by Marion Marks
News of ISIS atrocities from the Middle East resonates tales of chaos, destruction and clearing the sense of a society and infrastructure that was, at least, a tribal hierarchy that permitted communication, industry, education and services that met needs above stone-age gatherers and hunters. Mass looting, and the destruction of educational, community services, executing workers of the infrastructure, and not maintaining water, electrical, healthcare and hygiene services provided the government as they go off line resembles a crumbling society. And, as far as the value of looted treasure coming out of historically significant sites that are being destroyed, a New Yorker article relates it as, “what you’re showing is sort of, like, junk.”
Western nations, and surrounding countries with developed armaments, respond with air power, often drones, along with hit and miss demonstrations of force. Respect for culture, history and symbols of developed society seem to be subject to whatever force is required to obtain unquestioning subservience, history and culture be damned!
James Lee Burke’s House of the Rising Sun characterizes the savage brutality of revolutionary Mexico and the pockets of wide-spread looting, rape, destruction and savagery of people who justified their behavior on prior mistreatment and degradation. Such savagery at that time was also systematically recognizable in other recent cultural and ethnic conflicts in many parts of the world. But the question remains, why is the ISIS case so very different? Is ISIS a bogey man the west has created that is coming here for vengeance?
The answer may lie in conditions created in areas where ISIS has successfully penetrated. Study of events of the decades that followed western intervention since World War I, II and recent Middle East conflicts should permit tools to assess and find parallels with current events. I find that the action-reaction of history gives reason to believe the whirlwind is the product of seeds previously sown.
Evaluating the Middle East since World War I, warring factions of partitioned regions of disadvantaged peoples, oppressed for generations, have become closed boilers, lacking a release valve. Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and other sects herded by western-supported puppet governments with propped-up leaders have festered under tyranny with names like Gaddafi or Hussein empowered. And observing the Arab Spring, from Tunisia and Morocco to Assad’s Syria, the lid blew off in countries assisted by outsiders, while some tyrants simply ratcheted down sharply on their populace when seeds of the spring appeared.
The formulas for successfully controlling a country’s population became a function of internal brutality and western or eastern arms or economic support, and many governments “permitting” the seeds of democracy to take root soon fell by the wayside. Often successful new governments observed a repeat in the turn of governmental controlled by new tyranny. No middle eastern country was immune that loosened the reins of power, yet each addressed potential chaos differently. Those most aligned with the US quietly managed internal affairs, regulating free speech and outside agitators with an iron fist.
The take away seems to indicate that much of the chaos in the Middle East will remain more than chaotic for the future, or at least until the backbone of the West is reinforced. A lesson of Paris seems to be that, the French became incensed enough that they chose to join American and recent Russian forces in air battles against some ISIS holdings. The problem becomes that air warfare doesn’t seem to prohibit most local insurgents from taking and holding the territory in question. The fluidity of control only creates more chaos and more damaged society with little infrastructure. And now the British and Germans have joined the bombing!
The infrastructure of productive workers, basically professionals and government functionaries with talent, just seems to have vanished. Lacking civil servants and a functioning infrastructure, western Iraq, Syria and areas of neighboring countries that have been under ISIS control cannot restart power plants, water sources, natural gas delivery, gasoline refineries and other community necessaries.
As Afghanistan has been called a Stone Age to Middle Age transition, at best, these vast wildernesses may become the “dessert parking lots” that George Bush functionaries indicated they would turn Iraq into in 2001 after 9/11. There has been no evidence of productive change.
ISIS can’t really be classified as a “State” as long as the infrastructure to support a state does not exist. Yes, the seem to be in control of some land mass, but lacking a semblance of population centers with recognizable structure. The chaos of the region, savage butchery and movement of an exiting populace gives no hint that a state can exist. The whirlwind only increases.
The west hasn’t won the war, and ISIS may prevail in a war of attrition, in the same manner the Vietnamese overcame the US. The forces of ISIS may run low of many resources as they drive the populace out or destroy the means of recreating community resources that support the regime. But, the problem remains that the US and western nations are creating enemies with memories. Vengeful, but beaten down, these people will someday have resources that can bring destruction to our borders. We may have found them in San Bernardino.
It’s clear that Israel must win 100% of the time, because one significant loss, and that nation is wiped of the map. So too, if the west suffers many more Paris-like attacks, particularly in 9/11 manner, we will probably repeat the destructive pattern that sowed the seeds for much of the ISIS success today. Blind destruction of a people seems to only foster pocket of zealots committed to revenge.
The Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites have proven how they will go after each other when we herd them in a common border and place a despot over them. America has built prisons internally and externally to punish radicals, so perhaps we should find new ways to address angry people in other nations. Politicians speak loudly, angry words that appear hollow to outsiders or can’t penetrate targets beyond their political sphere of influence. As long as Americans are perceived as beating our heads against a concrete wall, our own citizens will continue to be targets.
Perhaps residents of the middle east need to take control of their destiny, because we seem to be propping up most of a region while the remainder falls apart before our eyes. As so many middle eastern people have abandoned their homelands, becoming refugees for others to absorb, we seem to be wandering along with them in the desert, searching for a homeland and solutions.
Why do Americans feel we have the only good answers? We are not abandoning others as much as not requiring their neighbors to be part of the solution. America has always been a land of optimists, who saw what could be, but we can’t force all others to have our vision.