The attacks in Paris on Friday 13th, killed over 120 people and were the deadliest terrorist attacks carried out by an Islamic terrorist group in the West, for over a decade. It was confirmed shortly after that ISIS, the theological quasi-state has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, managing to garner the combined disgust of every government on the planet. Cameron, Putin, Obama, Hollande, all seem to agree now on the need to end ISIS once and for all. Even Cameron for instance has stated his willingness to negotiate with Putin over Assad remaining in power, exemplifying this determination to tackle ISIS.
However, there remains a glaring strategic gap in the Western world, the outright refusal to use ground troops in the Middle East. This is the uncomfortable truth, this is the option that must be on the table if we truly wish to have a stable Middle East, eradicate ISIS and stop these kinds of attacks from happening in Paris, New York or Beirut ever again. A dangerous precedent has been set in recent times, it seems intervention indiscriminately from the air is acceptable, but that strategically using ground troops to minimise collateral damage is not.
The barrier that holds the West back from achieving a meaningful long-term strategic solution in the Middle East, is the memory of Iraq and the deadly mistakes made. The Iraq War, created a power vacuum in which Islamic State could grow and create an abhorrent warped manifestation of Islamic theocracy in which it could flourish. However, it would be a naive misconception to think that contemporary Western intervention is the source of all current problems, or that the Middle East was a byword for stability before it. In short, the Western powers and their populations need to get over the hangover of Iraq, and learn that inaction has just as many consequences as action.
The root problem of Iraq and Syria can be found in the arbitrary border that slices through Mesopotamia. ISIS territory corresponds, with unnerving accuracy, with where the majority of Syrian and Iraqi Sunni populations reside. Sunni ISIS have gained traction as a violent response to the Shia dominated governments of Syria and Iraq, and solely bombing them will not outright destroy them, or their ideology, and will only serve to act as a propaganda tool.
Instead, our response that takes place after 13/11, has provided an unprecedented opportunity to give the oppressed peoples of the Middle East a clean break and a fresh start and make amends for our horrendous misjudgments in Iraq. By deploying ground troops we can send a message to our supposed allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia, that it is not ok to complicity allow ISIS supply lines to exist. We can show that it is not ok to oppress and deny the Kurds their rightful claims to a state, when they are doing their utmost to fight medieval methods of governance ISIS uses. By using ground troops we can show to Middle Eastern populations that we will stand by them in their quest for human rights, the rule of law and long-term stability.
By putting ground troops into service and using them to pacify and change what remains of Iraq and Syria, we can create the beginnings of a long-term peace, helping to stop the flow of refugees coming to the EU and give its stretched institutions some breathing space to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding. If we can halt or slow this flow of people it will undermine the credibility of Eurosceptic parties intent on using the migrant crisis created by ISIS to divide our multicultural society, and break the EU apart. It’s stated by many that ISIS want jihad, want war, want to become martyrs, while this is true to some extent, they also want to destroy Western civilisation from the inside. Achieving the collapse of the European Union will be the first stepping-stone for this aspiration.
The choice is clear; we must act now in tandem with Russia and the Security Council. The time has come to end the life of Islamic State.