Playing midterm politics with ISIS

October 31, 2014

With elections, come the scare tactics.

From Arizona to Arkansas to Colorado to Florida to Iowa to North Carolina, politicians are pinning their aspirations to fear of the reviled Islamist State. Alas, in an exhibition of fortitude, the United States Congress has shelved the issue until after the Nov. 4 vote. With temporary authorization of President Obama’s plan to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels expiring Dec. 11, it is still unclear whether a vote on further funding will occur on Nov. 12, when Congress returns from recess, or in January, after a new Congress is sworn in.

Unfortunately, arming rebels in northwest Syria is but a small part of the battle, as you can see from the map below. In total, six different groups are warring for control in Syria and Iraq, with the situation changing daily.

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This set of Reuters graphics allows you to visualize the grim data. Use the combined graph/map interactive to see how often and where the U.S.-led alliance has stepped up air strikes since August. The graphics also show a map of Kobani and aerial images of the Turkish border crossing elucidate the Kurdish humanitarian disaster; the threat to the Mosul Dam, the largest in Iraq; and the recent precipitous increase in attacks by ISIS.

As with the Ebola scare, the threat to the U.S. is sufficient for political fear mongering, but not dire enough to engage intelligently. As Patricia Zengerle and Roberta Rampton write for Reuters, “Any debate on the issue, which will force members to take a public stand, is politically risky.” Hardly a profile in courage.

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