One of George W. Bush’s unforgivable mistakes involve stepping right into the bin Laden trap:
1. In Afghanistan, not committing ground troops in December 2001 in Tora Bora where intelligence located without a doubt the cave where Bin Laden was hiding with his key al Qaeda terrorists. Imagine how different things would have been had the U.S. nabbed Bin Laden then. Instead, Bin Laden lived to tell in an audio message the tale of his “unbelievable” survival.
2. To distract from the failure against Taliban and Al Qaeda, Bush launched his war on Saddam Hussein even fabricating information to justify an attack on Iraq. Without an exit strategy and without a clear plan for transition and rehabilitation of the Iraqi army, Bush allowed the insurgency to be born, the Sunni-Shia rift to surface, and a civil war to ensue. Refugees and violence spilled over to Kurdistan and Syria. They affected Iran, Turkey and Jordan.
3. Iraq’s disarray provided terror groups and fundamentalist organizations a fertile ground for the genesis of the “Islamic State” project under several banners all the way to ISIS. Many regional players benefitting from this strife fueled it. The United States with its inaction or delayed reaction fanned the flames of sedition.
Obama's policies following the Arab uprisings and his flagrant hesitant stance in Syria added salt to the already gushing wound. ISIS was born, a robust terror group, in the midst of disintegrating regimes, corrupt dictatorships and weakened governments:
In contrast to Arab regimes, ISIS has:
a. Clear political agenda: Spreading their version of Islam and establishing a “Caliphate.”
b. Sophisticated infrastructure to finance, train, propagate, recruit, and grow.
c. Successful communication system that is hard to infiltrate.
d. Message that targets -- and seems to work -- on disenfranchised youth especially those living in the west.
If not dealt with decisively now, ISIS will soon become a credible force to be reckoned with, and able to drag the U.S. into more quagmires.
If the U.S. is serious about fighting ISIS, it should do so simultaneously at several levels: Politically and militarily through alliances and focused, relentless boots on the ground crackdown. Strategically through driving its regional allies towards real reform. All powers must commit to a strategy of absolutely no mercy in dealing with extremism no matter what banner it hides behind even if the banner is that of “God!”
A tall order but doable; it beats the alternative of a long, bloody war that looms in the horizon.