Next baseball season, make sure to attend a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, dressed in a Yankees jersey, and shout as loud as you can about how much you love the Bronx Bombers.
See what happens.
If you live in Alabama, visit the next University of Alabama Crimson Tide football game dressed in an Auburn Tigers jersey and yell, "War Eagle!" Make sure to sit next to the most inebriated fans.
Once you've experienced these potentially life altering endeavors, go to an Oakland Raiders football game dressed in a Broncos jersey, any home game, it doesn't matter, and yell joyfully every time the opposing team scores. Also, be sure to have a good life insurance policy if you ever plan on doing any of these things.
So what on Earth do American sports rivalries have to do with President Obama's plan to defeat ISIS?
Americans might never, in a million years, understand or empathize with the simmering tension and ancient rivalries between Sunni and Shia in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. The only way to even somewhat identify with the powerful cultural allegiances that wreak havoc in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere in the Middle East might be by equating our infatuation with sports to these never-ending conflicts.
President Obama's ISIS strategy, or plan to defeat ISIL, IS, and whatever its new name will be next week, has as much chance of working as the Red Sox wearing Yankee pinstripes next year. We can bomb all the ISIS targets imaginable, and continue bombing, but like General Daniel Bolger has stated about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, "This enemy wasn't amenable to the type of war we're good at fighting, which is a Desert Storm or a Kosovo."
If Syria (in some alternate world or reality) one day sent fighter jets to bomb Alabama, North Carolina, or Texas, there would never be enough bombs to destroy allegiances to the Crimson Tide, Tar Heels, or Longhorns. Yes, it's a vapid comparison and the fate of nations can't be directly tied to season tickets, but ask yourself as an American if you'd root for an Iraqi baseball team because its government told you it correlates to democracy. Also, multiply any affinity you have for sports times a number that correlates to the ancient origins of the Sunni and Shia divide, the notion that God takes sides in this conflict, and centuries of tribal heritage. Then, ask yourself if any amount of bombing would make you change your ways; if anything, it might make you even more radical and passionate about what you hold dear in life.
ISIS is a product of sectarian divisions in the Middle East, as was al Qaeda. These insane terrorists, before the beheading videos and hatred of America, have a vendetta against other Muslims. A recent Guardian article describes an ISIS massacre fueled by hatred of Shias in Iraq:
The United Nations said on Sunday it had evidence that fighters fromIslamic State (Isis) had killed as many as 670 prisoners in Mosul and had carried out further abuses in Iraq that amounted to crimes against humanity...
...They took out the prisoners and sorted them into two groups, Sunni and 670 Shias. The fighters grilled the Sunni group, asked them to recite prayers, and interrogated them about family backgrounds. Some Shia prisoners tried to pass themselves off as Sunni. They were discovered and returned to the Shia line-up...
...The Islamic State militants told their Shia captives they would be "released" once their identities were verified.
...They were told to kneel, and then shot.
The mass execution in June was merely the latest to have taken place in Mosul. According to Amnesty International, Iraqi government forces also massacred Sunni prisoners in several cities, including Mosul, before retreating in the face of the rapid Isis advance.
Before the ISIS massacre of Shia prisoners, Shia forces massacre Sunnis and Amnesty International states, "Reports of multiple incidents where Sunni detainees have been killed in cold blood...suggest a worrying pattern of reprisal attacks against Sunnis in retaliation for ISIS gains."
We're bombing Syria and Iraq to save it from ISIS, but ISIS is viewed by some Sunnis in this region as being on their side, and both Shia and Sunni are massacring one another while we scramble to save "democracy." Add to this the fact that ISIS also kills Sunnis it views as threats and the terrorist group is an offshoot of al Qaeda Iraq as well as the Syrian civil war. Furthermore, we had already defeated al Qaeda in Iraq for the most part and it simply rebranded itself with other groups to form ISIS. Bush and his neocon advisers should have understood that removing Saddam would create this type of power vacuum and Obama's inability to properly address the Syrian civil war only added fuel to the fire. Ultimately, even as the most powerful nation in the world, we're in over our heads and simply reacting to continual slip ups and failed prognostications.
A Denver Post article in 2013 illustrates the horrors of two rival Muslim sects who put their religious and tribal allegiances far ahead of anything else:
Bombs ripped through Sunni areas in Baghdad and surrounding areas Friday, killing at least 76 people in the deadliest day in Iraq in more than eight months. The major spike in sectarian bloodshed heightened fears the country could again be veering toward civil war.
The attacks followed two days of bombings targeting Shiites, with a total of 130 people killed since Wednesday.
Scenes of bodies sprawled across a street outside a mosque and mourners killed during a funeral procession were reminiscent of some of the worst days of retaliatory warfare between the Islamic sects that peaked in 2006-07 as U.S. forces battled extremists on both sides.
...Tensions have been intensifying since Sunnis began protesting what they say is mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led government, including random detentions and neglect.
...Majority Shiites control the levers of power in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Wishing to rebuild the nation rather than revert to open warfare, they have largely restrained their militias in the past five years or so as Sunni extremist groups such as al-Qaeda have frequently targeted them with large-scale attacks.
The notion of a state, or constitution, or federal framework of government is greatly overshadowed by people who'd willingly blow up another person's place of worship.
Finally, a BBC article in 2013 highlights exactly why President Obama and Congress are clueless about the nature of this quagmire:
A fault-line runs from Lebanon on the Mediterranean, down through Syria and Iraq, to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and beyond.
It divides Shia and Sunni Muslims, the two sides of Islam. It is the oldest division in the Middle East, but just like the schism in Christianity between Protestants and Catholics, it is as much about power and identity as religion.
...If there is a chance to manage and perhaps reverse the tide of sectarianism, then it might have to come from Iran and Saudi Arabia. But the two countries are regional powers, divided by history as well as a 21st Century rivalry.
...But the most dangerous force, which threatens to define the next decade in the Middle East, is the tension between Shia and Sunni.
Three years after the Arab uprisings started, the weight of a millennium and a half of sectarian rivalry is crushing hopes of a better future.
No amount of bombing, and no amount of ground troops (I am vehemently against any American soldiers risking their lives for a war that already ended) can alter centuries of sectarian and tribal conflict. Any solution for destroying ISIS that fails to address the Sunni and Shia rivalry simply will not work. Bombs and arming rebel groups in Syria don't alleviate ethnic tensions; such actions might actually stir up more instability and fuel more sectarian violence.
We need to cut our losses in the Middle East and realize that Americans and Western nations can't dictate peace, freedom, stability, or democracy in a region that has other priorities tied to religion and tribalism. If Iran and Saudi Arabia are both needed to be on the same page for sectarian violence to end in the Middle East, then we'd better learn from the mistakes of the Iraq War; a war that ended in 2011. The University of Alabama will never change its name to the Alabama Tigers. If you extrapolate that rivalry a million fold, you get an Iraq and Syria that could care less about our interests, and only about their tribal, cultural, and religious allegiances. Sadly, one of the most depressing aspects of this entire tragedy is that we helped foment these horrors by removing Saddam, even though decades before our liberation of Iraq this guy shook his hand.