After the United States crushed former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s military, former Iraqi soldiers committed to ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This group of Jihadists merged with al Qaeda militant groups in Syria in April 2013. Since then, ISIS receives global attention for beheading Christians and seizing territory in the Fertile Crescent. Before ISIS gains more control in the Middle East, the Obama administration must implement a military strategy.
Since the beginning of ISIS’s military action, Obama has refused to admit that the United States faces a war on radical Islam because stigmatizing labels damage Muslim communities. How can Obama say that ISIS leaders have no religious motive when they beheaded 21 Christians a few weeks ago? The President’s philosophy on the ISIS issue is deeply flawed. On February 15, ISIS released a video from an Egyptian beach displaying the ruthless murder of 21 Coptic Orthodox Church Christians. The video is entitled: “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” ISIS asserted faith as the reason for the genocide. Before they were beheaded, several of the Christians uttered: “Jesus, help me” for their last words. Simply put, Christians are dying because of faith, and President Obama refuses to confront the problem. These heinous crimes are not just acts of terrorism, but they are religiously motivated. Earlier in February 2015, Senator Lindsey Graham said: “We are in a religious war with radical Islamists.” Now is the time to combat ISIS and call the situation what it is: Islamic radicalism.
Similarly, the killing of three Muslims at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was tragic. President Obama recognized this incident as, “brutal and outrageous.” He went onto state, “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.” While President Obama is correct to say that discrimination still exists, he is unjustified in only defending Muslims. The United States has an obligation as a nation to protect religious freedom across the globe. The right to choose one’s religion freely is a founding principle within the Constitution, and I urge the President to use his influence to bringing about collective action to solve this issue. NATO and the UN are two organizations to which Mr. Obama should direct his action with freedom of religion. However, the United States of America must protect all faiths from being persecuted. As a Christian, it is devastating to see our President defend what happened in North Carolina and not show the same empathy towards the 21 Christians that were beheaded in Egypt.
Unfortunately, the cowardice by the executive branch is on full display. Right now, President Obama is sending a strong message to other nations and ISIS that the U.S. will not bring action against those who murder Christians; thus making human rights violations acceptable. In the past two years, ISIS gained significant power and utilized it to the detriment of others. Last year, President Obama told The New Yorker that he believed ISIS to be al-Qaeda’s “weaker partner.” One of the greatest mistakes by the Obama administration is ignoring terrorist organizations.
In 2014, President Obama should have realized the intentions ISIS had to capture members from the West and torture them. James Foley’s story as an American journalist beheaded by the Islamic State is perhaps the most known. The picture that stirred public opinion in America depicted Foley’s chopped-off, bloody head placed where his hands were tied behind his back. ISIS has not only gained the attention at the global level, but it has been able to expand its influence, militant numbers, and territory controlled. All of these expansions of course are unnoticed by the Obama administration. Furthermore, pushing Iraq to tighten its border with Syria would have prevented ISIS from taking over some of the largest cities in Iraq, including Mosul and Baghdad. ISIS is continuing expansion in Iraq and seizing control of major provinces.
According to polling by CBS in February 2015, 77% of Americans favor airstrikes against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria. In addition, a majority of Americans, 57%, believe sending Americans ground troops to Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS is necessary. Currently, about 2,600 U.S. troops are in Iraq. However, the New York Times ran a column last week showing that ISIS is reaching upwards of 31,000 in Syria and Iraq.
In the meantime, President Obama should employ as many drone strikes as it takes to weaken and cripple ISIS. Combat drones are one of the greatest military advancements in the past decade; they reduce the likelihood of American lives being lost. Also, such strikes proved successfully in Afghanistan as prominent terrorist leaders perished when confronted with hellfire missiles. Until Obama recognizes ISIS as a terrorist organization with religious fueled hatred, executions will continue to go unchecked.
Email the author at email@example.comForeign Affairs