The United States should not be in Iraq fighting ISIS.

We’ve just ended over a decade in Iraq and the result has been Al-Qaeda Iraq morphing into ISIS, as well as a further quagmire in a region known for continuous sectarian violence. Iraqis themselves must defend their state from an insane group of terrorists who’ve rebranded themselves as ISIS, or ISIL, but still share the same lineage to Al-Qaeda and other groups the U.S. has battled since 9/11. Below are a number of reasons why President Obama’s strategy is not only short-sighted, but falls into the hands of terrorists who wish to wage counterinsurgency warfare and lure a great power into their trap.

  1. The U.S. Armed Forces have been overburdened fighting deadly, costly, and never-ending wars in the Middle East.

There’s great sacrifice needed to fight insurgents hiding in apartment buildings, blending into civilian regions, and planting IED’s that explode like this. After 4,486 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq and 2,344 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan, 1 million U.S. soldiers wounded in both wars, and a potential cost of up to $6 trillion, the last thing American soldiers and their families need is another war. Iraqis must defend themselves from ISIS and America can’t stay in Iraq forever, battling foes that simply morph into new names, or grow new entities like a hydra. Both Republicans and Democrats should remember the VA crisis that is still taking place: over 514,000 veterans are still waiting for disability benefits, the average wait time for their first claim is 318 days, and the average wait time for additional claims is over 160 days. America has done enough and our soldiers, and their families, have sacrificed enough.

  1. ISIS is not the threat to the U.S. that many assume, nor is the threat of terrorism worth perpetual wars in the Middle East.

Here are the number of American deaths according to the U.S. Department of State, in the past five years, from terrorism:

2013
U.S. citizens overseas killed as a result of incidents of terrorism: 16
U.S. citizens overseas injured as a result of incidents of terrorism: 7
U.S. citizens overseas kidnapped as a result of incidents of terrorism: 12

2012

U.S. citizens worldwide killed as a result of incidents of terrorism: 10
U.S. citizens worldwide injured as a result of incidents of terrorism: 2
U.S. citizens worldwide kidnapped as a result of incidents of terrorism: 3

2011

U.S. citizens worldwide killed as a result of incidents of terrorism: 17
U.S. citizens worldwide injured as a result of incidents of terrorism: 14
U.S. citizens worldwide kidnapped as a result of incidents of terrorism: 3

2010
U.S. citizens worldwide killed as a result of incidents of terrorism: 15
U.S. citizens worldwide injured as a result of incidents of terrorism: 9
U.S. citizens worldwide kidnapped as a result of incidents of terrorism: 0

2009
U.S. citizens worldwide killed as a result of incidents of terrorism: 9
U.S. citizens worldwide injured as a result of incidents of terrorism: 14
U.S. citizens worldwide kidnapped as a result of incidents of terrorism: 4

Here are the deaths worldwide according to the U.S. Department of State, and the overwhelming majority of deaths resulted from groups like ISIS targeting Muslim citizens, and people who live in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hazardous regions:

2013
In 2013, a total of 9,707 terrorist attacks occurred worldwide, resulting in more than 17,800 deaths and more than 32,500 injuries. In addition, more than 2,990 people were kidnapped or taken hostage… The ten countries that experienced the most terrorist attacks in 2013 are the same as those that experienced the most terrorist attacks in 2012. The ranking in terms of total attacks increased for Iraq, the Philippines, and Syria, decreased for Pakistan, Nigeria, Yemen, and Somalia, and remained the same for Afghanistan, India, and Thailand.

2012
In 2012, a total of 6,771 terrorist attacks occurred worldwide, resulting in more than 11,000 deaths and more than 21,600 injuries. In addition, more than 1,280 people were kidnapped or taken hostage.

2011
Over 10,000 terrorist attacks occurred in 2011, affecting nearly 45,000 victims in 70 countries and resulting in over 12,500 deaths.

2010
Over 11,500 terrorist attacks occurred in 72 countries in 2010, resulting in approximately 50,000 victims, including almost 13,200 deaths.

2009
Approximately 11,000 terrorist attacks occurred in 83 countries during 2009, resulting in over 58,000 victims, including nearly 15,000 fatalities.

Furthermore, ISIS isn’t America’s Hamas. First, around 2,495 Israelis have been killed by terrorist attacks since 1948 according to Israel National News. Hamas has blown up busses and cafes, targeted innocent lives, and engaged in a number of other crimes against humanity, but the PLO, Hezbollah, and other terror groups were also responsible for the death toll. Also, 19 Americans (including the Boston Bombing) died in 2013 while 17,800 died and 32,500 were injured around the world. Terrorism is a global issue, but it affects others more than it does American citizens; over 100,000 human beings in foreign countries, in the past five years, who were not American died from terror groups.

  1. Iraqis have their own military, as do the Kurds and other enemies of ISIS.

According to the Guardian, Iraqis (in aggregate) have far more troops and military capacity than ISIS:

After Iraq’s armed forces were disbanded following the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the United States and its allies committed more than $25bn to training and building a new military. With more than 250,000 frontline troops (not counting paramilitary police units), on paper at least the Iraqi military should be effective. It is equipped with almost 400 tanks including US M1A1s and Russian T- series tanks including the T-72. It also has more than 2,500 armoured fighting vehicles and 278 aircraft, including drones, transport aircraft, amphibious aircraft and 129 helicopters.

… Although some 35,000 Kurdish peshmerga are incorporated into the Iraqi security forces, other peshmerga remain outside with published estimates varying from 80,000 to three times that number. Two years ago a Kurdish official suggested the peshmerga numbered 190,000. Increasingly well equipped – including with 2,000 armoured vehicles and rocket artillery systems – they are regarded as motivated, well trained and experienced.

ISIS has at most 50,000 soldiers, and many estimates have them at far lower troop levels. Also, they’ve taken over key cities, but a basic tenant of military science is that defending territory is costly in lives, money, and resources. Both ends of the Middle Eastern spectrum, from Saudi Arabia to Iran are enemies with ISIS, so it’s difficult to imagine this group controlling all of Iraq with Arabs, Iranians, Europeans, and the U.S. against it economically, diplomatically, as well as arming and funding the Iraqis to a far greater extent.

4. ISIS is beheading journalists for a reason, and it’s not simply to cause outrage.

The beheading videos worked like a charm for ISIS, and yes, they do have their own marketing and media department:

Al Hayat, ISIS’s media department, are nothing if not effective amateur psychologists. They’re also adept marketers. These are great “Jihadi infomercials” — they’re presenting a limited-time offer, and encouraging potential recruits to act now.

Therefore, it’s safe to say they want to lure America into another costly battle that when won, still morphs and becomes a new battle with a new terrorist group. Groups like ISIS, or Hamas, want greater powers lured into never-ending wars since economically and politically, guerrilla warfare works to weaken the more powerful country over time. In Israel’s case, negotiations aimed at a lasting resolution would be the worst thing for Hamas, Iran, Syria, and enemies of Israel. The current budget cuts and economic crisis in Israel were exacerbated by the Gaza War, and the U.S. is paying billions just in interest from two wars. Likewise, letting Iraqis fight ISIS would be the worst thing for terror recruitment, funding, etc. and not having the U.S. in Iraq would remove a pillar of the raison detre for ISIS.

The U.S. has done enough and our soldiers should stay away from perpetual war that is desired by ISIS and enemies of America. Iraqis should defend their own country with funding, arms, and political support from Western countries. President Obama’s strategy falls squarely into the lap of ISIS and a weekend Al-Qaeda, and shows terrorists that horrific videos will lure America into perpetual war.