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ISIS Poses No Existential Threat to America

As the Islamic warriors of ISIS rolled down the road from Mosul, John McCain was an echo of French Premier Paul Reynaud, when word reached Paris that Rommel had broken through in the Ardennes: “We are now facing an existential threat to the security of the United States of America,” said McCain. But nothing that happens in Mesopotamia is going to threaten the existence of the United States. As for the terrorist threat from ISIS, for us it is neither greater nor less than it was a week ago.

The existential threat here is to Iraq. Its survival as one nation is now in question, with the possibility it could be torn apart in a civil and sectarian war. But this is preeminently Iraq’s problem, not ours. And if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his 900,000-man army, and Shia militia cannot defend Baghdad from a few thousand Islamist warriors, America is under no obligation to do it for them. Maliki told us to go home three years ago. We did. And before we plunge back into that misbegotten war, let us consider what the real threats are—to America.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria consists of fanatics who seek to carve a caliphate out of territory they now control from Aleppo in Syria to 60 miles north of Baghdad. Yet they have halted before Baghdad. And among the reasons is that Iraq’s Shia majority is not going to allow Sunni zealots to capture their cities, smash their shrines, and murder their fellow Shia. They will fight, as the Iraqi army did not.

Secondly, ISIS has as allies in the north and west of Iraq Sunnis who detest Maliki and wish to be rid of him. But these Sunni are not demanding a Taliban regime to abolish smoking and drinking. Nor are they fighting to cut off the heads of their Shia countrymen. If ISIS goes beyond the liberation of the Sunni triangle to trying to take over all of Iraq, they will lose many Sunni allies and find themselves facing Iraq’s Shia majority, backed up by Iranian forces, virtually alone.

But while the Iraqi army and Shia militia may well hold Baghdad, it is hard to see how Maliki can soon reconquer the Sunni provinces. For the Sunnis want no part of him or his regime. Nor does Maliki seem capable of taking back Kirkuk, which the Kurds seized in the chaos as a step toward independence. What should America do? Take a hard look at our entire Middle East policy.

Consider. We are now providing weapons to the Free Syrian Army to oust Bashar Assad. “Assad must go!” blared Barack Obama in one of his many ignored ultimata. But should Assad fall, the result will be the persecution of the Syrian Christians, a massacre of the Alawites, and a possible takeover of the country by the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and ISIS. Is any of that in America’s interests?

Vladimir Putin lately raised a valid question: Why, in Syria, are the Americans on the same side as the people who took down the twin towers? Indeed, why are we? And who is fighting al-Qaida and ISIS in Syria, battling those McCain calls an “existential threat” to American security? Bashar Assad. Hezbollah. Iran. Russia.

Tehran has reportedly volunteered to work with us in providing military aid to prop up the Maliki regime and keep ISIS out of Baghdad. If we regard the survival of the Maliki regime to be in our national interests, why would we not green-light the Iranians to do this? When Hitler turned on his partner Stalin, the United States rushed military aid to save the monster whom FDR and Truman took to calling “Good Old Joe” and “Uncle Joe” at Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam. Is the Ayatollah somehow worse than Stalin?


Yet, consider, too, how our allies in the Gulf and Middle East have behaved in Syria. The Turks, clamoring for the overthrow of Assad, looked the other way as jihadists moved into Syria. The Gulf states and Saudis have reportedly sent money and military aid to the extremists. Are the Turks and Gulf Arabs aiding these jihadists in the belief they will not turn on them, if and when Assad and Maliki fall? Do they think that by feeding this tiger ISIS, it will eat them last?

We may be entering the early stages of a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East. The ISIS claim of having executed 1,700 captured Shia soldiers in Iraq is surely intended to ignite one. If it happens, this war could spread to Lebanon, Jordan and down into the Gulf states where Shia outnumber Sunnis in Bahrain and in the oil-producing provinces of the Saudi northeast.

Does the Middle East today—Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon—look like what we were promised by George Bush and his neocon advisers when they were beating the drums for a U.S. invasion of Iraq?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? [1] Copyright 2014 Creators.com [2].

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#1 Comment By ABK On June 17, 2014 @ 6:27 pm

Making the world economy crash and sending most of Asia off into a war as a result is an Existential Threat to the USA.

Until Iraq is divided up into sections this is going to keep going into replay.

It should be split up between Turkey, Iran, and the Kurds.

#2 Comment By balconesfault On June 17, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

Clearly, we are facing an existential threat to Neoconservatism … and that’s enough to have the man the GOP would have put in the White House in 2009 very very worried …

#3 Comment By k margos On June 17, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

Very rational, very reasonable. Unfortunately it is just spitting in the wind. The very best we can hope for is a less unreasonable policy towards Iran.

#4 Comment By David Naas On June 17, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

If the neocons want to get involved, let them don uniforms, pick up guns, and go there, at their own expense.

#5 Comment By Lucas On June 17, 2014 @ 9:23 pm

The nations of the middle east are not organically formed. They are not natural. They were purposefully constructed by Britain and France (ie European Colonial Powers) to keep the middle east sewn with internal conflict and thus easier to manage.

The colonial powers have been gone for a half century but europe still doesnt want powerful nuclear rivals in the middle east.



I agree with Pat Buchanan. ISIS is not a threat to the US and I dont think its a threat to the region either.

If Sunni Iraq does merge with Syria then what happens to the Kurdish portion and the Shia portion. I dont think the Kurds want to go to Turkey or to ISIS. I dont think the Iraqi Shia want to go to Iran.

Much is yet to play out but I agree with Pat Buchanan that our interference may not be necessary and may put future US relationships with the outcome in jeopardy.

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On June 17, 2014 @ 9:46 pm

“Vladimir Putin lately raised a valid question: Why, in Syria, are the Americans on the same side as the people who took down the twin towers? Indeed, why are we? ”

It is inexplicable, that. It’s as if we turned on our own cause.

It belies the public’s desire for vengeance against Muslim’s period without thought of which specific Muslims we were after.

Of course those arguments back in 2001 and after were met by pretty angry comments about being unpatriotic, a muslim sympathizer, stupid, liberal,progressive or as Miss Coulter and company put it – ‘a homosexual.’

I am not now or was I then a homosexual, a muslim or muslim sympathizer as they meant it, a liberal, a progressive or homosexual. I may be stupid, but listening to the recriminations, hiding, running, blaming and pretense that everything is just fine – smiley faces on the news —

I prefer my stupidity to the culpability and lack of accountability. How all the in the know geniuses got so much so wrong is not really a mystery, but we can pretend that it is.


#7 Comment By Masood On June 17, 2014 @ 10:53 pm

Not the early stages but in the middle of it. The US is responsible for this sectarian war. The only beneficiary of this war are Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is financing this bloodshed and we can’t do anything. So what is our response? Bury our heads in the sand and claim that this is not our war. It is time to be a “man” and stop the Saudi madness.

Iran’s only “crime” was to take American spies as hostage but no one died. 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis that killed more than 3000 people in New York. Our response; Iran as one of the axis of evil. Saudi Arabia is financing terrorists all over the globe and we are enabling them. We are selling arms to these terrorists.

It is time for the Americans to rise up and tell the government, enough.

#8 Comment By Uncle Billy On June 18, 2014 @ 5:31 am

The idea that we could remake Iraq into some sort of western democracy (and US puppet) is nonsense. We were sold a bill of goods. Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, but are the Iraqi people really better off with a nasty Sunni vs. Shia civil war?

The US should provide humanitarian aid, perhaps some logistics, but stay out of the fighting. I doubt that the Iranians are going to sit by and watch the Sunni fanatics slaughter Shiites by the thousands for too long.

#9 Comment By Fran Macadam On June 18, 2014 @ 12:23 pm

The existential threat continues to be to our remaining liberties and former economic way of life, already eviscerated by the domestic elites’ constant foreign warmaking of choice.

#10 Comment By FatHappy SouthernBoy On June 18, 2014 @ 12:45 pm

“What should America do?”

Embrace and support a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq (but draw an actual red line at allowing them to cross into Turkey) and let the Iraqis sort the rest out themselves.

#11 Comment By cdugga On June 18, 2014 @ 1:05 pm

My job is to ask questions! The questions to answer now might be, what limited air strikes could accomplish and what would be the response of sunni extremists to US interference in their psychopathic, female starved, organized crime religious labeled jihad? Going further, if the sunni’s do manage to bring the whole region into sectarian war, what should the US do then? And finally, if the sunni extremists prevail enough, will they turn their attention to more terrorism against the west and the US interests even if we did not interfere in their blood feud?
It may be possible for the US to continue lopping off the heads of violent fundamentalist leaders across the middle east, but what do we gain at a cost of 10’s of millions per head? As a typical American, shouldn’t I be more concerned about our security than some unpayable responsibility for pre-emptive war and invasion under false pretenses? Isn’t a policy of strategic goals and interests better than one supposedly based on moral and political concerns?. Morality and policy solutions are a luxury westerners have obtained. Our principles have no guiding place in the middle east. Politicians blaming the Obama administration for middle east sectarian civil war are despicable embarrassments we can add to the bush war debacle of spreading democracy and mission accomplished. But I suspect that the administration will mount some kind of air response, and it will be more a political move than a pragmatic one by our president. So, back to what limited airstrikes could accomplish.

#12 Comment By James Canning On June 18, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

Ill-considered US support for insurgents in Syria helped to create Isis crisis in Iraq.

#13 Comment By Majumder On June 18, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

“ISIS Poses No Existential Threat to America” — P. Joseph Buchanan


Didn’t America unite with the evil empire of Soviet Union in order to defeat Nazi Germany when you were very young and I was not born?

So, what is wrong with our current president’s plan to allow the Shi’ites to fight the Sunnis in Iraq and keeping American servicemen away from harm?

If your headline is true and sums up everything, why is Senator John McCain saying that if ISIS gets its way in Iraq, America will face something that it hasn’t faced even during the “Cold War” with the evil empire of Soviet Union?

And, what does Senator McCain want to gain by keeping America’s military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq perpetually other than for bleeding slowly and steadily without any end in sight? Why don’t journalists ask this simple question to Senator McCain?

#14 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On June 18, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

I usually find myself in agreement with Brother Buchanan but in this case his pen, so to speak, is running several lengths ahead of his brain. Of what value is the survival of the Maliki regime to America? And if ISIS “poses no existential threat” to America, then of what value to us would it be for us to “green-light the Iranians”? to “work with us”?

#15 Comment By Francis On June 18, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

“Ill-considered US support for insurgents in Syria helped to create Isis crisis in Iraq.”

Precisely. More military hardware is not going to solve the Iraq problem.

The problem is that American leaders lack patience and bow to political pressure. Granted, when faced with atrocities a natural instinct for a powerful nation would be to intervene. Unfortunately, the few past positive examples of intervention are not applicable to Middle Easter conflicts.

Thus, the only option is to disengage and take a long-term approach and let the region sort itself out: no weapons, no special forces, no drones…

#16 Comment By geronimo On June 18, 2014 @ 7:42 pm

Why is this an americam problem? Oil. The US needs oil, China needs too and if the americans can’t keep the oil flowing the chinese will act. But if they act and succeed the petrodollar is dead and hyperinflation that is being exported to the rest of the world will come home.

#17 Comment By Francis On June 18, 2014 @ 7:44 pm


I always felt that if military action in response to 9-11 was required, save for going after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, such action should have been against Saudi Arabia.

Either directly or indirectly, most terrorist funding comes from Saudis. That the country is ruled by an evil, despotic regime alone could have been justification. They will do anything to deflect attention from themselves and to keep their ruthless regime in power.