Caliphate: Why can’t we just talk about the possibility?

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isismarch2015What if a [limited] Islamic caliphate became a reality? How awful would that be? I don’t know, and I’m having trouble figuring out how to think about that possibility, because this is a topic that, apparently, is not to be discussed. Only war against those wanting a caliphate—ISIL/ISIS/Daesh—is on the table. The only option we contemplate is to prevent the establishment of an Islamic state. This topic is the Voldemort of geo-politics.

Oh, wait. There already is an Islamic state in the Middle East: It’s called Saudi Arabia. Like the caliphate that we’re so dead-set against, it is brutal to its citizens. It oppresses women. It beheads its opponents. But we—meaning the U.S. and our allies—tolerate its existence. No, we don’t just tolerate it, we consider Saudi Arabia our ally—mostly because of, you know, the oil. So we sell it weapons and war planes. We had military bases there, until 2003, when Saudi Arabia decided it didn’t want them anymore. We entertain the Saudi royal family at the White House. We handle them with diplomatic kid gloves and give them special privileges, while winking at their abhorrent domestic policies.

Even more hypocrisy: Our “friend” Saudi Arabia is a Sunni Muslim state, which is what our “enemy” ISIS/ISIL/Daesh wants, too. Would an ISIS-run state be more brutal and oppressive than the theocracies that we currently tolerate and support? That’s a question that is not being asked–publicly, at least.

Maybe we should consider the possibility of letting a limited caliphate develop—and seeing whether it can stand on its own, or whether it would fail. [Just to clarify, I’m not advocating for the reinstatement of the vast 7th Century caliphate–just as I wouldn’t advocate for a new Christian empire, or an empire based on any religion or politicall ideology.]

We don’t really know how ISIS might behave if it actually had a defined territory to govern full-time, but we have some indicators. One study, published by the Brookings Institution, observes that while ISIS has been relatively benevolent in the early stages of its takeover of Mosul, Iraq—establishing a more stable economy, providing full-time electrical power, and offering basic services for free—the honeymoon has not been everlasting. As time has passed, people under the ISIS caliphate have experienced a more brutal enforcement of Islamic law and more oppressive taxation and social policies. We need to ask ourselves if 1) ISIS rule is that much worse than that in other Islamic nations; and 2) Is ISIS rule sustainable, or will it burn itself out and/or create its own counter-revolution?

I don’t know the answers. But can’t we at least look beyond our own propaganda and talk about it?

And while we’re on the subject of objectionable theocracies, let’s look at some of our own politicians’ pronouncements. It has become a mantra of many fundamentalist-Christina politicians to say that the U.S. is a “Christian nation.” Echoing a sentiment expressed by many right-wingers, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio [R-FL] recently said:

“We are clearly called, in the Bible, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to God’s rules. When those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win. In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin, violate God’s law and sin, if we’re ordered to stop preaching the gospel, if we’re ordered to perform a same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it, we are called to ignore that. We cannot abide by that because government is compelling us to sin.”

In other words, he believes that any Constitutional right given to Americans that he thinks goes against “God’s rule” should be ignored – because “God’s rule” supersedes Constitutional law.

When U.S. politicians use that kind of rhetoric, what right do we have to denounce anybody else’s theocracy, anyway?

I just wonder why this topic doesn’t seem to merit consideration. Back in 2006, Joe Biden suggested that Iraq be allowed to split, naturally, into three parts—Shia, Sunni and Kurdish—with a federal-style central government over all. By simply bringing up the idea, Biden became the object of outrage. He was merely pointing out reality: Iraq was never really a country. It was a geo-political construct, offhandedly sketched out in back-of-an-envelope style, by the winners of World War I, who were probably not motivated by humanitarian concerns. And now, after thousands of lives lost fighting, ostensibly, to “save” Iraq, it’s essentially breaking up—organically– just as Biden had suggested, but no one wanted to acknowledge as a contingency.

So, when the generals, and the politicians. and the corporate oligarchs sit around gaming strategies for the fate of the Middle East, wouldn’t it make sense to include all options in the discussion?

I think it’s fair to say that what’s we’ve done so far has made things worse, not better [invading, destroying and occupying Iraq with no clear plan as to what would come next, or how to get out; invading and occupying Afghanistan, with the added ingredient of mission creep/nation-building; arming rebels we know little about to try to oust Assad from Syria; bombing people we think are ISIS and creating more resentment and more radicals].

So, in light of how massively screwed up the situation is with our current “strategy,” what would be the harm in just looking at the possibility of getting the hell out of there and seeing what happens?

Gloria Shur Bilchik Gloria Shur Bilchik (628 Posts)

Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of democratic values and progressive programs as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.