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Is ISIS 'An Existential Threat'?

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By:Pat Buchanan | August 12, 2014

U.S. air strikes since Friday have opened a corridor through which tens of thousands of Yazidis, trapped and starving on a mountain in Iraq, have escaped to safety in Kurdistan.

The Kurds, whose peshmerga fighters were sent reeling by the Islamic State last week, bolstered now by the arrival of U.S. air power, recaptured two towns. But the peshmerga have apparently lost the strategically important town of Jalawla, 20 miles from Iran, the furthest east that ISIS forces have penetrated.

Last week's gains by the Islamic State caused Republican hawks to flock to the Sunday talk shows.

"ISIS is a direct threat to the United States of America," said Rep. Peter King, John McCain called for bombing ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

But using air power to prevent ISIS from seizing the Kurdish capital of Irbil and Baghdad is not enough, said Sen. Lindsey Graham. "We need to go on offense," he told FOX News, "There is no force within the Mideast that can neutralize or contain or destroy ISIS without at least American air power."

The Islamic State is "an existential threat" to our homeland, Graham added, asking, "do we really want to let America be attacked?"

Came then this warning from Sen. Graham:

"If he [Obama] does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you want to call these guys, they're coming here. This is not just about Baghdad, not just about Syria. It is about our homeland."

"I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorists' ability to operate in Syria and Iraq," said Graham, "Mr. President ... what is your strategy to stop these people from attacking the homeland?"

This semi-hysterical talk of an "existential threat" to the "homeland," and the dread specter of "an American city in flames" is vintage war party, designed to panic us into launching a new war.

But before allowing these "Cassandras" to stampede us back into the civil-sectarian Middle East wars that resulted from our previous interventions, let us inspect more closely what they are saying.

If ISIS' gains are truly an "existential threat" to the republic and our cities are about to "go up in flames," why did these Republican hawks not demand that President Obama call back Congress from its five-week vacation to vote to authorize a new war on ISIS in Syria and Iraq?

After all, King, McCain and Graham belong to a party that is suing the president for usurping Congressional powers. Yet, they are also demanding that Obama start bombing nations he has no authority to bomb, as ISIS has not attacked us.

King, McCain and Graham want Obama to play imperial president and launch a preemptive war that their own Congress has not authorized.

What kind of constitutionalists, what kind of conservatives are these?

Is Graham right that an "existential threat" is at hand? Is our very existence as a nation in peril? Graham says no force in the Mideast can stop ISIL without us. Is this true?

Turkey, a nation of 76 million, has the second-largest army in NATO, equipped with U.S. weapons, and an air force ISIL does not have.

If President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to crush ISIS, he could seal his border to foreign fighters entering Syria and send the Turkish army to assist President Bashar Assad in annihilating ISIS in Syria.

The jihadists of the Islamic State may be more motivated, but they are hugely outnumbered and outgunned in the region.

The Syrian government and army, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shia-dominated government of Iraq, a Shia Iran of 70 million, and the Kurds in Syria and Kurdistan are all anti-Islamic State and willing to fight.

All are potential allies in a coalition to contain or crush ISIS, as is Vladimir Putin's Russia, if U.S. diplomacy were not frozen in the 1980s.

Only last August, McCain and Graham were attacking Obama for not enforcing his "red line" by bombing Syria's army, the most successful anti-ISIL force in the field.

The threat of the Islamic State should not be minimized. It would provide a breeding and training ground for terrorists to attack us and the West. But it should not be wildly exaggerated to plunge us into a new war.

For wherever ISIS has won ground, it has, through atrocities and beheadings, imposition of Sharia law, and ruthless repression, alienated almost everyone, including al-Qaida.

Should ISIS succeed in holding northern Syria and western Iraq, who will recognize this caliphate? Who will trade with it? How will it hold the allegiance of peoples upon whom it is even now imposing terrorist rule?

The Sunni of Iraq are already chaffing against ISIS rule. How long will Turks, Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds and Iranians tolerate a Talibanized Islamic State right next door? And should ISIS attack the United States, we have more than sufficient means to retaliate, without sending in American troops.

Let Middle Easterners take the lead in fighting this newest Middle East war.


Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at




Richard Channing
8/12/2014 03:12 PM

  McCain and Grahamnesty are beneath contempt. For these open borders supporters to feign concern for the homeland is vomit inducing.

Nicholas MOSES
Paris (FR)
8/12/2014 10:55 PM

  McCain and Graham should each have been out of a job (and perhaps worse) many years ago, granted, but is *this* particular question really the context in which to call for their blood? (There are ample appropriate opportunities.) After all, can there be a single Christian in the world who does *not* see what ISIS is doing in Iraq as an existential threat? I think we are morally obligated to intervene. Of course, I do not mean full-scale war/conquest/regime change/nation building (which the aforementioned goons would definitely like to see, as they always do). But am I naïve to think we should just take down select industrial and military targets (including "academies" and mosques known to double as dojos) on a regular basis until they get the message that we are going to make sure their killing of Christians is *very* painful for themselves?

Letters From Canada
Toronto (CA)
8/13/2014 09:29 PM

  The most elusive fact to find about ISIS(L) is how this organization grew as a major US threat overnight. Even careful analysts do not remember exactly ISIS meteoric rise in the last couple of months. Were they those Kerry's “moderates” in Syria, or “liberators” in Libya. Suddenly, ISIS controls over half of Iraq territory and western media starts reporting about their atrocities. Used to not trust American lies any longer after WMD fiasco, one would wonder what is behind this new “crisis”. Since western media are not reporting that Ukrainian fighter jets have shot down Malaysian flight MH17, why would anyone believe what they are reporting any facts at all. Like crying wolves, we should all leave them to live in their own virtual reality.

Chris Ikaris
8/14/2014 04:11 AM

  Short of throwing up our collective hands, perhaps there is something constructive that can be done. According to numerous reports, ISIS is a well-funded and equipped militant group. Who is funding and equipping them? I find it hard to believe that the CIA and NSA who have the ability to track every computer keystroke we make, cannot trace the money going to ISIS. And where is ISIS getting its weapons? Who is making them? Who is selling them? Who is shipping them? My suspicion is that the answer to these questions would be politically embarrassing to some very important people, especially to Washington's Arab "allies."

8/26/2014 12:02 PM

  The most important question is why dose ISIS exist? Why are we involved, and what business is it of ours to meddle in other nations affairs? I'm sick of arrogant fools that the US is the police of the world. 25 years we have meddled in Iraq, and this is where we are today. Millions of innocent lives later and how much in debt, for what? Absolutely nothing!


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