The Prime Minister, John Key has gradually changed his tune, as the topic of an alliance to fight ISIS has been raised over the few weeks since his re-election. His initial reaction was almost a skeptical "why would we do that, and with what?" But it has become apparent the defence force is trying to show that it isn't a waste of time and could be useful for something.
Doubtless they see the SAS doing raids and frigates policing embargoes, maybe with the 757s doing a bit of air transport for us and Australia. But the Prime Minister has pointed out there are important things a nation has to weigh up before sending its military anywhere to fight. Things like "what are they fighting for?"
This is a list of wars the United States has waged in the past thirty years. Only one of them, Desert Storm, was for something -- the liberation of Kuwait. All the others were against something. The US has only won, one of these wars, yep, the liberation of Kuwait.
It's easy to dislike ISIS. They are going out of their way to portray themselves as terrifying and awful. And let's not forget the most successful regime in Iraq in the last 50 years (Sadam's Baathists) was terrifying and awful. Being terrifying and awful is what you need to get fear, respect and compliance. Curiously though compared to the Sinaloa or Los Zetas in Mexico ISIS are amateurs. Count the beheaded bodies. Check the outrages. The only thing ISIS are good at is stirring up the United States.
And maybe that's because the United States wants to be stirred up. Or maybe not so much the US people but the Lockheed Martin's, the BAEs, the General Dynamics, etc etc who need the ongoing orders they have enjoyed for the past 10-20 years in the US war against phantom enemies to keep their factories generating huge profits. With so many senators, effectively sock puppets of the military industrial complex why would the US want to put down its gun?
It's like George Orwell predicted in 1984. Eternal War to keep the wheels of industry turning.
SHIA VS SUNNI
But the reality is that ISIS is part of a war which has nothing to do with the west. Watch your TV screens. Yemeni Sunnis attacking Shia aligned Houthi rebels . Sunni rebels attacking Shia aligned Hexbollah/ Lebanese armypositions in Lebanon. Sunni ISIS massacring Shia in Iraq. The simple fact is that the real war is between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Weirdly the US (which generally supports Saudi Arabia industrially and with military exports) is effectively lining up on Iran's side.
Because it's a relatively safe place to go (unlike Raqqa) Kobani is attracting a lot of media coverage. The Turkish Army and foreign correspondents are all lined up to watch the battle between ISIS and the Kurdish Peshmerga. The Kurds want international help but the NATO Turks aren't going to give them any.
Why not? Because ISIS is selling oil to the Turks for US$20 a barrel or a whopping 66% discount. The Turks can triple their money every time an ISIS tanker crosses the border. And given that the Turkish Army has always been a dubious political-industrial underground entity anyway it is more than certain that the roads those trucks follow are lined with Baksheesh.
WHO WANTS ISIS?
The fact is ISIS exists because the Sykes Picot agreement was a gentlemen's agreement to divide up various "wog" lands so that gentlemen (i.e. the British and the French) could access oil. The borders, like so many borders the UN inherited from the League of Nations are fundamentally imperialist relics. This is the legitimate attraction of ISIS.
The other people who want ISIS are a bunch of deeply disillusioned young men in Syria and Iraq. They've lost all hope of employment, marriage, and in the ability of the political process to deliver anything more than petty corruption. So they are doing what young men do: fight and fuck, or more accurately rape. This is dressed up in a religious millennialism similar to the despair at the Umma's failure to defeat the West that gave rise to the Wahabi movement in the first place.
The result is that Raqqaq is a sad arse hole as boring and miserable as Kabul was under the Taliban.
As Chelsea Manning (the nominal traitor) has pointed out, their worst fear is that the West might leave them alone. Then there will be nobody to fight at their hoped for armageddon in Dabiq, North Western Syria.
Another lobby which finds ISIS helpful is Israel. ISIS helps cement in Western minds that Muslims are satanic crazy men and in the spirit of "American Sniper" the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim. This provides excellent cover for Israel's gradually pushing the citizens of Gaza into the sea.
The threat of ISIS to human life on the North American continent is less than that posed by native wild animals but due to the strange disassociation of Americans which leads them to identify with Israel the ISIS threat is considered clear and present.
For some reason Australia has also become very excited about the threat posed by ISIS. The new Prime Minister Tony Abbott appears to have taken on Dubya Bush's mantle as chimpanzee in chief in leading the world to oppose global Jihad, even though there isn't much Jihad to be had in Australia. The disappointment when the Sydney restaurant siege was actually the work of an Iranian nutjob and not some ISIS cell was palpable. The desire to rush manfully into battle against the forces of Sauron, uh I mean ISIS, seems to have gripped the imagination of some obscure part of the Australian defence establishment's imagination.
The same is clearly true in this country. It has been obvious from the outset that is has been the defence force pushing for New Zealand's inclusion in any mission to Iraq. While the Prime Minister has been sounding uncertain the defence force has been liaising, planning, training and making visits. The defence force is not the servant, it is setting the agenda in favour of some fresh adventure to justify its budget and career objectives.
So the militant forces of the West and ISIS are setting themselves up for conflict. The mission is "stop ISIS". With a mission like that, they could be there forever. In effect its a conflict between dispossessed young men from two worlds. ISIS is there to defend the honour of Islam's prophet.The West is there to defend the profits of arms manufacturers. The victims will be the families on the battlefield and the young fools who seek to prove their manhood in pointless conflict.
My fear is that the West will fail. Instead of denying ISIS an enemy it will half-heartedly provide one and ISIS will turn any half hearted effort into a massive propaganda victory for its crazed millennial mentality leading more dispossessed young men on both sides to flock to the meatgrinder and be reduced to blood and bone.
WHY DO ANYTHING?
The US successfully ignored the deadliest war since World War Two (the first and follow-on second Congo Wars). It stayed out of the Syrian civil war. It won't dare provoke the North Koreans. It ignores Boko Haram. It has manifestly failed to tackle its drug problem and the Mexican cartels. It ignores the plight of the Palestinians. In short the US is very selective about the reasons why it picks some fights and says schtumm on others.
There is little doubt that Israel is donkey deep in this push toward an intervention against ISIS. The obvious threat would be that if the US doesn't do something about ISIS then Israel will. And militarily Israel could easily fight all the way to the Euphrates crushing any and all opposition without difficulty. The only reason they don't is that there would be a real Jihad against them. They would unite Sunni and Shia against them and even the pliant Saudis would end up becoming involved.
But honestly the ultimate question is who's problem is all of this really? If Arab nations long for some return to the dark ages of their past who are we to try and prevent them? Why is it our business? What are we fighting for? Are we trying to rid that part of the world of Islam through some genocidal crusade? I don't think so. The Mongols tried that in Iraq with far less squeamishness than the West and didn't get far. Are we fighting for oil? No, oil prices have fallen because of the US fracking glut, we don't need mideast oil. Are we fighting to prevent another 9-11? But 9-11 only happened because it hadn't been foreseen, and frankly more people are killed in domestic violence each year in the West than are killed in 'terror' attacks. In real terms the Slender Man is a bigger threat than ISIS. Ultimately 'terror' is just a branch of criminal investigation.
To my mind the only value, the only interest the West seems to be fighting for is feminism. The West seems to believe that the Islamists mistreatment of women is deeply offensive - which it is. But if that is what we are fighting for, why don't we have any enunciation of that? I think the reason is simple. We don't know.
We are just fighting because it suits a bunch of people to start a war and it won't stop until it suits them to stop.
This could take some time.