The Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIS, has become the Western world’s biggest problem in 2014, culminating in the brutal execution of American journalist James Foley. In February, the group formally split from Al-Qaeda in February and has grown exponentially as it has increased its influence in Iraq and Syria.
The organization’s military has also taken huge swaths of land in Iraq and Syria as it attempts to carve a caliphate out of the civil war in Syria, and the political tumult and disorganization in Iraq. In June, it was reported that IS only had several thousand troops at its disposal in Iraq. By the end of August, its numbers have increased to 30,000 troops in Syria and 20,000 in Iraq.
The group’s military rise is only equaled by its brutality. Civilians under IS control have been the victims of targeted killings because of their ethnicity or the religion they practice. IS fighters also stand accused of many instances of sexual violence against women, which has not been widely known in the west. However, as previously stated, the watershed moment for many Americans was the televised execution of journalist James Foley.
The execution of James Foley was meant to terrorize Americans. The manner of the execution itself and the fact that the executioner was a man from Britain speaking English, shocked American viewers and readers.
Whether it was the execution, the accused war crimes or the minority groups’ targeting (or a combination of all three) the US has begun to increase its involvement since pulling out of Iraq only three years prior.
Involvement began with delivering humanitarian supplies to minority groups, including members of the Yazidi faith who were stuck on a desolate mountainside in Iraq. Then, earlier this August, President Obama authorized airstrikes against IS in order to protect American lives, protect minority groups in Iraq and to stop the IS advance on the city of Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Autonomous region in Iraq. Later still, the president also stated that there were special forces units operating in Iraq.
For some, this involvement has shown to be extremely important in helping stem the tide of this brutal organization’s unheeded rise. For others, however, American involvement is disconcerting, perhaps signaling an American return to a region where its history is still heavily criticized.
Most of the editors agreed that some American involvement is necessary; the Yazidis stuck on the mountainside needed humanitarian aid. America has a vested interest in a stable and safe Kurdish Autonomous region in northern Iraq.
What’s important though is that when proceeding, the United States should detail what involvement the country plans to use. Hearing that there is, as of yet, no concerted strategy against IS from the president is not exactly reassuring. We’d like to see a covert ground presence in the form of special forces, continued air strikes and continued humanitarian aid. It’s widely agreed amongst the editorial board that some American presence is needed, but it’s very important that we do not get too involved, lest we be dragged into another war and repeat the cycle again.