Military Intervention Is the Problem,
Not the Solution
The Islamic State's latest atrocities are a calculated
effort to bring the war in Syria home to the countries
participating in it.
By Peter Certo
November 18, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - A
café. A stadium. A concert hall. One of the most
horrifying things about the murderous attacks in Paris
was the terrorists’ choice of targets.
They chose gathering places where
people’s minds wander furthest from unhappy thoughts
like war. And they struck on a Friday night, when many
westerners take psychic refuge from the troubles of the
The message was simple: Wherever you
are, this war will find you.
The same could be said for the 43
Lebanese civilians murdered
only the day before, when a bomb exploded in a
crowded marketplace in Beirut. Or for the 224
vacationers who died when their Russian airliner
blew up over Egypt a few weeks earlier.
The Islamic State, or ISIS, claimed
responsibility for each of these atrocities. But that’s
not the only thing they have in common. In fact, all of
them occurred in countries whose governments — or, in
Lebanon’s case, a powerful militia — have gotten
involved in Syria.
Russia started bombing ISIS targets
and other Syrian rebels last month. Hundreds of Lebanese
Hezbollah fighters have fought and died defending the
Syrian regime. And France was
the first country to join the Obama administration’s
war on ISIS last year.
Indeed, scarcely a month before ISIS
attacked the French capital, French planes were
bombing the Islamic State’s capital in Raqqa, Syria
— dropping bombs that “did not help them at all in the
streets of Paris,” as a
grim communiqué from the terrorist group gloated
These horrific attacks on civilians
are part of a calculated effort to bring the war in
Syria home to the other countries participating in it.
And our bill could come due next.
Washington’s funneling millions of
dollars’ worth of weapons to its proxies in Syria. It’s
dispatching special forces to “advise” an array of the
Islamic State’s enemies. And in an air war totally
unauthorized by Congress, U.S. warplanes have launched
strikes on alleged ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria
But you can’t simply bomb extremism
out of existence. And as governments from Moscow to
Paris to Beirut are learning, you put your own people’s
lives on the line when you try.
Military intervention has succeeded
mightily in breaking things and killing people, but it’s
done nothing to wind down the greatest factor fueling
the rise of ISIS: Syria’s wider civil war. An
international arms embargo and a deal between the Syrian
regime and other rebel groups —
jobs for diplomats, not drones — would go much
further toward curtailing the threat of ISIS.
Yet France has responded to the
carnage in Paris by
pounding Raqqa with yet more air strikes — reportedly
bombing medical clinics, a museum, and a stadium of
its own, among other targets.
Leading U.S. presidential candidates
aren’t proposing anything smarter.
Hillary Clinton declared that ISIS “must
be destroyed” with “all of the tools at our
disposal.” Ted Cruz called for “overwhelming air power”
and condemned the Obama administration for having
for civilian casualties.” Ben Carson called for “boots
on the ground,” while Donald Trump swore he’d “bomb
the s— out of” ISIS-controlled oil fields and hand
them over to ExxonMobil.
Virtually all GOP contenders, along
with a gaggle of Republican governors, agreed that
close the door to Syrian refugees, too — as though
they can evade the consequences of war by making life
more miserable for the innocent people fleeing it.
None of this bravado makes me feel
safer here in Washington, where ISIS threatened
more Paris-style bloodshed in a recent video. When I
imagine those cold-blooded killers running roughshod
through the bars, restaurants, and concert halls my
neighbors and I frequent, my stomach drops.
But that’s the lesson, isn’t it: When
your government answers every problem in the world with
military force, war begets war. And eventually there’s
nowhere left to hide from it.
Peter Certo is the editor of
Foreign Policy In Focus and the deputy editor of
OtherWords, a non-profit editorial service run by
the Institute for Policy Studies.