. It's a good thing, but rarely applied in actual politics. Instead, the main parties of government (the Republicans and Democrats, which really act as one party) support intervention time and time again.
Similar to children who will tomorrow at school pick between the final two choices in a game of dodge-ball or to the millions of adults who will pick the lesser of two evils to vote for this November, the ruling class and intellectuals are currently analyzing how "we" should intervene in Syria. Of course, the question isn't whether we should intervene; indeed, it is assumed we must. After all, ISIS poses a great danger, killing at least one American so far. Indeed, the war propaganda is already beginning: You mean to tell me Foley was also water-boarded and tortured? Yes! Let's go to war for something our government does and has done time and time again.
Moreover, the issue of military intervention and its consequences in general aren't even discussed. Blowback? What's that? Oh you mean that movie with Mario Van Peebles? You actually watched that? Nor do the intellectuals discuss the fact that innocent deaths will occur if we intervene. Sadly, we still change topics when the over 140,000 innocent Iraqi civilian deaths are discussed (sort of like that whole Nagasaki incident); though, fortunately for the State, that discussion likely occurs only in Libertarian circles.
So, shouldn't the media - if it really is an objective fourth branch of government that is supposed to "check" the State - analyze how the United States contributed to the current ISIS/Syria/Iraq/Terrorism/Foley conflict? I suppose they could, but that wouldn't be in the self-interest of the State (whose goal is to use war as a means of increasing government power). So, let's do our part here at CTIR. Here are a few examples of how the United States contributed to the current conflict in Iraq and Syria:
That's just the more immediate instances of our intervention overseas. There are likely thousands of additional instances of intervention that have historically added to the regions problems. But no, the topic of the negative consequences of intervention should not be discussed. If so, it's as if you didn't care about people. You mean, you want people to die?
Well, unfortunately, even with intervention people will die. But at least it's not on our hands; in fact, why is it even on our hands? Or, more importantly, why should it be on our hands? Why can one State do so much damage? So much death and destruction; so many negative consequences? Why should it have so much power? I didn't consent to such action; nor did most Americans. In fact, who would consent to the mass murder of civilians in Iraq and Syria? Moreover, not only is such intervention immoral - as an initiation of aggression - but it is definitely not in my best interest. I mean, how does killing others and stealing my money to do so help me in any way? But, I suppose it could be in your best interest.
But, remember, we can't question the power and authority of the State; no, we would be extremists - maybe even compared to members of ISIS itself! Instead, let's formulate some kind of plan to intervene in Syria. Let's spread some more of our lovely freedom overseas (though a handful of people in Ferguson, Missouri may respectfully disagree). Maybe the Syrians will welcome us with open arms? Hmm...where have I heard this before?
Hello. My name is James. And I am a critical thinker. [Hello James]. Well, at least I think I am. Let me think about it some more.