Defeating ISIS

In a crazy election year, it should come as no surprise that there is another turn waiting to be sprung on everyone. The biggest “October Surprise” in the works right now is the defeat of ISIS / Da’ish. This is quite likely to happen, and it would be a huge boost for Obama and Democrats everywhere.

The story, of course, isn’t about us – but we’ll make it that way. Our media will almost certainly portray the collapse as something the Obama administration gets all the credit for. Not only will that not be entirely true, it will also be reported very badly by the media leading up to the “final” event.

This is a complex story that requires a lot of context, which is exactly what the US media is terrible at. But even more than predicting tomorrow’s news today, Barataria is all about context. Here is what to look for if you wish to follow this story as it unfolds.

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Shia vs Sunni

There are many conflicts that have seized the attention of the world today – Ukraine vs Russia, Gaza vs Israel, even Hong Kong vs China. There is also an Ebola epidemic and a general failure of the world’s economy to gain traction.

But there is one conflict simmering just below these headlines which has the potential to affect the entire world more profoundly than any of them – the growing conflict between Sunni and Shia Moslems, now stretching across the Middle East.

It has taken many forms on many fronts, but they all point to a potential for a much wider and nastier war than we have ever seen. And the US, as usual, has a position that might only encourage instability and ultimately make us one of the great losers if things get much worse.

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Global Policeman, Again

Another year, another war in Iraq. Like the sunspot cycle, they seem to come ‘round about every 11 years. But this is not a natural cycle – this is caused by the instability built into a planet that is closer than ever before. Artificial “nations” created by outside powers with inherent instability, such as Iraq, are a burden on everyone.

There’s little point going into the strange history of Iraq and other nations like them because as it currently stands there are few ways to fix the problem. The climate of constant war makes redrawing boundaries in the Middle East (or, for that matter, in Ukraine) hard to imagine without making the situation worse in the short run. It usually takes years of peace and stability to contemplate a peaceful transition, such as the one that Scotland will vote on next week.

One question we can contemplate is why the burden always falls on the US. The short answer to that question is that we are by far the dominant military on the planet. But why?

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Stability

As the crisis in Iraq worsens nearly daily, a quiet calm seems to have come over US politics. Republicans want to blame Obama for this, but know that they can’t. More to the point, there doesn’t seem to be anything proactive we can do, at least not anything different from what we tried twice before. There is simply far too much blame to go around for it to land squarely on anyone here in the US.

What is different this time? Apart from the horrible loss of life a decade ago, apparently for little gain, there is a big change in the US. Our energy independence makes any arguments based on “strategic resources” much thinner than the blood of American soldiers. Between this crisis and Ukraine it has become clear that we have limits and have to learn to be OK with that.

But there is more to it. It should be obvious by now that US foreign policy can no longer be about control but stability. And that, by itself, should be a pivotal change.

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Nationhood, the Hard Way

The latest crisis in Iraq has become a grave situation. This spillover from Syria, in the form of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has already become a regional conflict even bigger than the refugee crisis that has spilled over into all of the neighbors of Syria.

What’s less obvious is that ultimately this could become something much more profound if everyone involved manages to do the right thing for once. The odds of that happening are slim, but important steps forward have been taken by the largest group of stateless people in the world, the Kurds. How they play their hand could determine how many wrongs dating back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago are finally righted.

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a special holiday, and not just because it honors those who gave their lives for our nation.  It was a spontaneous holiday that came about because it seemed necessary more than politically expedient.  There was little official about it until long after it was part of our national calendar.

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