THE BLOG

ISIL - Winning the War

15/09/2014 09:53 BST | Updated 14/11/2014 10:59 GMT

This week once again, the world witnessed another barbaric act by ISIL- the execution of British aid worker David Haines.

It is important to keep in mind, ISIL is not just another rag tag group of terrorists.

They are a well organised, well financed and sophisticated media savvy operation with a clear set of objectives - taking territory, military and financial assets and creating a Caliphate to support their own extreme brand of Islam.

It is now well documented that their intent is to shock the conscience of the West by spreading their message of hate to the disenfranchised and alienated worldwide by using our 'very own' 24 news cycle and social media.

Each of these horrific murders - filmed beheadings - have been carefully produced and distributed by ISIL to guarantee maximum free media attention.

Unfortunately, the West is caught between providing information to our citizens in line with our commitment to freedom of the press and being duped into becoming an unwilling participant by spreading their evil and distorted message.

These videos are gruesomely compelling and manipulative since they place the viewer where they can easily identify with the victim and his family.

These up close and personal brutal executions are in stark contrast to the sanitised concept of airstrikes and bombing seen on TV monitors from Defense Department's Headquarters both here and abroad.

Not at all shocking to anyone, these highly produced videos are clearly being used as a PR recruiting tool by ISIL.

This is far from the first time an evil and twisted group has used the "media tools" of the their time to spread a message of hate and destruction.

A similar operational plan was put in place by the Fascist Powers during World War II, glorifying their cause as they sought world domination.

The only question here is have we learned the lessons of the past? If so where is our sophisticated, Hollywood and London produced counter-propaganda campaign to expose the ISIL diabolic plot?

Where are the studio heads in Great Britain and in the US supporting our anti-ISIL message.

Hitler and Goebbels 'wunderkind' Leni Riefenstahl and her "Triumph of the Will" was no match for the real defenders of our democratic way of life on the silver screen - Noel Coward, John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, George Stevens and Frank Capra.

Last week in a dramatic prime-time address to the nation president Obama used the skill of a lawyer selecting his words with great care. With each word the president sent a clear message to both his domestic and international audience.

The president said that ISIL is not Islam - he made it clear that this group was killing Muslims, Christians and other minorities and committing acts that were not in any way condoned by Islam.

His message was intended for moderate Muslims worldwide - that America and its Allies understand that ISIL does not represent the view of all Muslims.

It was also intended to invite those moderate Islamic countries to join the coalition against ISIL since the US and its Allies must tread very carefully here.

Some part of the war that ISIL is waging is in fact a war over Islam. Not only do they want to rid the world of those they consider "non-believers" they also want to eliminate all other forms of Islam.

This is in some sense a war between Sunni and Shia and it is critical that the US and it's Allies cannot be seen taking sides in this struggle.

The president also went to great pains to say that ISIL was not a state - this too had great significance since it does not recognise or acknowledge the territory they hold.

Perhaps more important, the president cannot declare war on his own - this is for Congress alone to do.

The president said he was engaging in a "counterterrorism offensive" intent on degrading and destroying ISIL. Although he did not mention it in his speech, the president is relying on an Authorisation for Use of Military Force passed by the George W Bush Administration as his legal authority to undertake military action.

In a poll taken after the speech, the American public seemed almost evenly split on whether this plan will work. Perhaps this is because after spending so many billions of dollars and so much precious human treasure in Iraq, Americans cannot see how it can be different this time.

The US and its Allies clearly have the capacity to wage a successful military mission - if they choose. What is also clear is that after so many years in Iraq this is simply not enough.

What is needed is much more - "nation building" - and this is something that no Western democracy seems inclined to do.

The US and its Allies defeated Saddam Hussein and then realised there simply was no real government to take his place.

In the first Gulf War, president George H W Bush and his Secretary of State James Baker assembled a true coalition of 38 nations who contributed 200,000 troops in addition to the 500,000 US forces to drive Iraq and Saddam Hussein's elite guard from Kuwait.

And on top of that, they convinced some of these nations to pick up the tab.

After the first Gulf War, the George H W Bush Administration was criticised for not marching into Baghdad and taking out Saddam Hussein.

Perhaps now we know why. Once the US and its Allies defeated Saddam Hussein during the G W Bush Administration and tipped the balance of power in this region, it seemed we opened a Pandora's Box setting off a chain of reactions - the outcome of which might be felt for generations to come.

Now the US and it's Allies are contemplating how best to fight ISIL and re- establish some sort of order and stability in this region.

It seems both president Obama and prime minister Cameron are faced with the same dilemma - war weary citizens looking for a quick fix to this complex problem.

Fighting ISIL in Iraq and fighting them in Syria does not pose this same challenge or present the same risks.

Fighting ISIL in Iraq is an easier proposition since there is now some form of government in place that is eager for any help the West can provide in their struggle against ISIL.

However, the success of any mission in Iraq will not only depend upon the ability to retake territory but also upon the ability of this new government to win the confidence of its people.

Fighting ISIL in Syria, is another story. Syria is in the middle of a civil war where it is not so clear who the "good guys" are and how best to ensure their success.

To add to the complexity and danger, Syria and Assad are backed by Russia - so there will be no invitation coming from the Assad government to the US and its coalition partners.

Despite its bloody and brutal civil war Syria is a sovereign nation which is still run by Assad and interfering with its territorial integrity may have many unintended consequences.

Russia is supportive of Assad and has interests of its own in Syria including its own naval base. If the West engages in Syria in a way that tips the balance against Assad, Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin might weigh in. This is clearly the last thing needed in this explosive region.

Fighting ISIL on the homefront is perhaps the most challenging mission of all.

We have already seen that both American Citizens and British Subjects have not only been the victims of ISIL, some have left their homes and joined the fight on the side of ISIL.

Both president Obama and prime minister Cameron are feeling the public pressure to respond to this home grown threat.

The prime minister has already begun a plan to rout out potential ISIL recruits. He has announced a comprehensive strategy to deal with the threat they pose to the UK - taking away passports of those who have left the UK to join ISIL, etc. Other European countries have taken similar actions.

President Obama has not yet announced a similar plan in the US although some Members of Congress are following the UK lead with a variety of proposals.

How we choose to carry out this fight against ISIL both abroad and at home, using not only our military might but also our moral convictions, will determine just how we continue to live in an open and multi-cultural society.