Papers on ISIS have been written before, and the terrorist group makes for an intriguing topic. There’s much at stake, so much to stand for, and so much caused by this faction’s presence. In this one however, going in with a much better understanding on the warring powers and their ideologies, this won’t be a high school senior in 2014’s markup of why this particular conflict is interesting. There is a newly developed foreign policy which is going to apply a couple of other theories in order to better understand what tactic is appropriate for dealing with the threat, those known theories being hegemony and its role in this clash of civilizations that’s taking place in the middle east.
Hegemony might be a strange one to start with, as it’s the United States’s current stance. Being the leading hegemonic power at the moment, the US has a great burden to bear having to choose a side in conflicts all around the world. The US seems to retain its stranglehold on its dominions of culture, wealth, production, and genius, at least for now. There’s a lot in recent history that comes off the heels of ISIS and its formation, and because of its roots drastic action should be adopted in the modern age.
Remember the Cold War? If you don’t, here’s a refresher for all of you in the cheap seats: after the October Revolution during World War 1, the Russian Empire became communist and to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (or USSR). A prevailing communistic pillar tends to be one to instill the communist ideals in the entire world; simply put, this is world domination. This scared a lot of western countries after World War 2 ended (Russia and its puppets previously being allied against the axis German Nazis and Italian fascists), who founded a couple of organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to combat the new found communist threat. This wasn’t as much of a red scare as it was a creeping invader, with southeast Asian countries like Vietnam getting in on the act of becoming communist, as well as China and Cuba in the Caribbean. The Cold War pitted the United States and most of Europe versus the USSR and its communist comrades. After a lot of arms racing, space racing, and proxy wars, the Cold War ended in 1991 without any nuclear weapons detonated as a combative act. A bunch of former Soviet republics split from Russia and proclaimed independence, and the communist threat was tamed by the collective of NATO (article 5 of NATO states that an attack on one nation is to be considered an attack on all).
During this long bout of being cross at the westerners and across the Pacific, the USSR became entangled with an ally in Afghanistan. The Soviet-Afghan war from 1979 to 1989 was an effort by Soviet Russia and the government of Afghanistan to destroy an insurgency known as Mujahideen, an Islamic jihadist group (Britannica).
Russia and Afghanistan had been like a pair of brothers in the past, with Russia providing assistance on the development of infrastructure and large amounts of aid to Afghanistan after 1947; of course it was the big brother’s responsibility to knock out the resident threat to the Afghani government. Problem was, the formation of Mujahideen was taken from the pages of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) overseas interventions. In 1979, the USSR staged a coup in Afghanistan to install a Soviet-friendly president, all while Afghanistan was embroiled in civil unrest over the previous changing of hands. Political prisoners had been killed, and the government underwent three different administrations in less than 3 years. There were locals (and other nations) who were not happy about the Russians coming in and attempting to intervene while these disagreements were being had. Some of these rebels who opposed the new Russian Afghani leaders, and a section of those rebels were involved with Mujahideen.
So it would seem that the USSR found a puppet in the Afghanistan government, and asserted that control. The United Nations protested the intervention, of course. Not willing to be out-CIA’d by the Russians, the United States began arming and training the rebels in Pakistan and using them to frustrate the communists out of Afghanistan (Kraszkiewicz).
It worked, and so called became Russian Vietnam for its high diplomatic cost to the Russians and its bloody defeat. This is thought to be a major contributing factor to the collapse of the USSR.
Now think about the United States for a second. Its enemies in World War 1 were embarrassed, those in World War 2 were destroyed (literally nuked, in two cases), and those during the Cold War were quite encumbered by a number of other oppositions. And in one case, one of those oppositions was what we would call today a terrorist organization.
As the Middle East goes, those groups that the US supported was suddenly antagonistic. Osama Bin Laden, a major player and organizer in the transport of supplies into Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan conflict, was public enemy number one 20 years later, assassinated 30 years later by US Navy Seals. Those Pakistani-trained rebels and forces that the CIA financed? They became the Taliban, named after the refugee camps some of them grew up at. Al Qaeda formed in the late 90’s, and their formation most famously culminated in 9/11. Arab Spring in 2010 swept across the middle east and Africa, taking with it Syria and Libya, which are still involved in conflict. In each conflict across the Middle East, and some of Africa, the successor of the Taliban and Al Qaeda groups now exists.
Here we’re presented with the third wave of jihadist terrorists as we know it: ISIS. The desire for an Islamic State, and an incredible appetite for filming their executions and putting them online comes with their brutality. Western sympathizers to their cause tricked into falling into their ranks end up dead or worse.
A nihilist could say that this is just the flavor of the day. Another decade, another insurgency. We’ve seen this all before, and those fighting against it have been quite ineffective at doing their jobs. What’s different is the relations between the countries and the factions fighting. Soviet-Afghan war: rebels fighting against the government of Afghanistan, whom was backed by Russia. Pretty clear.
Today in Syria: ISIS is fighting the Kurds, the moderate rebels, and the government. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are supporting ISIS and the rebels. Russia is supporting the government of Syria. The United States is supporting the moderate rebels and the Kurds. Syria is in flames after the Arab Spring, with fighting on every corner it seems (Vannesson).
The war against these groups isn’t as simple as dropping a 15-megaton bomb on a section of a city and calling it a day. The world has transcended squabbles over ports and land, now we fight with ideas. Communal wars, where you can simply be killed by a differently-minded neighbor, are now the face of modern conflicts.
The United States is the current world hegemon, and with that all in mind, this is a tough nut to crack. The Trump Administration has seen a foot in the door to US ballots by Russia, who is suspected of propagandizing the election results to have a president unlike Hillary Clinton (more lenient on Russia). Given this, the US is expected to be telling China (the up and coming hegemon) to back off of the South China Sea, and stick to NATO while keeping a grip of the beast in the middle east.
Any country’s duty to burn ISIS to the ground lays in the roots of its level of enforcement. The US spends 4 to 5 percent of its GDP on the armed forces, while Saudi Arabia (a major contributor to ISIS) spends over 15 percent of its GDP on its armed forces (Trading Economics). Guess who has a much better, far bigger, much hungrier military? The United States.
If this were open conflict, nobody would stand a chance against the US. Even if the top 3 countries combined engaged in total war with the United States, they would be severely outgunned in manpower and equipment. That is why the US is the hegemon. It can enforce whatever it wants.
I believe the same frustrations the Soviets experienced in the 80’s (and the United States experienced in Vietnam years earlier) are what the westerners are finding out now, is that these new communal wars are not that easy like before. Enemies were clear. Civilians wouldn’t plant IEDs in the road in front of military convoys. We shot the people who wore different uniforms, because that’s how wars are fought. The United States has simply done what the Soviets did and blundered into something that was thought to be a simple matter (in the same exact region), but ideas don’t die in gunfire.
After the Soviets, Kuwait being invaded by Saddam Hussein, and the War on Terror, it has been proved that these groups operating out of the Middle East are real hydras. There is infighting, chaos, and when one head is severed, five more explode from the ashes. Idealistic groups with a lot of oil money and backing from countries around them can support themselves indefinitely, morphing from one gross form to another.
So it is the duty of the United States to find a way to handle it. There are groups out there who have clear motive to harm us like North Korea, but they aren’t up to much lately besides losing its only ally and generally being difficult. ISIS is present, and it is here among the fake news and alternative facts. It’s something that exists, and the United States is currently still fraught with attempting to take it down.
The Trump Administration has hooks in Russia. Whether that be a good or a bad thing, relations with the former reds are not fantastic these days and could use a pick-me-up. An idealist would say that this is something much needed. Above NATO, cooperation in a strategy to combat terror is what’s needed even with tense neighbors.
As hegemon, the United States has two options. Option one is to withdraw and act only in accordance with those in NATO, with full cooperation of every country of NATO. In the meantime, the US should be providing strictly humanitarian aid and funding international organizations such as the likes of Doctors Without Borders in order to lessen the human impact. Option one says fighting doesn’t help, and never helped.
Option two is all out occupation, and eventual takeover. To hell with covert and surgical CIA operations or funding local rebel groups. In order to quell a communal war, the interventionists must shape the community and forge it.
The current military strength of the United States is about 1,281,000 active soldiers. The current manpower of all of NATO (excluding Turkey, for its supporting of ISIS in Syria) is about 6,330,000 active and reserve personnel. The highest current estimate for the number of ISIS fighters is about 200,000 (Cockburn).
In war, 6,330,000 soldiers would easily wipe out 200,000. The United States could do this right now if this were open warfare. But again, this is a communal war. As the hegemon, simply why not totally occupy with Watchmen levels of occupy (in which the Vietnam war was won by America, who promptly made it the 51st state)?
Power as the global leader is fading, and America is like an old retired boxer who just wants another worthy opponent. In this new theory, the occupation would be with an intent of neo-colonialism, with a focus of establishment of a new government over the entire region. The local culture can stay the same, and it could possibly change or be appropriated once over a million NATO/US troops are living cities all over the middle east.
Annex the Middle East, convert all the countries there into states, and let the United States become the ruler of the beast. There would still be at least a 5 to 1 ratio of United States active military to the highest estimate of ISIS members (which includes sympathizers), and the numbers of those in ISIS will chip away as the new authority seeks them out. Like an argument in the modern debate of 2nd amendment rights in America, what neutralizes a bad guy with a gun? A good guy with a gun.
Here is the solution, representing the global hegemony: the United States.
Presenting: the “Judge of All the Known Earth” theory (JAKE theory). JAKE theory is defined by a bid to demonstrate dominance by wild yet enforceable actions. As the name says and is applied to this situation, the United States would transcend the role of hegemon and become the Judge of All the Known Earth, taking the middle east like a strategic move in a game of Risk because it can.
It’s not about what the US can do, it’s about how much the US can do. This takes hegemony to truly tyrannical places, yet they are places NATO might appreciate having for a moment or two. Imagine having a neighbor you dislike vehemently. They throw stuff in your yard, are always parked in front of your driveway for some reason, and they engage in horrible small talk. Their children also have a tendency to bully your kids and graffiti phalluses on the houses around theirs. Now imagine you have a rich friend who says “Oh, you don’t like that neighbor? Let me just buy that house and boot them out of the neighborhood”.
In that analogy, NATO is you, the rich friend is America, and the neighbor is the Middle East. America could absolutely steamroll the place and continue to keep it in check. JAKE theory would realize that idea, rolling out true world bending power to take all those territories, and by doing so take control of what is there. It’s like colonization, but on a much more passive-aggressive and classy scale.
This could negate the cost of simply dropping hydrogen bombs, and would also be much more direct and hegemon-ly than withdrawing to provide support by proxy. JAKE theory applied here also does not take into account Russia taking offense to any of this, because what will the Russians have a stake in if America has 17 new states right beside them? It would do them well to seek those peaceful relations we need so much.
So begin would another phase of intense cultural blending and slight westernization as more US ideals are presented and upheld in the new United States of the Middle East. The USME would be a jewel in a desperate place. With this comes the need for a local president, as well, so too would form an International American Congress, in order to keep standards in both regions without that King George III mess that caused the American Revolution in the first place. This would ensue with more of a passion for globalism, a sense of bifurcated nationalism, and a savage maintaining of hegemony by the United States. Perhaps even American territories would formally become states. All of a sudden, America is 75 states strong, with millions upon millions of people added to the population.
JAKE theory in this case tailspins into a maelstrom of dominance and rapid insertion of American ideals with a takeover of the Middle East. A literal takeover. A conquering.
While that does sound quite communistic, there is a silver lining and a golden thought here. The absorption of the middle east into America would create the first, modern, truly international state. From there, the US and USME being governed by an International American Congress would give the basis for a one-world government. A Judge of All the Known Earth. A seemingly wild grab for hegemonic power would prove to be the one move to rule them all. China couldn’t do that right now. Russia couldn’t do that right now. America could.
If NATO were in on it, and the European Union would become the United States of Europe (Reid), we would see a tricontinential international government form with cooperation between the US, USME, and USE. Russia would be out, China would be out, and all of the problems with them just wither away due to their inability to combat the giant of the IAC. An international government with true dominance of the Middle East, the Americas, and Europe would be the only force to be reckoned with anymore.
As a hegemon, JAKE theory could be the one way to eradicate this ISIS threat. Over-eradicate, in fact. Downsides to this would be slim, if any at all. Modern colonization of the region by Americans would come with the dissolution of any terror groups there, so no threat of infighting like that (and if there were, I’m sure any confederacy would lose). It wouldn’t be a hostile takeover as much as an… immigration. Reverse immigration, to take over the most fiery part of the world.
Though, some very real detriments to JAKE action could include an increasingly bad diplomatic attitude if the man in charge of the US doesn’t stop at USME, and instead really does throw that weight around. There is a peaceful way to go about this. That downside would be the ruling government being effectively opposed once again (as in the Soviet-Afghan conflict), or the one at the helm of it all being actually tyrannical. In either case, opposition would be too great from the other world governments to go on. In this respect, the United States not enforcing a will on a different civilization and instead providing aid would be the smarter action.
However, JAKE theory is high risk, high reward. The global hegemony being the Judge of All the Known Earth also comes with a duty to not be commanded by malice of any kind. Human nature has showed us again and again that the odds of that happening are slim. If it would rule with an iron rose (instead of a fist), America would court favor with NATO and obtain that authority to create the United States of the Middle East, eventually creating the International American Congress, and uniting humanity under the giant and its influence.
Britannica. “Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan”. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/Soviet-invasion-of-Afghanistan. April 3rd, 2015.
Cockburn, Peter. “War With ISIS: Islamic Militants May Have Army of 200,000, Claims Senior Kurdish Leader”. Independent.co. November 16th, 2014. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/war-with-isis-islamic-militants-have-army-of-200000-claims-kurdish-leader-9863418.html
Kraszkiewicz, Nolan. “Operation Cyclone (1979-1989): A Brief Analysis of the U.S. Involvement in the Soviet-Afghan War”. Academia. October 1st, 2012. http://www.academia.edu/2897792/Operation_Cyclone_1979-1989_A_Brief_Analysis_of_the_U.S._Involvement_in_the_Soviet-Afghan_War
Reid, Thomas Roy. The United States of Europe: the new superpower and the end of American supremacy. Wheeler Publications. April 1st, 2005.
Trading Economics. “Military Expenditure (% of GDP) in Saudi Arabia”. Trading Economics. 2015-2016. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/saudi-arabia/military-expenditure-percent-of-gdp-wb-data.html
Vannesson, Chris. “The Civil Wars in Syria and the Recent & Current Links of Support for the Belligerents”. INST 164. Printed Illustration. 2017.
I Know It. You know it. Everybody knows it.
(PDF version: jake theory)