The Boomerang Theory

Paris isn’t reaping what the West has sown with its foreign policy in the Middle East. The boomerang theory is simplistic. And it’s also dangerous because of the conclusion it leads to: isolationism. Withdrawing from Syria and Iraq now would be an unforgivable error.

Of course, the track record of the different coalitions of allies in the region is catastrophic. But it isn’t always because of a lack of zeal. In Iraq, too much was done. In Syria, not enough.

The United States didn’t create the Islamic State. It did, however, increase the catastrophic decisions that allowed the Islamic State group to rise in Iraq. In 2003, the Baath Party was disbanded, and the army was shut down. Close to 500,000 soldiers and officers found themselves on the street. And as the pendulum swung back, the new Shiite regime marginalized them with the shameful complicity of Washington.

That throws a lot of barrels of oil into the fire. But the embers were already glowing. Saddam Hussein was already discriminating against the Shiite majority. And starting in the ‘90s, the more his regime weakened, the more it tended to Islamize.

Of course, if we examine the historical causes, we can go back further in time, all the way back to the arbitrary boundary changes in 1916 by the colonial powers. But we would also have to talk about the role of other neighbors, like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran.

This tendency to accuse first and foremost the West doesn’t hold the Arab and Persian leaders accountable. It denies the influence of religious extremists and falls into naivety.

As if the region was awash in peace before the United States pulled it out of its natural idyllic state.

Syria is a tragic example. Its dictator, Bashar Assad, has fanned the flames of sectarian tensions. In 2011, the Arab Spring quickly transformed into a civil war. The next year, the Shiite (Alawite) tyrant freed Sunni Islamists from prison, who ended up joining the Islamic State group. That suited him, because these useful idiots killed the relatively moderate opposition, all while allowing him to pose as a bulwark against terrorism. Assad even helped the Islamic State group finance itself with the sale of oil.

The credible opposition is in shreds. Nevertheless, we have to avoid coming back to the false dilemma that has been poisoning the region for decades: a dictator or an Islamist revolution? The habitual choice – repression – has become the best tool for the recruitment of jihadi fighters.

The coalition’s bombs will not be enough. They have already allowed the Islamic State group to take land in Syria. But there will have to be a political emergency exit. Because, while the allies haven’t created all the problems, they can’t solve them on their own either. The solution will go through the relatively moderate Sunnis, like those who protested last week against the Islamic State group in Manbij. Their safety depends on it. Ours too.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply