The long game: should we have intervened over ISIS?

Written by Comment

On 31 October, ISIS confirmed the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in an announcement that prompted many to praise intervention against the terrorist group, which has been ongoing since 2014 and involves several countries, including the US, UK and Russia.

With the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan still hanging over the western zeitgeist, intervention in the Middle East can be a hard sell politically, so when good news comes from the region, our political leadership make sure to let us know. It’s even more understandable that world leaders took a lap of honour at the news of al-Baghdadi’s demise: the first recognised ‘caliph’ of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been killed, meaning Trump has been able to achieve what he calls “the top national security priority of my administration”. A man has been killed who owned sex slaves, directed massacres and participated in genocide, and it’s hard to find sympathy.

The achievement of one short-term goal does not necessarily justify long-term intervention

However, the achievement of one short-term goal does not necessarily justify long-term intervention against ISIS. A successor was swiftly appointed after al-Baghdadi’s death, minimising its net impact, and several parts of the international community’s response to ISIS deserve scrutiny. In 2015, the UK Royal Air Force carried out a drone strike before it had received authorisation from Parliament, while US-led coalition forces have a history of underreporting civilian deaths.

We made mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and history could repeat itself

That action against ISIS is necessary is hard to deny: the issue is whether military intervention is the best course of action. Intervention has seen ISIS lose almost all of their territory, but we’ll still only be able to see the long-term impact in, shockingly, the long-term. Before we see if the many countries involved in the region continue to work with the affected countries after the fighting stops – to help deal with power vacuums, displacement of people and infrastructure damage – we cannot say for sure whether the intervention was beneficial to the region, and thus justifiable. The western world slapped itself on the back with Iraq and Afghanistan far before the job was done, and if we’re not careful, history could repeat itself.

For Victoria Osho’s take on intervention against ISIS, click here:  http://www.thecourieronline.co.uk/was-military-intervention-into-isis-necessary/

Last modified: 7th November 2019

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