Bashar Al-Assad, president of Syria has also been blamed for creating conditions which spawned the rise of ISIS in Syria. Assad who is a Shiite also led a government which side-lined the Sunnis from political participation, which in turn induced the disillusionment between the ruling Shiites and the Sunnis. The Sunnis picked up arms by forming rebel groups which fought Assad and in no time the moderate rebel groups got infiltrated by terror networks such as ISIS. Assad is also accused of appeasing ISIS because tactically he is trying to prove that the rebels fighting against him are terrorists, a move which would discourage the US and allies to help the moderate rebel groups. This strategy allows the world to choose Assad as the better choice, than the moderate rebels who are presented as ISIS terrorists by the Syrian government.

Why is the US not taking an active role in thwarting ISIS’s advances?

It would arguably be difficult to blame one group as the reason for creating a conducive environment which created ISIS. However, the undisputed fact remains that if the Americans had not invaded Iraq, it is highly unlikely that Al Qaeda in Iraq which spawned ISIS, would have gained such prominence under the Baathist regime. Ultimately, it was the war in Iraq which unintentionally bore the necessary conditions for sectarianism, which pitted the Shiites and Sunnis against each other. Moreover, Maliki was favoured to be the leader of Iraq at America’s behest, and indeed the US helped to install him into power after the Iraqi 2010 elections.

Looking at the chronology of ISIS-related events, it is evident that the organisation has become a collective action problem for the world. ISIS is growing stronger and the consequences of inaction, are costing unnecessary human lives with a continued threat to innocent lives of the world. The US has only participated in supplying airplanes to bomb ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, but doesn’t the US have the moral obligation to do more for Iraq, considering the role they played when they invaded Iraq over incorrect claims of WMDs?

Holistically, the USA as a superpower has sought to reorganise the Middle-East and the entire world on the principles of liberalism to promote democracy, free trade and the cooperation of states. Anowar Uddin and John Mariera writes that “On the onset of military power application to the Middle East, Bush believed that he was under obligation of the US to spread democracy to the Middle East”. Indeed after 9/11, Bush was convinced that attacking Saddam Hussein’s Iraq would rid the Middle-East of the radical Islamic ideology that bore constant threats to America. The approach Bush took in the Middle-East was unilateral, in that he shunned the former UN’s Secretary General and other major powers of the world to go it alone in Iraq. The invasion of Iraq can be seen as the ultimate desire for America to expand its hegemony in the Middle-East where America aimed to spread its liberalist values. The theory of liberalism is where states at the international level view cooperation as a means to seek out interests which can benefit all. In republican liberalism, the claim is that democratic states are usually pacifist, tolerant of different domestic political cultures and always seek non-confrontational resolutions to conflicts. Bush’s ultimate desire was to remove Saddam forcibly to usher in democratic governance in a volatile region, that was breeding terrorists who remained a threat to America.

The problem with Bush’s desires of establishing a democracy in Iraq is currently in shambles. As we have seen above, after the invasion of Iraq, the government of Maliki’s sectarian policies encouraged the spread of a salafi-ideology which through Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq, later established ISIS. ISIS has skilfully used the contention between the Shiites and Sunnis to its advantage where the organisation has manipulated the grievances of the Sunnis to recruit fighters. In 2007, even Bush admitted of the failure to reconcile the Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq:

The continuing problem in Iraq is that Shi’a and Sunnis are not building bridges or understandings between each other either at national or local levels. US strategy in Baghdad, along with an increased military presence, has been to build separation walls between the different sectarian neighbourhoods

The current problem that lies between the inaction and collective action to engage ISIS, is Obama’s “hands off” foreign policy in the Middle-East. One of Obama’s pledge before taking office was that he was going to scale back military intervention in Iraq, where he would let the government of Iraq take over security matters. Obama is wary of Bush’s foreign policy of pre-emptive strikes which led to the behemoth of problems in the Middle-East. Indeed Obama’s foreign policy with the Middle-East and the wider world has shifted from Bush’s confrontational approach, to that of cooperation and negotiations to settle conflicts between states. Current examples, are how Obama has discarded the trade embargo with Cuba and how he is currently trying to strike a deal with Iran to stop them building nuclear technology which can be used to build nuclear weaponry.  Iran and Cuba have for decades been ostracised by the US and the approach which Obama has took to restore relations has been different to Bush’s strong arm tactics to enforce cooperation. With such a policy, it is difficult to see Obama’s administration ordering ground troops to help the Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIS. It is highly doubtful that Obama will compromise his cooperation strategies in the Middle-East, especially when he is in talks with Iran which is a potential regional threat to US’s hegemony in the Middle-East.


All in all, ISIS has swiftly become a formidable threat to global security which the US cannot disregard judging by the reach of the organisations attacks. It is the failed attempt of Bush’s desire to see Iraq embrace the principles of liberalism that have produced the unforeseen catastrophe in Iraq due to ISIS’s brutal campaign to establish a Caliphate between Iraq and Syria. If progress is to be made in this gruesome campaign, the US needs to do more because it has the moral obligation to finish what it started in 2003 by invading Iraq. The failure of the current Iraqi government to quell ISIS will holistically reflect on America’s credibility in a volatile region where there is a deep mistrust between the US and Middle-East. Despite Obama’s  cooperation approach to international matters, the US has the moral obligation to put their boots on ground in Iraq due to  its involvement in the war which destabilised the Middle-East.

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