The apparent beheading of American journalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a stark reminder of the group’s terrible brutality and the seriousness required to counter them. Unfortunately, much of the political discourse about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is counterproductive to good policy. Many of the basic facts are wrong and the arguments—whatever the merits of the policies they prescribe—tend to be political, overly personal, and hyperbolized. President Obama’s policies in the Middle East have failed in numerous ways, but he is right that the paucity of our political debate is the greatest threat to our global standing.

One cannot credibly argue that the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 contributed to the rise of ISIL without also acknowledging that the U.S. invasion in 2003 did the same. The former without the latter is a political argument, not a policy position. The same goes for airstrikes in Syria and arming the Syrian rebels. It’s a reasonable hypothesis that supporting the Free Syrian Army earlier might have blunted ISIL, but that’s a pretty hollow position if one also gives Syrian rebel factions a pass for tolerating and even embracing ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusrah through late 2012. As a long-time analyst of jihadism in the Middle East, it was clear to me in the summer of 2011 that the Islamic State of Iraq was well-positioned to capitalize on what was then a largely peaceful Syrian protest movement. And it was just as obvious that the group—whose brutality, extremism, and grandiose political aspirations were well-documented long before the Syrian uprising—would later turn on the Syrian rebels whose cause they claimed to champion. The same should have been obvious to the Syrian rebels, their external supporters, and pretty much anyone interested in the Syrian uprising and the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad. [Read more]

http://wp.me/p4sUqu-vP – Michael’s Blog

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