By now, you’ve probably seen ISIS’s gruesome images and its rampage through northern Iraq and Syria.
It is the sort of imagery you would have expected if social media had existed during the Crusades –Middle Age tactics like beheadings, other killings and stonings all in the name of religion.
But it’s nearly 7,000 miles away on the other side of the globe. Is it something we really need to worry about as Americans?
Some lawmakers in Washington are concerned, particularly over what they would describe as the Obama administration’s lack of concern. Sen. Jeff Sessions argues the success of ISIS will feed on itself.
“The encouragement that comes to the terrorist forces when they see success on the battlefield places us all at greater risk. So, I am deeply worried about that,” Sessions said in an appearance at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville last month. “I see other rising threats around the globe. There are times when the Unites States has to assert leadership. It just has to. No one else can do it.”
Some of the more hawkish proponents of action against ISIS warn the terrorist group will try to exploit the vulnerabilities of the U.S.-Mexico border to get into the country. It’s hard to imagine Mobile would be a top target, but if an ISIS militant got into the country and just got one explosive device detonated anywhere, it would have a much different impact on the United States.
In 2011 on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, The New York Times estimated the final tally of the attacks on the American public to be $3.3 trillion. The direct cost of the attack in physical damage was only $55 billion and the direct economic impact was somewhere in the neighborhood of $123 billion.
The bulk of the cost of 9/11 came way after the fact, when the U.S. government put in all the preventive measures, like creating the Department of Homeland Security and going to war in the name of taking the fight to the terrorists.
Should just one Boston Marathon-style bomb go off in the United States that was somehow tied to ISIS would certainly reinvigorate the fervor from lawmakers we saw after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Suddenly military action in northern Iraq beyond surgical airstrikes would be considered a necessity. A war-weary country could potentially be asked by President Barack Obama, who had originally been the anti-Iraq war candidate during the 2008 campaign, for permission to send ground troops to Iraq once again.
Wouldn’t that be awkward?
Additionally, lawmakers would insist upon more spending to put in place measures that would protect against and/or minimize the effects of a terrorist attack. Those sorts of legislative acts tend to be laced with pork-barrel spending.
The University of South Alabama was able to receive federal funds for its on-campus transit system after 9/11 from the federal government because it was said the transportation system would be necessary in the unlikely event of a terrorist attack on the USA campus and students for whatever reason would choose to evacuate the campus to safety via a Disney World-style parking lot trolley.
And so goes how to work the system of our federal government.
In the meantime, as unattractive as military action in northern Iraq may sound, it’s better there than here and would be perhaps less costly.
At a minimum, drone attacks and airstrikes should be in the mix because as ISIS gains more territory and has success on the battlefield, it’ll be a magnet for wannabe jihadists flying to Turkey and then crossing into Iraq from there.
There is a deep pool to pull from. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and while all Muslims don’t have jihadist tendencies, there is certainly a significant chunk of that population throughout the world that does.
As we approach the 2016 election cycle, the threat of terrorism will certainly be a campaign issue, if not just because of chatter abroad but also because of the situation in Iraq as well. As of now, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks to be the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The situation in Iraq will make Clinton a target for her Republican competition because much of the groundwork for this jihadi chaos occurred during her tenure as Obama’s Secretary of State. One potential Republican candidate seems to have picked up on taking a hawkish strategy.
“We ought to bomb them back to the Stone Age,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said over the weekend in Dallas.
Taking the fight to them, while unappealing, may be the wise move. In an interview earlier this year, President Barack Obama called ISIS the JV team – a comment he probably now regrets. Even if you’re not willing to give them anything more than “JV” status, why not go ahead and take them out to avoid the potential future costs?