We, as the United States, made a big mistake on 9/12/2001 that we are now in the process of correcting. I am confident that, in coalition with the other nations on Earth, we will succeed. However, some understanding of our fundamental error on 9/12 can provide the context necessary to become clear on what is now the most important priority in response to ISIS.
Since World War II the most fundamental global agreement has been the honoring of the sovereignty of nations. President George Bush announced in his speech to Congress and the world on the evening of 9/12 that the United States would no longer honor it: he declared that in the pursuit of the terrorists the United States would no longer honor the sovereignty of nations.
The correct response would have been to declare that bringing the terrorists to justice needed to be a police action, not a war action. And he definitely should not have taken action that had the United States no longer honoring the most fundamental global agreement among nations.
War is an agreement between two nations to fight to determine the control of something, sometimes initiated by one of the nations. A police action is when a nation, or coalition of nations, agrees that specific behaviors, because they go against agreements, are criminal. Therefore they seek to arrest the criminals and bring them to justice. The behavior of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda was criminal behavior according to the agreements within and between nearly all nations on Earth.
On 9/12, nearly all the nations on Earth were emotionally with the United States. If President Bush had defined the terrorist attack as a criminal act, he would have had nearly every nation on Earth join the coalition he tried to form. As a result of declaring not only that he was declaring war on the terrorist but in addition that the United States was leaving the global community of nations to do so, few nations joined the coalition.
President Barack Obama is now correcting this major error. As much as possible he is treating the emergence of ISIS as a police action, a breach of global agreements. As a result, every day more and more nations are joining the coalition he is forming.
When human beings come together, they eventually form agreements. A nation is a set of agreements. A viable nation is when nearly all within the nation honor the agreements.
What is the strategy of al-Qaeda, ISIS, and all terrorists? It is to behave as criminals in a society, not as soldiers in an army. They try to disappear into the society, meet in secret, and then sneak out at night to do terrorist activities.
Ultimately there is only one response that will work against this tactic. It is to build strong nations and treat this behavior as criminal behavior, the breaking of the agreements of a nation. Then nearly the entire populace is on the side of honoring their agreements and actively working together to catch the criminals.
This appears to be what the coalition of nations is now attempting to do: build viable nations.
The first important step was establishing a working government in Iraq. Without a working government there are no agreements and, therefore, no right to pursue criminals who breach those agreements. We should not have been surprised that the Iraqi soldiers ran for their lives when attacked by ISIS. They were not primarily soldiers to defend a nation. There wasn't a nation. They were primarily soldiers to earn a living. Living was their priority, not protecting a nation they honored and respected.
There is not a global government. There is a global conversation called "the United Nations," but there is not a global government. Therefore, the next best thing we can do is form a coalition of nations to act on some chosen agreements. This begins by honoring the sovereignty of nations. President Obama appears to be doing this as much as he can. Therefore, the coalition he is forming is rapidly growing.
Secondly, he needs to define the terrorists as criminals, people not honoring these agreements the most fundamental of which are to not kill, kidnap, or steal. This will ultimately have nearly all the people in all the nations, as well as the nations themselves, work to bring the criminals to justice.
Thirdly, where there are not strong nations they need to be built. Yes, the leadership must come from the people on the ground to be defined as a viable nation, but we are now a global society. Therefore, we must provide all the resources and support necessary to accomplish this because global terrorism can ultimately only be stopped as a result of good police action by respected nations everywhere so there is no place to hide.
Fourthly, all existing borders that define nations must become secondary in importance to the priority of forming viable nations. Our current national boundaries were formed for other reasons. This separating into more viable nations is occurring globally, not just in the Middle East. It is even occurring in England and Spain. Any group of people who feel a strong affinity with each other for whatever reason -- ethnicity, religion, or whatever -- should be supported in forming their own nation, perhaps even defined by agreements rather than geography. To make them work for each existing nation and the globe, which desperately needs to have viable nations everywhere, this should become our global priority: creating viable nations that are constantly getting deeper and stronger. Of course, these changes need to be orchestrated in an orderly and just way so the existing nation or nations is supported by at least a majority.
Finally, stronger systems of global governance need to be established. There also has to be the recognition that all people mature toward preferring democracy as their political structure. Arranging for orderly transitions to it is another important priority. So is putting a floor beneath which poverty is not allowed. These issues, however, are topics for another time.
President Obama and the other leaders of the world appear to now be ignoring the United States' error on 9/12 of leaving the most fundamental global agreement. Instead they are endeavoring to honor and build on it. Now they need to agree on a new highest priority: aggressively supporting the building of viable nations everywhere on the globe, whether currently structured as democracies, communist states, or benevolent dictatorships. Ultimately, this is the only way to have all nations united and have terrorist acts exist less and less as a result of successful police activity.
The new global priority of building viable nations everywhere will not only consistently reduce the ability of terrorists to be successful but it will also ultimately end wars. These two maturations of our human society on Earth will only be the result of agreements that are honored by nearly all. The building of viable nations and the formation of agreements among nations is the only way to accomplish this.