War on ISISWritten by Greta Hyland

President Obama asked Congress for a declaration of war on ISIS. It appears that the President has given in to the pressure by a warmongering Congress to do something about ISIS despite how vague and elusive the enemy is and despite the fact that we have been engaging ISIS for a long time now already. It is no coincidence that this request for a declaration came one day after Kayla Mueller’s death – which seems to have provided the perfect opportunity and impetus to seek a declaration of war from the American public.

War should not be our foreign policy strategy, but after 13 years and counting, it seems to be just that. A war on ISIS sounds like an echo of the war on terror. ISIS is not a country; it is a group of people. How a country such as the United States goes about winning a war on a group of people spread across many countries, even the globe, is beyond me. But we can look to the war on terror to get an idea.

The President has got a strong track record militarily and therefore has some latitude when asking the country to engage militarily, but the American people should not be so eager to persistently stay at war with Muslim extremists. And the people we should really be holding accountable with questions are the ones in Congress beating the war drum.

We should be asking them what we have to gain from this war. Furthermore, we should make them prove that ISIS is a real threat to our national security.

According to the President, ” ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East…While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies.”

Sure, members of congress will give you the seven degrees of separation that will ultimately lead to a future 9/11 if we do not act, but I have a hard time believing ISIS could do much of anything that would impact U.S. national security and I am not alone in thinking this.

According to, “Obama declared war on ISIS – Here’s what you need to know,” an article on Moyers and Company by Joshua Holland, “Dartmouth’s Daniel Benjamin, who was the State Department’s top counterterrorism expert during Obama’s first term, told The New York Times that “the public discussion about the ISIS threat has been a ‘farce,’ with ‘members of the cabinet and top military officers all over the place describing the threat in lurid terms that are not justified.””

And, “Stephen Walt of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government told Public Radio International that “ISIS is not all that capable. It doesn’t have an air force, it doesn’t have serious armored forces. It’s a threat to locals in the region, but it has no capacity to hit the United States in a strategically significant way.””

When declaring war, a very strong case should be made for how the enemy is a real threat. Furthermore, we should be told how we are going to win a war against a group like ISIS. We should know what the strategy is to win and how we will end it. What is quite striking about this declaration of war is that it does not have geographical limits. While Syria and Iraq were the two countries listed in the declaration, “without geographical limits” could mean anywhere.

The President does not want to send in ground troops, thank God, but he plans to again train Iraqis and use drones. While the President has been rather successful with drones, it still smells like the war on terror part two. Furthermore, I don’t think we are winning anyone over to our side by invading their countries and engaging in military actions, regardless of how much we think that makes us heroes. And as a matter of fact, ISIS has been extremely successful at recruiting westerners to their cause, which could suggest we are driving those numbers rather than squelching them.

While the President is showing some resolve in not giving in completely to Congress and thankfully is using some restraint, I am still surprised that he is taking such a hard line. This declaration of war on ISIS appears to be reactionary and unnecessary. But ultimately I hold Congress accountable and find their rhetoric to be irresponsible and reckless.

Congress, like a business, is not a person and therefore cannot easily be held accountable for what it does and says. Congress members like Rep. Stewart (R) Utah took the opportunity to blame the President for not acting against ISIS sooner when President Obama asked them for a declaration of war.

I would like to ask Rep. Stewart what exactly he would have done in the President’s place. When would Rep. Stewart have gone to war? I would like to know Stewart’s strategy for a war against ISIS, how he would win it, and if he would send in ground troops or if he would follow the President’s plan. It’s so easy to sit on the sidelines and talk about what someone else should do because there are no consequences for sideline chatter, especially when it is a cacophony of chatter coming from congress.

Furthermore, continuously suggesting the President is weak on using military force is not only dishonest but just flat wrong. President Obama has been more of a hawk than the last four or five presidents combined. But thankfully for us his strategy has consisted of more than “shock and awe.” What Rep. Stewart and others in Congress like him are doing is tantamount to a high-stakes version of “Dare” or “Chicken,” and it is as juvenile as it is reckless.

I don’t like this new war. I don’t like how this declaration against a “group” appears to be a legal way to get around international law. While I think that the U.S. does have a moral responsibility to help other countries and I believe it is good to get involved from a humanitarian standpoint, it is not our place to eradicate all extreme Muslims and I question whether or not it is even possible. If this decision were framed in a humanitarian operation I would buy it, but it is being framed as a national security threat. We should never base our decision to go to war on “could pose a threat.” Certainly the case could be made that the U.S. poses a threat.

According to the International Law Commission in 1951 which, after being tasked by the UN to develop a definition of aggression, ultimately decided that: “Aggression is the use of force by a State or Government against another State or Government, in any manner, whatever the weapons used and whether openly or otherwise, for any reason or for any purpose other than individual or collective self-defense or in pursuance of a decision or recommendation by a competent organ of the United Nations.”

Clearly the war against ISIS is not force against another state, and how convenient for us. But we most certainly will cross the borders of other states in our attempt to “degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group” won’t we?

I don’t like the warmongers in Congress who appear to be so willy-nilly ready to go to war at the drop of a dime and who ratchet up the rhetoric toward that end. I think it is fraudulent to claim to be fiscally conservative while funding a never-ending war against religious extremists. It is also unethical if those Congress members, or the President, are getting campaign funding from government contractors who stand to gain from more war. And I don’t like Congress members who hide behind the President knowing he is ultimately the one who will be held accountable for everything the nation does or does not do. There’s a word for that and it’s not a nice one.

In the end, I do trust the President’s judgment when it comes to military decisions; which is more than I can say for most members of congress. I trust that he is a thinker and a strategist because he has proven to be just that. I like that he is not a reactionary or poll driven President like many before him were, and many in Congress are. But what worries me even more are the years of this war that will go on after he leaves office. I like President Obama as Commander in Chief because he has proven himself to be cautious, strategic, and precise and while this new war is extremely questionable to me, I know nothing about the next person who will take over as Commander in Chief.   

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