Reed and Robertson on ISIL

levantWe (Elmira Star-Gazette) asked District 23 candidates: What should the U.S. role be in the expanding conflict in Syria and Iraq? Would you support re-deploying U.S. combat troops to that region? 

Both candidates see ISIL as a significant threat and approve a military response. Both equivocate–no American soldiers now, but maybe later. Both would degrade and defeat ISIL, but neither suggests a way to do that.

Reed: America must stand up to jihadi radicals

Robertson: Mission must not involve troops

After more than a decade of war, Americans are rightly concerned about the possibility of another long-term, extended conflict in Iraq and Syria. But we also have the responsibility to respond —together with international partners — in conflicts where Americans are threatened, and terrorist organizations grow in strength. 

We have the responsibility to respond in conflicts where Americans are threatened, and terrorist organizations grow in strength? Always? Perhaps we should be judicious about that.

I am pleased with the multilateral, international approach we have taken to dismantling ISIL. By engaging our allies in the region and in Europe, rather than taking action unilaterally, we have set an important precedent about how we will face new conflicts that cross national boundaries. Just like in Libya, our military is leading a coalition that has a clear, defined goal.

Misery loves the company of international partners, but many Americans might not agree about having had a clear, defined goal for intervention in Libya or in the Levant.

Proposals to change our goal from dismantling ISIL to engaging in the Syrian civil war are a different story altogether. Such an involvement would likely involve troops on the ground. As our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us, it can be very hard to get out of such a conflict once we have gotten involved. I would not put our young women and men into harm’s way or spend taxpayer dollars in that effort, which is why I oppose getting involved in the wider Syrian civil war.

It is hard too see how we can fight ISIL in Syria without being involved in the wider Syrian civil war. That is the nub of our problem there.

America must lead by example. We should offer encouragement to people in repressive societies that peaceful change is possible. We should let those whose families face violence in their homes know that a better future is possible. We should engage in cultural and economic exchanges, through NGOs and government programs, to achieve real success in combating the problems that impoverish and hold back whole countries. Only then can we make tragedies like the Syrian civil war less likely in the first place.

Conflict in Syria grows out of ancient religious, ethnic, and class rivalries. Cultural and economic exchanges are fine, but they would not have caused lions and lambs to lie down together in Syria.

© William Hungerford – October 2014


About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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3 Responses to Reed and Robertson on ISIL

  1. josephurban says:

    The older I get the more I am inclined toward isolation when it comes to military actions. When you think of US involvement in military actions post WW2 not much good has come of it. Vietnam? A still divided Korea. Overthrowing the democratically-elected leader of Iran, putting the Shah in his place, then watching as the right wing religious nuts took over. Giving military and chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein. Giving weapons to the Contras. Supporting any Latin American and Asian dictator who claims to be “anti-communist”.
    The US has a long history of meddling and undermining governments and leaders that have not “played ball” with US corporate interests. All paid for by the blood of working class kids who fight the wars and working class tax payers who pay for them.
    Can the US have a positive impact when engaging militarily ? Not in the long run. Look how the Iraq debacle has cascaded into new conflicts and unresolved old ones. Would the people of Iraq and Afghanistan be better off in the US had never invaded? (Those who have survived).
    I am aware of the “humanitarian” arguments. But frankly, they are usually nothing but smokescreens for economic pursuits.
    Obama seems on the verge of getting the US involved in another mess. Congress, cowards all, are content to sit back and make NO DECISION. Which is odd, since for the last 6 years all I have heard the GOP whine about is how Obama is a “dictator”. Here is their chance to stand up..and they slink away.
    Maybe it is time to sit back and stop thinking we are somehow superior and can impose this superiority on the rest of the world. Maybe 30 years of an isolationist policy (in regard to military actions only) would be a very good thing.


  2. whungerford says:

    The opposite of militarism isn’t necessarily isolation. We can have an active non-military foreign policy. Howard Zinn suggested we might better be a humanitarian superpower. However, if ISIL is using American-made tanks captured at Mosul, I believe we have an obligation to destroy them.


  3. BOB McGILL says:

    nobody mentioned closing our borders.
    ” to achieve real success in combating the problems that impoverish and hold back whole countries”
    ” impoverish ” ? do you think these people are still nomads living in tents ? Take ” OIL ” out of the equation and the whole picture would change. The US doesn’t have to have diplomatic relations with every country. Just pull our people out and let them kill each other off.


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