The Great Debate

Five questions for America on Syria

By Aki Peritz
October 3, 2014

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq

When the United States began bombing Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra positions in Syria last month, it entered into a conflict that has been grinding on for more than three years. Here are five major questions America needs to answer as the fighting unfolds in the weeks ahead:

from Hugo Dixon:

Whatever help the West offers to fight Islamic State, it should have conditions.

By Hugo Dixon
October 2, 2014

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq

What should the West’s military policy be toward Islamic State?

Most observers fall into two camps. Some point to the sorry history of Western intervention in the Middle East and argue the job of combating the Islamic State should be left to local powers.

We all know about jihadists, but what about those waging an ‘anti-jihad’?

By Karima Bennoune
October 1, 2014

Human rights activist holds a placard during an anti-Talibanisation protest in LahoreAs the UN Security Council tackles the entity claiming to be “Islamic State,” and President Barack Obama invokes global Muslim responsibility, many ask whether people of Muslim heritage do enough to counter extremism.

U.S. doesn’t face much threat from Syria’s air power – rebels aren’t so lucky

By Robert Beckhusen
September 30, 2014

berk -- jet firing missile

The White House is in a difficult spot when it comes to Syria. Not only is the United States at war with Islamic State, one of President Bashar al-Assad’s foes, but U.S. aircraft are also flying through the same airspace, and focused on part of the same mission,  as the Syrian Air Force.

from Compass:

To build a coalition against Islamic State, U.S. must try a little humility

By Nader Mousavizadeh
September 25, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama chairs the U.N. Security Council summit in New York

When President Barack Obama assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council Wednesday, he summoned the full weight of U.S. power to a cause with seeming universal appeal: defeating the barbarism of Islamic State -- or, as Obama calls the militant group, Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL).

from Jack Shafer:

War without end: The U.S. may still be fighting in Syria in 2024, 2034, 2044 . . .

By Jack Shafer
September 24, 2014

RTR47HCZ.jpg

This must be what perpetual war looks like.

In a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Army Lieutenant General Bill Mayville called the cruise missiles and bombs flung at targets in Syria "the beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign." How long will the campaign last? "I would think of it in terms of years," Mayville responded.

Air strikes won’t disrupt Islamic State’s real safe haven: social media

By Rita Katz
September 24, 2014
jihad tweet President Barack Obama has pledged to destroy Islamic State and ensure fighters “find no safe haven.” But even as U.S.-led airstrikes are underway in Iraq and Syria, it is clear that bombs alone will not do the job. For Islamic State hides out in the most perfect haven: the World Wide Web.

In June 2014, the militant group that Obama refers to as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, grabbed the world’s attention after it took over much of northern Iraq in roughly four days. Islamic State accomplished this by building a massive, sophisticated virtual network of fighters in addition to those on the ground. Indeed, its expansion online has been as swift as its territorial gains. It is this virtual power grab that will be most difficult to combat.

Germany exports massive amounts of arms, hypocrisy

By Josef Joffe
September 22, 2014

A MG3 automatic weapon that is part of a German military aid shipment for Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq is on display for the media at a storage facility of the Bundeswehr armed forces in Waren 

Who is the world’s No. 3 arms exporter, after the United States and Russia? Surprise. It is Germany, a country bound by law to supply only allies and peaceable folks like (neutral) Switzerland or Sweden. Off limits are “areas of tension” — bad neighborhoods that actually need the stuff.

A NATO ally stays on sidelines of fight against Islamic State

By Andrew Finkel
September 18, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama listens as he hosts a bilateral meeting with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan during the NATO Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales, in the United Kingdom

Few countries are in a better position than Turkey to help the United States fight Islamic State. The moderate Islamic country shares a 750 mile border with Syria, is a NATO member and a long-time ally of America. But don’t hold your breath for Turkey’s support.

Avoid a classic blunder: Stay out of religious wars in the Middle East

By Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman
September 16, 2014

hoffman top

Muslims in the Middle East are fighting wars of religion. Like the carnage between Protestants and Catholics that haunted Northern Ireland during the last third of the 20th century, there is little anyone can do until local peoples crave peace so intensely they are willing to cultivate it.