The hype in the news cycle that the U.S. is considering a new front against Islamic State (ISIS) in the Philippines has opened the debate as to whether or not the U.S. should get involved in another foreign war.
The Islamist terror group recently launched an insurrection to take over Marawi City on Mindanao, one of the Philippine’s most-populated islands. Jihadis, carrying the black banner of ISIS, rampaged through the city, burning buildings beheading a police chief and taking a priest and his congregation hostage.
The militants executed Christians, filming themselves shooting them in the head.
Should the U.S. help the Philippines in its fight against ISIS? Read the following analysis and take our poll at the end.
“Many are convinced the terrorist attack in Marawi was for the purpose of clearing the path for ISIS to gain a foothold in Asia and turn Mindanao into its new wilayat or province,” says analyst Babe. G. Romualdez writing in The Philippine Star.
Romualdez says that the Mutual Defense Treaty (signed with the U.S. in 1951) does not allow for U.S. boots on the ground, unless the Philippines is invaded by another country.
The real story, he counters, is that if air strikes occur, they will be conducted by drones and by Filipinos themselves who have been trained to operate them by U.S. personnel.
Those drones were donated to the Philippines earlier this year. Similarly, Singapore also offered drones for this purpose and Australia sent aircraft to conduct surveillance on the terror group for the Philippines.
All these countries have a vested interest in not allowing ISIS to become entrenched in the Philippines and, as such, becoming the next destination of ISIS militants fleeing from the routing they are taking in the Middle East.
The U.S. views the Philippines as a crucial linchpin to oppose Chinese aggression in the East China Sea and maintain important trade passages in the South China Sea.
China maintains nuclear-armed submarines, but to reach the continental United States, they must first transverse the South China Sea.
A significant presence of ISIS in the Philippines would complicate the already delicate balance maintained in the Western Pacific.
“A loss of the Philippines would be particularly damaging at a time when China is acting with increasing assertiveness and rapidly modernizing its military,” asserts Michael Mazza, a foreign and defense policy studies research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), speaking to The Daily Caller.
Mazza explained the Philippines is part of “America’s forward defense strategy, which it has employed since the end of World War II to protect the homeland, and American efforts to uphold peace and defend freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.”
Those who argue against the U.S. drone-striking the remaining ISIS terrorists in Marawi to ferret them out of their hiding places, maintain this counter-terror strategy doesn’t work. Moreover, with it comes serious downsides.
Writing in The Washington Post, Erik Goepner, who was a military commander in Afghanistan and Iraq and an associate professor at George Mason University, maintains drone striking as a strategy simply doesn’t work, as witnessed by the increase in terror in areas already targeted by the U.S.
Rather, he says, it merely serves as a recruiting tool for extremist groups and turns local populations against the U.S. because of the inevitable mistakes that occur resulting in the deaths of innocents.
Further, Goepner and others maintain it is immoral to work with corrupt regimes, such as the current administration in the Philippines run by Rodrigo Duterte. Putting such weapons in the hands of a ruler with a known history of extrajudicial killings increases the possibility they will be used not for their intended purpose but by Duterte against his political enemies.
Goepner points out that the Philippines has a 100-year-plus history of local insurgencies and ISIS is a reflection of this reality as opposed to an indication of a more sinister global strategy.
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