BERLIN – The Islamic State’s horrific attacks in Paris provide a stark reminder that Western powers cannot contain – let alone insulate themselves from – the unintended consequences of their interventions in the Middle East. The unraveling of Syria, Iraq, and Libya, together with the civil war that is tearing Yemen apart, have created vast killing fields, generated waves of refugees, and spawned Islamist militants who will remain a threat to international security for years to come. And the West has had more than a little to do with it.
Obviously, Western intervention in the Middle East is not a new phenomenon. With the exceptions of Iran, Egypt, and Turkey, every major power in the Middle East is a modern construct created largely by the British and the French. The United States-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 represent only the most recent effort by Western powers to shape the region’s geopolitics.
But these powers have always preferred intervention by proxy, and it is this strategy – training, funding, and arming jihadists who are deemed “moderate” to fight against the “radicals” – that is backfiring today. Despite repeated proof to the contrary, Western powers have remained wedded to an approach that endangers their own internal security.
It should be obvious that those waging violent jihad can never be moderate. Yet, even after acknowledging that a majority of the Free Syrian Army’s CIA-trained members have defected to the Islamic State, the US recently pledged nearly $100 million in fresh aid for Syrian rebels.