Best Defense

Wait a minute! It’s a big mistake to treat Iraq and Syria as no longer existing (12)

"For the United States to act as though (let alone declare) Syria and Iraq are ‘non-states’ would conversely legitimize ISIS and bolster its claim to the status of nationhood."

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Best Defense is in summer re-runs. This item originally appeared on November 11, 2014.

Kalev Sepp, Naval Postgraduate School:

“For the United States to act as though (let alone declare) Syria and Iraq are ‘non-states’ would conversely legitimize ISIS and bolster its claim to the status of nationhood. The peoples of such a stateless region, with no other government to provide order in their lives, would turn to ISIS for some measure of stability, however severe its laws and punishments.

Such popular support, however reluctantly given, is the foundation of a viable state. This has been the case in Afghanistan, where in many districts, the vacuum of governance allowed by the corrupt and incompetent central government has often been filled by the harsh but effectual Taliban. Further, a U.S. strategy that would tacitly signal that Iraq and Syria are an ungoverned area “up for grabs” would invite a flood of jihadi volunteers to ISIS. More ominously, it would open the door for Iran to move military forces into the two former countries. Iran could well claim it needs to stop the chaotic violence before it reaches its borders, and there would be no concern over any violation of sovereignty, since no sovereign states would exist. Any American strategy must proceed from the continued recognition of the existence of governments — whether friend or foe — in Iraq and Syria.”

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1
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