ISIS and the Next “Good War”

Having just happened to tweet a thought about how ISIS’s clear proclamations of evil so helpfully delineated the lines of good and bad for the purposes of conflict narrative, I wondered, a little sadly, whether it was a reflection of the easily jaded news cycle that continued ISIS atrocities seemed to fade faster and faster, or whether it was simply a more sophisticated context. (Good heavens, what a convoluted opening sentence.) The unfortunate reality is that the international audience is overly jaded, armed with pockets of hefty context without clear solutions. Obviously, nearly everyone with any moral repute condemned the most viral repugnances ISIS publicized, and yet, arguably worse atrocities are pending with far less coverage. What’s happening here is that the international, Internet audience is still largely regional in attention, hence the American outrage over American citizens’ execution on video, and the less-noted debacle in Kobani (I say less-noted because as opposed to the original ISIS executions, Kobani seems barely to register on my trawling of American news sites).

And, what’s even more interesting, is whether that regionally inspired phenomenon is just par for the course or whether it reflects a shift in moral guidelines. After all, the average news recipient is simultaneously less informed and savvier than polls and pundits would have you think. Perhaps, say, the (mostly mythical) average American was shocked by those videos and yet hasn’t supported stronger military actions against the Islamic State because he/she/they are more noticeably wary of any such violence simply because it has become all too easy to see there are no easy solutions.

The thing is, there never have been easy solutions, it’s just that it’s easier for anyone with the leisure to explore current issues to notice that not only will American ground forces involve even more expenditure of American cash as well as blood but also it may well not solve much at all, in the end. Endless Al Qaeda videos and Baghdad bombings have a way of inuring their intended audience, after all. The question is, does this skepticism, in the face of a more clearly defined evil than has been readily available in a decade, prevent public opinion from coalescing into what could be a life-saving force? Because, in the end, defeating ISIS may well take that exact thing the current administration and many Americans seem to fear: the dispatch of American ground troops and all that goes with them.

So what it comes down to is whether people will take ISIS seriously enough, in the end, for policymakers to come to a conclusion. ISIS is the logical conclusion of a mix of warring, radical fringes borne from a potent mix of politicized religion. It wasn’t foreseen by most, but was rather bound to happen. Is it dangerous enough to warrant a return to ground action for the preeminent military power in the world? The unfortunate reality is that by the time there’s enough evidence to answer that question, it will be too late for the residents of Kobani, among many others. Even with plenty of evidence, and a clearly established narrative of good versus evil, there may not be enough reason for American and similar socio-political-economic citizens to muster support for the “Next Good War”. And that may even be a good thing, because in the end, no war is good. But sadly, some wars are necessary.