Former Ambassador to Iraq Speaks About Countering ISIS

By Michael Semel

On October 2, I had the privilege of listening to the former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, speak at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Ambassador Jeffrey’s topic of discussion was countering ISIS, the radical terrorist organization in the Middle East. He believes that it is inevitable and necessary that the United States will have to send ground forces into the region to fight ISIS. The ambassador explained the US strategy in the Middle East cannot involve leaving troops on the ground for too long because their presence is associated with colonialism in the region and that will divert from the purpose of the military involvement.

Relating to AIC’s Voices Against Radicalism campaign, Ambassador Jeffrey talked about ISIS’s genocide of not only religious and ethnic minorities, but anyone who disagrees with their mission or is in their way. ISIS is able to “mobilize the imagination” of hundreds of thousands of people, gaining supporters for their horrific and violent cause. However, the ambassador emphasized “if ISIS is losing, it loses its appeal.” Whether or not you support an increased US military presence in the region, something must be done to curb the rising radicalism movement that ISIS has organized. Extremism is not in line with any values of Islam, despite the misconceptions that have spread throughout society. Most Muslims will not buy into ISIS’s beliefs because, as Ambassador Jeffrey explained, ISIS “lives to expand and lives to kill.”

Over and over again, the ambassador affirmed the need to allow the Middle East to solve itself politically. Because the US institutions are “based upon our culture and history”, they have little chance of setting up successfully in the Middle East when implemented directly by the US government. After almost a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan starting in 2001, the US must this time around achieve its military goal and then allow the people to self-determine the government they seek.

The presence of radicalism in the Middle East has gone on now for too long. A proactive response is essential to stunting the rise of this movement. As the appeasement of Hitler in World War II demonstrated, evil cannot be condoned and to turn a blind eye to the issue would be equivalent to ignoring the reality of hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of senseless execution. ISIS is on the rise, yet the voices of the advocates of social justice and civil rights in the region speak loud against radicalism. These fearless defenders of freedom risk their lives to stand up for what is right, taking the role of martyrs in the region. As Irish politician and philosopher Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Speak up and stand up for justice. #VoicesAgainstRadicalism

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