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The Enemy of my Enemy is my enemy

U.S. to Blame for ISIS and World War III

The proverb the enemy of my enemy is my friend suggests that two parties can or should work together against a common enemy. Some have used it as the guiding principle of when to interfere in Arabia, including the U.S.’s own foreign policy. Well, it has backfired big time and now that policy has brought us to the precipice of World War III. To be sure it is a new kind of war – a war against radicalized Islam that detest our values of religious freedom and liberty for all. It is a war that began after 9/11 and was directed against Osama bin Laden and the terrorist group al Qaeda, a group that we had helped to bring to power in Afghanistan. It is a social media-driven war. It is a war that spawned ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

ISIS was an offshoot of al Qaeda in Iraq. US troops and allied Sunni militias defeated al Qaeda in Iraq during the post-2006 "surge" — but it didn't destroy them. In 2011, the group rebooted. ISIS had successfully freed a number of prisoners held by the Iraqi government and, slowly but surely, began rebuilding its strength.

ISIS and al Qaeda divorced in February 2014. The underlying cause seems to have been that ISIS was too militant for the tastes of al Qaeda. I think it was more attributable to the fact that al Qaeda did not want to share power with another pro-Islamic-state group.

We all know that ISIS has been fighting in Syria and recently turned its attention to Iraq. The ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a caliph – i.e. “successor” – to Muhammad. Conceptually, a caliphate represents a sovereign state of the entire Muslim faithful (the Ummah), ruled by a caliph under Islamic law (sharia). It is the evolution of that idea, and the Islamic fighters who have been radicalized to the cause, that brings us to the brink of World War III.

We can’t watch ISIS consolidate its gains. Make no mistake – ISIS seeks to convert or kill all non-believers. As a nation built on religious tolerance and freedom for all, we can’t sit idly by and hope it won’t come to the point of an attack on our homeland. That ship has already sailed. Just think about Major Nidal Hassan who was sentenced to death in August 2013 for killing 13 people and wounding 32 others in a 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, the worst mass murder at a military installation in U.S. history.

Then there are the Tsarnaev brothers who bombed the streets of Boston during the Patriot’s Day marathon in April 2013. They were radicalized by Islam and sought to send a message about their cause and, I believe, to strike fear in the hearts of all Americans. When will it come to our outdoor restaurants, our shopping malls, and even our airport? My worst fear is the ultimate strike will occur sooner rather than later.

We know there may be hundreds of citizens in the U.S. and UK who have been radicalized through social media communications and training manuals. They either learn how to make a pipe bomb or other incendiary device from Internet instructions and/or go to Syria for on-site terrorist training. In the U.S., our immigration laws are so ineffective that recruits to the cause could easily slip back into the U.S. and carry out their dastardly deeds. We’ll know it after the fact but not have a clue, or will wish it away, before the attack.

The sad part is the U.S. is largely responsible for bringing al Qaeda to power and giving birth to ISIS. You would have thought we would had learned the lesson that helping to over-throw one government for another can backfire. These overt or covert actions by our CIA have a history of ending the reign of bad guys only to put worse guys into office.

We can go back to the rise of Fidel Castro. On July 26, 1953, Castro led an abortive coup attempt against Cuba's president, Fulgencio Batista. Fidel and Raul Castro left Cuba for Mexico, where they hooked up with Argentine communist Ernesto "Che" Guevara and others to prepare for an invasion of Cuba. Later it was revealed that U.S. State Department Ambassador, Earl E.T. Smith, was told outright that he had been "assigned to Cuba to preside over the downfall of Batista. The decision has been made that Batista has to go. You must be very careful." The U.S. government knew Castro was a communist but figured the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That didn’t work out so well.

Fast forward to 1953 when the CIA worked with the United Kingdom to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran led by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh who had attempted to nationalize Iran’s petroleum industry. The coup was led by the CIA. The U.S. planted articles in U.S. newspapers saying that Shah Mohammad Reza Phlevi’s return to govern Iran resulted from a homegrown revolt against what was being represented to the U.S. public as a communist-leaning government.

In August 2013, the CIA admitted that it was involved in both the planning and the execution of the coup. The CIA acknowledged that the coup was carried out “under CIA direction” and “as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.”

Our efforts to help install the Shah of Iran to power, a dictator who was responsible for a brutal regime, was the proximate cause of the revolution in Iran that changed it to a religious-driven state and ushered in the era of ruling Mullahs. Most of us remember that on November 4, 1979, a group of Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 60 American hostages. It was a dramatic way for the student revolutionaries to declare a break with Iran’s past and an end to American interference in its affairs. It was also a way to raise the intra- and international profile of the revolution’s leader, the anti-American cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Over the years we have been our worst enemy in the Middle East. We were responsible for ISIS gaining a foothold in Iraq and its rise to a terrorist organization motivated by the desire to have a Muslim caliphate in targeted areas from a variety of countries in the Middle East. In the aftermath of 9/11, we sought out and killed Saddam Hussein, a bad guy who had gassed Kurds and surely deserved to leave office but not at the hands of our government. What did it accomplish? Hussein was a bad guy but he also served as a foil to worse guys -- the Mullahs in Iran. With Saddam in power we knew these two sides would fight each other if necessary.

Very few in the U.S. want to see our government commit ground troops to Iraq or Syria. We are weary of wars. We see the results when we walk away. We see the incompetence of foreign soldiers in fighting against ISIS. We spent a lot of money just to watch our efforts shredded to pieces.

The bottom line, however, is ISIS could strike at any time in the homeland. It could strike at a moment’s notice. We can fight them now or fight them later when they are even stronger, more organized, and increasingly well-funded by radical Islamist-leaning groups. It’s our choice but it won’t affect the fact that we have entered WWIII.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on September 23, 2014. Dr. Mintz is a professor in the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at:

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