Four months ago, I wrote a blog posting titled “Iraq’s Eternal War”, and to my surprise I found it to be one of my more popular posting. With ISIS troops set to go into Baghdad with little resistance on the ground to stop this, it would appear ISIS are about to take over the whole country and then what? When I wrote earlier on my blog, ISIS were seen as a new group but one that had the potential to cause much damage as it sought to impose its more radical brand of Islam on the rest of the world, and so it has turned out, and with no end in sight given the ineptitude of any credible opposition.
All this is coupled with dismay over a lack of effective western leadership and a United Nations that lacks the authority and will to resolve issues of this nature. Sadly, as I listened to and watched the news this morning, this story did not even feature. While disappointed, I was not surprised. There are other dilemmas too – the history of western involvement in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East is one of unholy alliances, often with western powers making deals with leaders of dubious character and switching allegiances to suit the need of the hour and serve what was reckoned as the best interest of the western powers at the time. This adds to a weary ambivalence and a mood among the electorates not to get involved.
The gift of hindsight is one we don’t have much as we might wish it otherwise. If we had, we would never have supported the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime on what has turned out spurious grounds: the threat caused by his supposed accumulation of weapons of mass destruction. We might ruefully reflect that while we won the war, we lost the peace, and the threat we are now faced with and the evil (some of it having already been realized and plain to see in news reporting) is arguably worse than that of the regime that was toppled. Moreover, for the more discerning, this is part of a rise in Islamic Fundamentalism that is evident in several other countries and is rightly a cause for alarm.
That is past and other than reflecting on yet again a failure to learn the lessons of history and understand what we are up against, we are faced with the question of what we do next. By we, I mean the western democracies, led by the USA, of which my country, the UK, plays a lesser yet potentially crucial part. I was rather castigated a few days ago by a Facebook friend who was urging us to hold to account MPs who voted for UK military action in Iraq. My support for such action, based on the analogy of what happened when we appeased Hitler in his rise to power in the 1930’s, was rather dismissed and I was accused of being unchristian. Something not too dissimilar was argued in a recent article in Christian Today. Those know me will know that theology is “my thing” and I believe there is a theological rationale for supporting a just war. While war by its nature is evil, insofar it is the innocent who invariably suffer, sometimes it is the lesser of evils given what might happen, i.e. the massacre of the innocents and other damage in the case of ISIS, and can be rightly embarked upon, albeit reluctantly.
It is hard not be moved by the blogs of Canon Andrew White, Anglican Vicar of Baghdad, as he reflects on ISIS on the brink of taking over the city and thereby ruthlessly impose its way on defenseless citizens, as we have seen. There would seem little in the way of preventing this happening, certainly not a woefully inept Iraqi army. As Canon White says, the bombing campaign is ineffective, maybe almost useless, and what is needed is trained and effective troops on the ground, which it appears only the Western powers are able to provide. But the question is should they? While I believe they should, I will continue to put my trust in God who is sovereign and almighty despite the evident evil that is ISIS.