Why American and Western foreign policy has, and continues, to churn out extremists
The United States’ current foreign policy is perpetuating the war on terror. The Islamic State (ISIS) ̶ an unrecognized state born out of a Sunni jihadist terrorist organization, which controls swathes of territory throughout Iraq and Syria ̶ is the legacy of America’s foreign policy throughout the last century.
President Obama has reduced America’s tangible presence in the Middle East since he took office. However, through the use of drones, manned air strikes and covert operations, America continues to satisfy the widespread perception of its role as the world’s policeman. This has created a distinct feeling of resentment towards the United States, which shows little respect for the national sovereignty of countries in the Middle Eastern region and beyond. Throughout this summer the Pakistani foreign ministry has condemned the CIA’s drone strikes as a gross violation of sovereignty.
In the past year the United States has expanded its drone warfare campaign into Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Somalia, beyond the traditional Afghan-Pakistani battleground. The story of a young eastern Afghani man, Miya Jan, was widely reported throughout the western media last year. A United States drone strike changed his life forever: it killed his brother, his sister-in-law and their child.
This is not an uncommon occurrence. Current United States foreign policy is radicalizing civilians whose hearts and minds they ought to be winning. It was reported by the BBC that an American drone turned “a wedding party into a funeral,” killing at least 13 of the civilian attendants. Non-governmental organizations, including Amnesty International, have suggested that acts such as these amount to war crimes, and the UN has demanded greater transparency as a result. The United States, however, continually acts unilaterally with little concern for opposition to its foreign policy. Undoubtedly, this creates a climate of desperation which breeds a culture of extremism, allowing organizations such as ISIS to flourish.
The apparent readiness of the United States (along with other states such as France) to commit to fighting against ISIS only reinforces the perception that the United States has not learnt its lesson from Vietnam and Iraq. It remains trigger happy and anxious to support the western-oriented moderates in the region, who do not necessarily command a majority of support. One need only look at the current state of affairs in Libya to know how easy it is for a state to fail.
Despite the deaths of Moktar Ali Zubeyr, Osama Bin Laden and Hakimullah Mehsud — former leaders of Al-Shabaab, Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, respectively — terrorism still exists. United States neoconservative foreign policy creates a conveyor belt of terrorist leaders-in-waiting. If the United States wants to defeat terrorism it needs to fundamentally alter its foreign policy. Even if ISIS, Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab were defeated tomorrow, copycat organizations would rise. Such is anti-American sentiment throughout this region.
The problem that President Obama faces is one which previous presidents created for him: Islamic fundamentalists reject globalization and blame America for the apparent moral decay that “Coca-Cola colonization” has created.
For now, ISIS is at the vanguard of global terrorism, and I do believe that unless the west radically alters its foreign policy, organizations whose goal is to breed terror and fear will continue to wage jihad against their apparent oppressors.