• The Price of ISIS

    November 19, 2015

    Tags: , ,
    Posted in: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen


    What is the price of America’s war against Islamic State? Higher than you think.

    Last week saw the first American ground combat death in Iraq since 2011. Sadly, such deaths are a price always paid in war. The cost of the fight against Islamic State in dollars is staggering; more than $2.7 billion so far, with the average daily cost around $11 million.

    But costs should also be measured in the chaos the war has spawned, and in the additional problems for American foreign policy it has created.

    Vast areas of Syria have been reduced to rubble, and refugee flows have created a humanitarian disaster; more than 240,000 people have died in the conflict, and nearly 12 million people – half the country’s population – have been driven from their homes. Whereas at one point an American goal was to depose Bashar Assad because he (only) was bombing his own people, those same people now suffer attacks from the air and the ground by the United States, Russia, Britain, Jordan, Turkey, France, Canada, Australia, Iran, a handful of Gulf nations, and Islamic State and its cohorts.

    The de facto strategy seems to be evolving into a Vietnam War-era “destroying Syria in order to save it.” The reconstruction of Syria will be expensive, though it is unclear who will pay that bill. But allowing the country to become a failed state, a haven for terror groups like Sudan in the 1990s and Afghanistan post-9/11, will be even more expensive.

    The price being paid, however, extends beyond Syria’s borders.

    NATO ally Turkey has long supported Islamic State, leaving its border with Syria open as a transit point, and allowing Islamic State to broker oil on the black market. Turkey’s actions are intimately tied to its violent history with the Kurds. A weak Islamic State empowers the Kurds. Initial American efforts to enlist Turkey into the Islamic State fight thus met with little success.

    That appeared to change in August 2015, when Washington reached a deal allowing it to fly strike missions against Syria from inside Turkey. However, there appeared to be a quid pro quo: on the same day Turkey announced it would help fight Islamic State, it also began an air campaign against Kurdish groups tied to the only effective fighting force the United States has so far found – the unicorn – the peshmerga.

    The Kurds’ vision for their nation extends beyond their confederacy in Iraq, into Turkey and Syria. It endangers whatever hopes America may still have for a united Iraq. It also ensures Kurdish national ambitions denied since the end of World War I will need to be addressed alongside any resolution in Syria, as Kurdish forces occupy areas in the north of that country. That’s a tall diplomatic order.

    The fight against Islamic State is also playing out elsewhere in Iraq, as the United States has had to accept Iranian leadership, special forces, and weapons inside same the nation Americans died “saving” only a few years ago. The growing Iranian influence is closely coupled with American acceptance of Shi’ite militias now in the field, after the Iraqi Army ran away from Islamic State.

    The government in Iraq today is a collection of mostly Shi’ite factions, each with one of those militias on call. With a weak prime minister, and with Islamic State for the time being pushed back from the gates of Baghdad, the Shi’ites are free to maneuver for power. A price to be paid for the conflict with Islamic State could easily be a civil war inside a civil war.

    And of course there is Russia, who, under the loose cover of fighting Islamic State, quickly re-established itself as a military force in the heart of the Middle East. It is difficult to imagine them leaving. Until now, the United States has had a relatively free hand in the region as no one had the military power to seriously challenge an American move. That has changed. Any significant change in Syria is now subject to a Putin veto.

    Meanwhile, despite the costs, Islamic State remains as strong as it has ever been, with American actions serving as its best recruitment tool.

    Defeating Islamic State” is far too simplistic for a regional strategy. And who can really afford that?

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  • Recent Comments

    • John Poole said...


      Maybe the Pentagon thought they could get it right on their third try at regime change with Syria but Russia who had sat by in astonishment in watching America botch invasions had to step in out of pity for our clueless empire. The Russians warned us about going into Afghanistan but alas, We don’t listen!- We act! Karl Rove was unfortunately prescient in boasting of America’s hubris.

      11/19/15 11:31 AM | Comment Link

    • Ed Grange said...


      The U.S. needs to back up and take a deep breath. First, Bashir al Asad is a lesser evil than Da’ish. Second, the Kurds are not the answer–as stated above, their aspirations will explode the Middle East and even NATO. Look who is now ruling Egypt to see where our interests lie. The same is needed in Libya and Somalia. So, let the U.S./France/UK/Germany get close to Russia and China and get the world in order.

      On Ukraine: The UN guaranteed right to self determination is the core issue. If ethnic Russians want to join Russia, why is this an issue? The current borders are accidents of history and have no inherent legitimacy.

      11/19/15 1:33 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      OK, I get it. Those 80 or so who visited this site for the last subject I guess said, they’d never return if they saw that jerk Poole’s name. I’ll free up this site.

      11/19/15 4:38 PM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      John Poole said…

      “I’ll free up this site.”

      Hey, don’t leave. I don’t know what made you think others think of you as a jerk. I certainly don’t. As for most of those who posted on that particular subject,..they never posted anything before..so who cares. You have a right to your opinions, just as they do. But you POST regularly. They don’t. So keep it up. If ANYTHING.. I’m the local jerk. But so what? If they don’t like what you or I have to say.. big deal. They can move on. I ain’t going anywhere. You shouldn’t either.

      Now…where were we? Oh yeah…the cost of ISIS. Well, all I can say is…it’s the cost we are now paying for the hubris of the US Empire building in the Mideast in the first place. If it hadn’t been for the US Lords of War..ISIS wouldn’t exist.

      Frankly..I still think they are a product of, and continuing rube of..the CIA. After all…who else would make so much money for the arms manufacturers, hmmmmm?

      11/20/15 6:59 AM | Comment Link

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