OP-ED: History and the Cloud Over Coalitions: Or, What Price ISIS?

By Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick

With all the hoopla marketing the idea we are putting together reliable partners in the fight against ISIS, it’s time to take a look at some historical realities that were well recorded several years ago.

According to the New York Times  headline of December 5, 2010,


The lead paragraph in this important  piece by Eric Lichtblau and Eric Schmitt out of Washington, DC, asserted:

“Nine years after the United States vowed to shut down the money pipeline that finances terrorism, senior Obama administration officials say they believe that many millions of dollars are flowing largely unimpeded to extremist groups worldwide, and they have grown frustrated by frequent resistance from allies in the Middle East, according to secret diplomatic dispatches.”

What’s of serious concern, among many, is the fact that some of those resisting putting the “hit” on terrorist financing include countries whose backsides our money, arms and manpower have rescued for a long time.  Noteworthy in the Times article , “In Kuwait, for instance, American officials have voiced repeated concerns that Islamic charities---largely unregulated by the government there—are using philanthropic donations to finance terrorism abroad.”

Even worse, Saudi Arabia, listed as a “critical military and diplomatic ally”  turns up as a place from which tons of money  flowing to terrorist coffers.

It is not as if the Saudis don’t have enough money to stay on top of this matter.  After all, we reported five years ago the Saudis salted away more than $500 billion in foreign assets, and, later, bought more than $200 billion in an array of weapons and other war materials just from the United States.  Still the Saudis seem unable to provide for their own defense while being coy about going after terrorists.    

These are but two examples of countries we choose to call our “coalition allies” but who realistically  seem to shy away from their own defense responsibilities as they don’t want to get the terrorists too upset and may be permitting channels of financing we used to call “hush money” to stay away.

As one Saudi official reported said at the time:  “If money wants to go to terrorist causes, it will go.”  Hardly any kind of reassuring commentary from a nation supposedly the riches and strongest of allies.  But, then, given the number of bad guys who conducted the 9/11 disasters and were trained in Saudi Arabia, or campaigns like Desert Storm, where our American men and women protected them, why  should we now believe the Obama administration might have confidence for their reliable support in a new and potentially bloody conflict….the kind the Saudis seem to shy away from.

Fast forward to the present and the commitment from the administration to focus on the newest spotlighted enemy: ISIS.

 Instead of the Secretary of State of the most powerful nation in the world having to run virtually hat in hand across the Middle East trying to con nations into coalition-hood for us to do most of the work, would it not be not just more seemly but downright appropriate to demand these coalition candidates first take on the conflict on their own?  Even for the most critical of the state of Israel, that nation has never asked one American to put his or her life on the line for her, asking only for the means of doing the job?

Today, without a draft, with no record of our own that we really care for those we dispatch to excessive deployments or how to deal with the tragic results of their returns, among the questions:

1. Why are our own military and civilian leaders failing to demand responsible actions by those most vulnerable doing their own defending?

2.Why is there no clear publicly indicated policy those  so called allies will at least shoulder the major cost of any campaign?

3.Why are almost no media editorialists even raising these questions?

From this writer’s perspective, the United States is once more being suckered into Middle East bloodletting not very long after we failed to get even a small token of repayment for the futilities of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Honick is president of GMA International Ltd with offices on Bainbridge Island, WA.  He is an international consultant to business and writes on a variety of public affairs issues.

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