There were two feelings that surprised me when I heard that the US military was launching airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The first surprising feeling was one of relief. Finally, I thought, somebody is doing something. The second surprising feeling was one of pride. Hey, I thought, that somebody is us. We’re doing something.
These feelings came as a surprise because like most Americans I have grown deeply disenchanted with American military intervention over the last ten years. The lesson of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seemed to be that we could not impose democracy in places where it was not fervently desired by the local population. The lesson of the Arab Spring seemed to be that democracy may not be that good (for us or for anyone else) in places where Islamic militarism has majority support among the local population. Like most Americans I was skeptical of our military involvement in Lybia and resistant to President Obama’s plans last year for airstrikes against the Assad regime in Syria.
Despite all of that ISIS has managed to remind us that some people need to be fought. War is messy and the events surrounding war crimes are often disputed but the leadership of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria seems determined to let the whole world know exactly how despicable they are. They have broadcast their mass execution of prisoners. They have wantonly destroyed the churches and shrines of Christians in areas they have conquered as well as the mosques and shrines of Muslims that they consider apostate. They have taken the term “rape culture” to a whole new level with their policy of forced “marriages.” If all of that still doesn’t move you there is this CNN report about ISIS beheading not only the adults but the children of every Christian family they can find and placing their heads on spikes.
I know that Americans have done some bad things from time to time. I know that we’re “not the world’s policeman” and that we can’t respond to every injustice. I know that the United States is broke and that we can’t afford to always be fighting everyone else’s wars. I know some defense contractor profiteer is probably cheering for these airstrikes and anticipating the windfall in taxpayer money he will receive from this military intervention. I know that if this intervention goes on long enough there will be collateral damage and American bombs will probably injure or kill several innocent victims. I am not unconcerned about any of these facts but I am proud that the United States of America is launching airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and that those airstrikes are drawing blood. These people need to be bombed. If there is anything worth killing for then the fighters of ISIS need to be killed.
Fortunately this seems to be the developing consensus. The leading Republican isolationist of the last generation, Pat Buchanan, told the McLaughlin group “I think [Obama] has done the right thing in using airpower to stop a successful attack on Kurdistan.” The leading Republican isolationist of this generation, Rand Paul, has not yet offered an opinion on the airstrikes but the fact that he has not condemned them is telling. The leading Democrat of this generation is the commander in chief who ordered the airstrikes. The governments of Britain, France and Germany have also announced their support for American airstrikes against ISIS and I am optimistic that when the opinion polls come out next week the American people will as well.
In the last ten years Americans have grown tremendously in their love for peace and their reticence for war. We have been disillusioned by the costs of war, both human and financial, as well as by the limits of what our blood and treasure can really accomplish overseas. But if there has ever been anything worth fighting for it is to stop those who wantonly, deliberately, repeatedly, publicly and proudly kill innocent men, women and children. I am proud of the American soldiers that are killing the fighters of ISIS. I am proud of the nation that has sent them there with the weapons and the training required to get the job done. May God bless our soldiers. May God bless this country. May God have mercy on the souls of those they are fighting… because even more than most of us they are surely going to need it.