It could have been worse. Really. We could have had the Dutch equivalent of Sarah Palin’s painful and cringe-worthy Trump endorsement where she shrieked that they would “kick ISIS’ ass!” and the crowd roared with excitement. Not so much. But still, it looks like this Wednesday, the Dutch will officially decide to step up their bombardments on ISIS.
Is this a good idea? It should be obvious by now that Western military interventions in the Middle-East have almost always caused more harm than good. Things still seemed to work like a charm when the US and its allies pummeled the Iraqi army into the ground in a short and relatively clean war. That was 1991, and every other Western attempt to spread safety in the region by means of force has had disastrous results. One of these awful consequences being ISIS itself, which could not have gained its foothold without the chaos that followed the US-British invasion of Iraq in 2003.
With this in mind, we can ask ourselves: should we continue to bomb ISIS?
Why we should bomb ISIS
The first reason why we should is because, seriously, **** ISIS. I don’t need to repeat the horrors they’ve committed and why they are bad. They’re the closest thing we have to a comic book villain: just about anyone who isn’t them thinks they are the worst of the worst. Case in point: even Al-Qaida thinks that they are too extreme.
Clearly, they have to go and they’re not about ready to simply pack their things and leave the stage. The world cannot simply stand and watch while they are free to commit atrocities.
Why we shouldn’t bomb ISIS
This may come as a surprise to some people, but having every country on the planet send its army over to Syria and Iraq is exactly what ISIS wants. Remember that these people live in a completely different mind-set: the religious dogma of ISIS states that they will bring about the end of the world. The current situation in the Middle East may just be another geopolitical conflict in the eyes of your average Westerner, but to the zealots in ISIS, this is literally where the eternal fate of this world and the after-life is decided.
Still, if a bunch of fundamentalist idiots want to be bombed we are happy to oblige, right? Well, a great tactical challenge is that aerial bombardments alone are simply never enough to win a war, you need ground forces to take over the territory after the enemy forces have been battered into submission. And sending yet another Western invasion force into a country in the Middle-East should be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind. If anyone could get away with this, it would be a military coalition of Arab nations, but the Arabs are far too divided (politically, religiously, ethnically) to form a front. And it is this lack of unity that could work in the favor of the extremists: bombing the territories occupied by ISIS will inevitably lead to civilian casualties, leading to even more hate against the West and more support for whatever group promising to strike back.
The situation seems like a classic damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t trap. Whether we go in and further destabilize the region, or stand back and let ISIS gain more ground as it massacres civilians, history may not be kind to us.
On a final note, I hope the Dutch politicians are well aware of the fact that expanding the Dutch air force bombardments over Syria means that our fighter planes will be sharing the air space with the Russian air force. We wouldn’t want another unforgivable mishap to bring NATO and Russia on the brink of all-out war.