Journalist: US Needs 'Heavy Dose of Reality' in Assessing IS Threat

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The US shouldn’t be scared of the Islamic State (IS) and must evaluate adequately the threats that it poses before committing to another "dumb war" in the Middle East, American journalist Nick Gillespie wrote in his article for the Daily Beast.

MOSCOW, September 15 (RIA Novosti) - The US shouldn’t be scared of the Islamic State (IS) and must evaluate adequately the threats that it poses before committing to another "dumb war" in the Middle East, American journalist Nick Gillespie wrote in his article for the Daily Beast.

The author thinks that even a dozen years after the September 11 attacks, Americans still live with a recurring nightmare and are terrified of a radical Islamist group who show no mercy to captured American civilians and issue apocalyptic warnings about a coming kingdom of Allah. Now, after Al-Qaeda has been weakened and Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi have been toppled, the emerging IS threat it needs to be evaluated in a proper way by American policymakers.

"As we prep for the next 'smart war' engineered by Obama, it’s worth acknowledging that the signature characteristic of America’s 21st-century war on terrorism and foreign policy has been massive threat inflation at every level. Until we fully grasp that terrorism - whether state-sponsored or stateless - thrives on the overreaction of its targets and that we have overreacted so far at virtually every turn, we have no hope of enacting real solutions," Gillespie believes.

The author is convinced that American people is beginning to understand that threat inflation has led to the "petty, ineffective and costly indignities" which everyone experiences every time one boards an airplane. Even the pro-security Republicans understand that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are a waste of time and money, requiring unnecessary safety measures in airports that are supposed to be implemented "in the name of national security". A report released on the 10-th anniversary of the TSA’s creation reads that "Americans have spent nearly $60 billion, and they are no safer today than they were before 9/11." Gillespie says that this is only another small victory for the terrorists. In fact, the TSA has not taken real actions to increase safety but exemplifies "Security Theater".

Moreover, the publicist thinks that the Patriotic Act has also proved the delusiveness measures of strengthening of security measures across the country. "Ongoing revelations about massive bipartisan government abuses of power and the general ineffectiveness of the Patriot Act have driven home the reality that government will use whatever powers it has to do pretty much whatever it can get away with," he says.

However, when it comes to foreign threats in foreign lands, people are still gullible. Ohio State University political scientist John Mueller has written that since 9/11 officials have quickly labeled a number of states (Iraq, Iran, North Korea, for instance) and terrorist groups (the Taliban, al Qaeda and now the IS) as "existential threats" to the United States and American way of life. The author believes that it is absurd, because none of these "enemies" has the military or economic capacities to fight the United States. "As a misguided Turkish proverb holds, 'If your enemy be an ant, imagine him to be an elephant,''' Mueller explains as cited by Gillespie in his article.

The author says "the original sin" of American foreign policy after the September 11 attacks emanates from the mistaken presumption that al Qaeda was a potent, ongoing threat to America and the United States had a responsibility to "nation build" around the world rather than avenge the attacks against its own people. Mueller and Mark G. Stewart studied 50 Islamist terrorist attacks since 2001 and concluded that the 9/11 attacks were not the start of a new era of mass terroristic violence in the West. "Terrorists are not really all that capable a bunch, terrorism tends to be a counterproductive exercise, and 9/11 is increasingly standing out as an aberration, not a harbinger," they write in their survey.

According to the journalist the United States had every right and reason to destroy al Qaeda capabilities and hunt down its leadership. However, he thinks that apart from "hawks who are always on the hunt for the next military engagement", no one will argue that America’s actions in Afghanistan and Iraq have brought them stability.

With regard to IS, Gillespie says Americans suffer from "massive threat inflation at every possible level". "At the start of the summer, the number of ISIS fighters in Iraq was somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 to 10,000; those numbers have doubtless grown but they still face off against more than a quarter of a million Iraqi troops and somewhere between 80,000 and 240,000 Peshmerga soldiers. Even the much-maligned Free Syrian Army numbers 70,000 to 90,000. It’s also worth pointing out that ISIS is facing intense opposition (and some cooperation) from other jihadist groups, including and especially al Qaeda," he adds.

However, the author thinks that in fact, the Iraqi military is incapable of defeating IS militants, even after years of training and possessing massive resources provided to them by the United States. Thus, there is little hope that situation in Iraq will change. Obama has already ruled out boots on the ground and he is unlikely to change course before leaving office. "We’re now in a position where we are de facto allies with at least two of our longtime enemies in the immediate vicinity: Iran and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, whose government Barack Obama was set to attack just a year ago. Indeed, the widely expected push to start bombing targets in Syria can only help Assad, who earlier this year was supposedly close to total defeat. The United States and other Western countries being asked to  form the next multinational coalition are now prepping their citizens to help keep Assad in power for the foreseeable future," Gillespie says. The situation is more complicated by the fact that now IS militants are using American arms given to Syrian opposition forces to fight Assad.

The journalist thinks that all these facts can explain why Obama opted not to have a strategy on what to do in the Middle East. "But given his past record - tripling troop strength in Afghanistan with nothing to show for it, bombing Libya with nothing to show for it, 'resetting' relations with Russia with nothing to show for it - there’s no reason to be hopeful that the president will finally come up with a workable plan," the author adds.

Gillespie presumes that American foreign policy and military action should be based on clarifying actual threats posed by IS and carefully defining American interests. Rep. Ed Royce, the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, has stated flatly that there is no "any information about credible planning for an attack" by IS. This assessment has been corroborated by both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

"A wise foreign policy - or at least one that doesn’t constantly make the world worse off - would start by countering threat inflation here and abroad with a heavy dose of reality," the author resumes.

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