The Western coalition forces fighting ISIS will not prevail. Make no mistake, they will come ahead guns blazing on the military front, but the idea and the spirit of ISIS will not die. For a fourth decade in a row the West chooses to be reluctant in understanding the social values of radical Islam. They are fighting a just war with the wrong ammunition. Ideas are not killed by bombs and drones but only by better ideas and education.
No dictatorship can survive without appealing to the masses, providing them with their basic needs – food, medicine, shelter. Radical Islam is no different. Any military campaign against a militant Islamic group should be joined and followed by substantial financial aid to local groups and organizations in a position to provide welfare and basic needs for any population liberated from radical rule.
If anyone is looking for a proof for the demise of the American empire, it can be found by comparing the number of country building the US has done post WW2 and in recent years.
In 1946 the United States government issued the Marshall Plan. A 130 billion dollar (in 2016 terms) economic support to help rebuild Western economies after World War II, and prevent the spread of communism. That figure is on top the cost of war. Although there is no definitive figure, but according to studies conducted in recent years the cost of the military campaign itself cost well over 4 trillion dollars, for the United States alone. Meaning the US chose to spend an extra 3.25% of the cost of war in order to guarantee that its efforts were not undone.
Both the war in Iraq and Afghanistan cost about 2.7 trillion dollars. Applying the same logic here, it would suggest the US is to spend an extra 88 billion dollars in order to protect their special interests.
The Afghanistan War objectives were met merely a month into the operation at a cost of no more than 15 billion dollars. The extra 14 years and almost 985 billion dollars were spent as a result of Taliban and al-Qaeda uprising and failure to establish a self-sufficient Afghan security force.
But these were all military spending. According to USAID the amount of money invested in civilian and social infrastructure amounted to a total of 17 billion dollar. Applying the Marshall standard, it entails that the US is only half way there, investing only 50% of what it did in Europe post world war 2.
Same goes for Iraq. The Iraq War mission was accomplished 3 weeks into the invasion. The entire cost of war for 2003 was 51 billion dollar. Even if we are to assume that these costs were spend evenly throughout the year that would mean that the cost of the military campaign was as low as 10 billion dollars. But then again the direct full cost of the military campaign, more than a decade later, is as high as 1.7 trillion dollars according to recent estimates.
After the announcement made by President Bush on board of a US aircraft carrier, the international coalition put forward a plan to rebuild Iraq. That plan had cost 36 billion dollars, out of which only 18 billion were actually provided. Putting aside the atrocious fact that the plan wasn’t funded, it is still only 60% of the 56 billion dollars the US should’ve invested according to the Marshall standard.
It is true that hindsight is 20:20. But we can deduce something from it about the current status of the US policy towards nation building, which is “we will spend as much as necessary to destroy it but we will scrutinize every penny needed to provide for a long term solution”.
And here is the lesson for the fight against ISIS. Regardless of the final cost of the military campaign, the US should set up a fund of 50 billion dollars, payed directly to local organizations to come in and take over ISIS’ social infrastructure. Remove teachings of radical Islam from text books, provide a scientific education. Provide health care for the sick and wounded. Provided psychological help. Provide food, shelter and basic needs for the elderly and poor. Provide real support for nation building, employees’ rights, stripped down bureaucracy, international trade agreements. That is the only way to guarantee the demise of ISIS’ radical ideology, otherwise we should be preparing to face this threat time and time again. Yemen 2017?