More airstrikes in Syria will only create opportunities for Islamic state radicals.
By Charles V. Peña
July 7, 2016
The American Conservative
A few weeks ago, more than 50 State Department officials signed an internal memo calling for U.S. airstrikes against the Assad regime in Syria. They claimed this would foment regime change and was the only way to defeat ISIS.
The proposal reflected foreign-policy elite conventional wisdom, and was echoed by a Center for a New American Security (CNAS) report: “Defeating the Islamic State: A Bottom-Up Approach.” Although the report did not explicitly call for regime change, it’s hard not to interpret its recommendation to “reestablish legitimate and acceptable governance and negotiate a political end-state for the conflicts in Iraq and Syria” as anything but. And it is worth noting that the CNAS study group that produced the report is chaired by former Obama administration official Michèle Flournoy—who many consider to the frontrunner for secretary of defense if Hillary Clinton is elected president.
When will Washington learn that airstrikes and regime change are not the cure-all?
Perhaps inside the Beltway the most obvious facts about the Middle East are lost, or worse, ignored: ISIS is the result of regime change. It was the decision to depose Saddam Hussein in Iraq—even though that regime did not represent a direct threat to U.S. national security—that created the conditions for the rise in 2004 of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which was the re-branding of a group founded by Jordanian radical Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. AQI eventually became ISIS (after al-Zarqawi was killed in June 2006) and split from al-Qaeda in 2014 over a disagreement about merging with another group, the al-Nusra Front.
So if history is any guide, regime change is likely to create a vacuum of instability to be filled by ISIS or the rise of yet another radical Islamic group.