The observation that history repeats itself might be valid, at least in the case of the ongoing conflict in Iraq and Syria. During the previous months, the world has witnessed many heinous crimes against innocent people ranging from the massacres of civilians to the beheadings of journalists, and with their declaration of a new caliphate, the group responsible has made themselves globally known as the Islamic State. Accordingly, this has provoked a seemingly rapid response among Western leaders who are now working on stopping the terrorist organization in its destructive path. Now the question on many people’s mind is whether or not we are witnessing the early days of a new war in the region.
Although the United States – who are the leaders of the newly-formed coalition against the Islamic state – haven’t yet embarked on a large scale attack with the help of ground troops, they have been fighting the enemy since the beginning of August with the use of airstrikes. According to president Obama, who has described the Islamic State as a ”network of death”, there will be no negotiations with the enemy since the only thing they are capable of understanding is ”the language of force”. The United States counteraggressive tone in this new conflict seems to be backed by a majority of the American people. In a recent poll, Americans say they support President Obamas decision to use airstrikes in Syria. Iraq, however, is a different topic altogether. In what seems to be a reminder of the dissatisfaction with the previous Iraq war, Americans believe it would be a mistake to send actual ground troops to the region.
A similar attitude to the new conflict can be found in Britain, where even some former anti-war activists have come to the realization that a military intervention might be the only solution for stopping the further spread of the militant Islamists. Britain, of course, has joined the fight with airstrikes of their own since the end of September. This endeavour was sanctioned by the British parliament by an overwhelming majority of 524 to 43 shortly after the Prime Minister David Cameron went before the general assembly of the United Nations to urge the importance of unified strength between the worlds nations in order to counter the new threat. Like Obama, Cameron also made it clear that there would be no ”boots on the ground” involved.
However, some say that boots on the ground might be what is needed to make enough of a difference in the long run. Recently the Islamic State has relentlessly tried to take over the syrian town of Kobani, which is mainly populated by Kurds, near the Turkish border. Reports from Kurdish military officials say that the airstrikes by the coalition forces have not resulted in what they were hoping for. The ineffectivity of the aerial bombings has allowed the Islamic State to advance even closer to the town, and at this point they might even be victorious. The failure to stop the enemy from advancing has sparked an outrage throughout the world, especially among the Kurdish people who have started protesting to show their discontent. On October 7th, around 100 Kurdish protestors stormed the European Parliament, wanting the international community to engage the Islamic State in a more extensive military intervention. This needs to happen, they claim, in order to prevent a genocide.
Meanwhile, the former chief of the Pentagon, Leon Panetta, makes the worrying prediction that a war with the Islamic State could go on for nearly 30 years. Panetta is previously known for criticizing the presidents decisions regarding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. This, he claims, created a power vacuum due to the fact that the Iraqi government wasn’t capable of keeping the peace and maintaning security within the region.
So, is this just another repetition of previous historical events? There could possibly be a case made for that, although one should take into consideration what kind of enemy the West and its allies has chosen to fight this time around. The Islamic State is, contrary to its name, not an actual state since it’s not recognized by any other nation. Compared to the Iraq war, where the enemy was the country’s regime, this new conflict seems to have an entirely different nature altogether. In any case, it does seem like we are witnessing a new war in both Iraq and Syria. Really, what remains to be seen is whether or not the conflict, which has been labeled as a ”counterterrorism campaign”, will be called a war by various government officials.