In one of the most outspoken arguments in favor substantial intervention by the U. S. in Iraq and Syria I’ve read to date, Richard Cohen writes:
I used to not believe in evil. When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “the evil empire,” I thought it was a dandy phrase but also a confession of ignorance. The word itself connotes something or someone diabolical — bad for the sake of bad. The Soviet Union was bad, I conceded, but not for no reason. It was bad because it was insecure, occupying the flat, inviting, Eurasian plain, and because it had a different system of government that it dearly wanted to protect. Reagan had it right, though. The Soviet Union was evil.
Now we are facing a different type of evil. The Islamic State, in whose name Foley was beheaded, murders with abandon. It seems to love death the way the fascists once did. It is Sunni, so it massacres Shiites. It is radical Sunni, so it eliminates apostates. It is Muslim, so it kills Yazidis, a minority with a religion of its own, and takes as plunder their women as concubines. Men are shot in graves of their own making.
The Nazis are back — differently dressed, speaking a different language and murdering ostensibly for different reasons but actually for the same: intolerance, hatred, excitement and just because they can. The Islamic State’s behavior is beyond explication, not reacting as some suggest to the war in Iraq — although in time it will try to settle some scores with the United States — but murdering and torturing and enslaving because this is what it wants to do. It is both futile and tasteless to lay off blame on others — the West, the colonialists of old or the persistent Zionists — or to somehow find guilt in the actions of the rich or powerful because they are rich or powerful. You can blame the victim. You can even kill him.
If you follow and agree with his argument, I honestly don’t see how you could support half measures that failed to eliminate ISIS like modest bombings that just induce them to disperse and wait it out. I also don’t remember anyone ever having said, in reference to the Nazis in the 1940s, “The real solution is for the French to get their act together and oppose them.”
On the other hand even in the face of the atrocities that ISIS has committed, atrocities almost certain to be repeated in the near future and over and over again, I just can’t see Americans willing to accept the dreaded “boots on the ground” and, frankly, I honestly see no other way of assuring that ISIS is eliminated. And then what?
If I have a fundamental principle in areas of military intervention, it was Napoleon’s dictum: “If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.”