The Paris terror attacks have left France reeling and the rest of the world searching for answers. What happened last Friday was horrific and tragic. Tracy and I have been praying for the people of France. I studied international relations in college with a particular interest in European affairs. Tracy went on a missions trip to Latvia years ago. We both have an enormous heart for the continent. We’re believing that Jesus will move on the hearts and minds of men and women and that the Holy Spirit would comfort Parisians in their great time of need.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the barbaric acts. The terrorist group has launched a wave of terror on a global scale. Not only is the group a self-proclaimed state, but they are attracting foreign fighters and extremists to their cause at an unprecedented rate.
Although the attack happened in Paris, President Obama has faced a barrage of criticism from Republicans and media personnel. On Monday at the G-20 summit in Turkey, a visibly frustrated President Obama painstakingly tried to answer questions concerning what his administration was doing in the face of violence that is spreading all over the world.
We have to pray fervently for President Obama and the decisions he and other world leaders are going to make in the wake of these horrific attacks. We have to pray that the Holy Spirit would guide them. We have to pray that God would give our president great judgment. President Obama needs to have impeccable, peripheral vision; he and his advisors need to gauge the environment in all its complexities to know where the next threat is coming. He needs a great amount of foresight. I’m praying that he would have the ability to understand what is likely to follow from the different policy options his administration employs.
We are living in dangerous times and we need strong and wise leadership. President Obama has many dilemmas that are besetting him. In this blog, I will briefly discuss one major quandary the Obama administration faces: whether to move beyond air strikes and send in US troops to destroy ISIS. Solving the crisis of unprecedented global terrorist attacks will not be a quick fix.
At one point, the ISIS army numbered around 30,000 fighting men. They are in a specific geographic location that covers parts of both Iraq and Syria. They’re not hiding in sporadic mountainous caves plotting attacks like Osama Bin Laden. We have been conducting airstrikes against them for over a year and have built a broad coalition of nations to fight with us. The White House claims that ISIS territory has decreased, but in light of the horrific attacks including Paris, the downed Russian airliner, the attack in Turkey, and others it seems that things are getting worse as ISIS has shifted their strategy of terror beyond the Middle East region.
The chorus of political actors and other seems to be growing louder when it comes to sending in our military to completely destroy the terrorist organization. However, I can’t help but wonder if this is the right solution. It may rid the Middle East of their nexus of power, but will it really change the instability of the region? Will it resolve the issues that fueled their rise in the first place?
President Obama insisted that there are multiple policy options that are being employed to deal with ISIS. He is committed to avoiding a long, intractable war where U.S. soldiers are placed in the region as a buffer against potential terrorist groups or other harmful influences. The President has been adamant about bringing and keeping our brave American troops home.
As I watched his news conference at the G-20 Summit in Turkey, I was reminded that people, especially in times of crisis, look to leaders for technical solutions. We want the experts to give us fast and accurate answers when confronted with complex challenges. However, some problems require more than the quick and technical fix. There are numerous problems that can only be solved through comprehensive, holistic, and adaptive changes. Ronald Heifetz (Director of the Center of Public Leadership at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University) writes about this in his classic piece, Leadership Without Easy Answers:
On April 29, 1992, Los Angeles exploded in the most violent and destructive American urban riots of the century. The acquittal of four white policeman for criminal assault in the widely televised beating of a black motorist Rodney King unleashed a fury of looting, arson, and killing, painfully reminiscent of the 1960s. Thousands of federal troops helped to restore order, but not before fifty-two people were dead, hundreds were wounded, and more than one billion dollars worth of property was destroyed. Two days later, President George H. W. Bush, in a nationally televised speech, focused on the immediate source of distress, condemning the violence and promising a swift restoration while suggesting federal action to ensure justice for King. (Heifetz, 1)
Heifetz points out that President Bush failed in using his authority to mobilize a commitment to resolve the issues that fueled the riot which were racism, long-term economic disparity, crime-ridden neighborhoods, and frustration over policing methods. The dilemma President Bush faced was how much attention should be focused on the symptoms of the crisis as opposed to how much attention should be given to the long-term strategy of addressing the underlying issues of the riot.
Similarly, there are deeply embedded issues that created ISIS and fueled the terrorist organization’s success. The circumstances that have led to rise of ISIS are varied and vast including: the Maliki government’s failure to incorporate and grant Sunni Arab Leaders influence into the Iraqi government, Bashar al-Assad’s oppressive regime and slaughter of the Syrian people, lack of economic opportunity, the withdrawal of American forces, the relative weakness of the Iraqi army, etc.
Implementing comprehensive and adaptive changes as opposed to quick technical answers can be analogous to treating medical conditions such as high blood pressure. We look to experts (doctors) to give us technical help (medicine) to treat our illnesses. We can take the medication and potentially rid ourselves of the ailment, but have we solved the underlying cause of the condition?
Solving the inherent causes of high blood pressure would lead us to take preventative steps (adaptive changes) to effectively avoid having the high blood pressure. In this case, adaptive change would be a comprehensive modification to one’s lifestyle. This can include: watching what you eat, exercising regularly, getting an adequate amount of sleep, etc. These lifestyle alterations require us to adopt new disciplines to ensure our health.
The White House has talked about how they are implementing a comprehensive approach to dealing with ISIS including airstrikes: building an international coalition, diplomatic negotiations, an economic embargo, and empowering opposition forces including the Kurds and Moderate Syrian Rebels. Their strategy does not include sending in a force of 50,000 American soldiers to retake the land that is currently occupied by ISIS, but perhaps this strategy will tackle some of the adaptive challenges the region faces.
I believe that sending in American forces should be an option that is left on the table, but I’m glad to see that the administration recognizes the adaptive work that needs to happen. Either way, President Obama will continue to face enormous pressure as he deals with the predicament of how to eradicate ISIS. Again, we need to lift him up in our prayers. He needs wisdom on how to deal with this threat.
I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.