Sunday, November 23, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Thomas Friedman: Ready, aim fire. Not fire, ready, aim.

ThomasLFriedmanW

By
From page A8 | September 07, 2014 |

President Barack Obama has been excoriated for declaring that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for effectively confronting the Islamic State group.

In criticizing Obama for taking too much time, Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told “Fox News Sunday” that “this ‘don’t-do-stupid-stuff’ policy isn’t working.” That sounded odd to my ear — like we should just bomb somebody, even if it is stupid. If Obama did that, what would he be ignoring?

First, experience. After 9/11 that sort of “fire, ready, aim” approach led George W. Bush to order a ground war in Iraq without sufficient troops to control the country, without a true grasp of Iraq’s Shiite-Sunni sectarian dynamics and without any realization that, in destroying the Sunni Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the Sunni Baathist regime in Iraq, we were destroying both of Iran’s mortal enemies and thereby opening the way for a vast expansion of Iran’s regional influence.

We were in a hurry, myself included, to change things after 9/11, and when you’re in a hurry you ignore complexities that come back to haunt you later.

There are no words to describe the vileness of the video beheadings of two U.S. journalists by the Islamic State, but I have no doubt that they’re meant to get us to overreact, à la 9/11, and rush off again without a strategy. The Islamic State is awful, but it is not a threat to America’s homeland.

Second, the context. To defeat the Islamic State, you have to address the context out of which it emerged. And that is the three civil wars raging in the Arab world today: the civil war within Sunni Islam between radical jihadists and moderate mainstream Sunni Muslims and regimes; the civil war across the region between Sunnis funded by Saudi Arabia and Shiites funded by Iran; and the civil war between Sunni jihadists and all other minorities in the region: Yazidis, Turkmen, Kurds, Christians, Jews and Alawites.

When you have a region beset by that many civil wars at once, it means there is no center, only sides. And when you intervene in the middle of a region with no center, you very quickly become a side.

The Islamic State emerged as an extreme expression of resentment by one side: Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis who felt cut out of power and resources by the pro-Iranian Shiite regime in Baghdad and the pro-Iranian Alawite/Shiite regime in Damascus. That is why Obama keeps insisting that the United States’ military intervention must be accompanied, for starters, by Iraqis producing a national unity government — of mainstream Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — so our use of force supports pluralism and power-sharing, not just Shiite power.

But power-sharing doesn’t come easy in a region where kinship and sectarian loyalties overwhelm any sense of shared citizenship. Without it, though, the dominant philosophy is either: “I am strong, why should I compromise?” or “I am weak, how can I compromise?” So any onslaught we make on the Islamic State, absent national unity governments, will have Shiites saying the former and Sunnis saying the latter. That’s why this is complicated.

And this is a sectarian power struggle. Consider a New York Times article last week about how the Islamic State is actually being led by a combination of jihadists and disgruntled Sunni Iraqi Baathist army officers, who were shoved aside either by us or by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated governments.

The Times article noted: “After the Islamic State stormed into Mosul, one (Shiite Iraqi) official recalled a startling phone call from a (Sunni) former major general in one of Saddam’s elite forces. The former general had appealed months earlier to rejoin the Iraqi army, but the official had refused. Now the general was fighting for Islamic State and threatened revenge.

” ‘We will reach you soon, and I will chop you into pieces,’ he said, according to the official, Bikhtiyar al-Qadi, of the commission that bars some former members of Saddam’s Baath Party from government posts.”

Repeat after me: “We will reach you soon, and I will chop you into pieces.” That is what we are dealing with here — multiple, venomous civil wars that are the breeding ground of the Islamic State cancer.

Third, our allies are not fully allies: While the Saudi, Qatari and Kuwaiti governments are pro-American, wealthy Sunni individuals, mosques and charities in these countries are huge sources of funds, and fighters, for the Islamic State.

As for Iran, if we defeat the Islamic State, it would be the third time since 2001 that we’ve defeated a key Sunni counterbalance to Iran — first the Taliban, then Saddam, now the Islamic State. That is not a reason not to do it, but it is reason to do it in a way that does not distract us from the fact that Iran’s nuclear program also needs to be defused, otherwise it could undermine the whole global nonproliferation regime. Tricky.

I’m all-in on destroying the Islamic State. It is a sick, destabilizing movement. I support using U.S. air power and special forces to root it out, but only as part of a coalition, where everybody who has a stake in stability there pays their share and where mainstream Sunnis and Shiites take the lead by demonstrating that they hate the Islamic State more than they hate each other.

Otherwise, we’ll end up in the middle of a godawful mess of duplicitous allies and sectarian passions, and nothing good we do will last.

— The New York Times

Comments

comments

Thomas Friedman

.

News

 
Need for local foster parents grows

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

Tactical robot decreases officer risks

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Hollywood readies its big guns for the holidays

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Couple arrested on drug, firearm possession charges

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Woman confronts suspicious follower

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

Bob Dunning: Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Berkeley, Santa Cruz students protest fee hikes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Breakfast with Santa tickets are going fast

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Auction-bound student artwork stolen in downtown heist

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
UCD awarded $100M to lead program to predict, prevent pandemic threats

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Probationers, parolees graduate from Yolo transitional program

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Free boot camp, yoga fundraiser this week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Enterprise observes holiday hours

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Bell-ringers still needed this holiday season

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Give blood and get a free movie ticket

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Thanksgiving feast is open to all

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Workshop will answer financial aid questions

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

At the Pond: Stop, look and listen

By Jean Jackman | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Round up at the registers for Davis schools

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Yolo Food Bank invites locals to run with the flock

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Museum announces holiday schedule

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Project Linus seeks donations

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

 
Swing your partner!

By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A6

Fairfield School enjoys a festive feast

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Right at home: gifts you can use and use up

By The Associated Press | From Page: A8

Dec. 10 jeans drive benefits STEAC

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A9

 
Davis Community Church history recounted in Sunday talk

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Open your heart

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Bob Hope interview pulled from ‘the vault’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12

.

Forum

There’s only one way to fix this

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Students barking up the wrong tree

By Our View | From Page: A14

Rick McKee cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A14

 
Heartbroken over treatment of teacher

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

Google, tell me. Is my son a genius?

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14

 
Daryl Cagle cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A15

Cordial political discourse: Seven years later, the thoughts resonate

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A15

 
Easing the stress during college application season

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A15

Watch out for holiday weight gain

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A16

 
When the computer stares back

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A16

How I want to be remembered

By Marion Franck | From Page: A16

 
.

Sports

Turnovers costly as UC Davis loses Classic, 41-30

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Aggie men finish off Furman

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Upset-minded Lions bounce UCD from WWPA tourney

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
New, old-look helmets not enough to lift UCD footballers

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Late shot sinks Aggie women

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD roundup: Seniors play well in Aggie volleyball loss

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

With volleyball playoff berth, DHS accomplished its 2014 goal

By Evan Ream | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
Wire briefs: Kings get past depleted T-Wolves

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

 
Don’t pass up the parking gift downtown

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A13

Doby Fleeman: Give thanks for our innovation culture

By Doby Fleeman | From Page: A20

 
Honey, spreads showcased at open house

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A20

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, November 23, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8