Once upon a time (1983), there was a U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, who wanted to help bring stability to Lebanon, which was involved in a civil war. Therefore, President Reagan sent service members to Lebanon to serve as part of the Multi National Force in Lebanon to support the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). President Reagan’s mistake was that he believed that the LAF was a neutral force seeking security for all Lebanese. President Reagan was wrong — the LAF was nothing more than a Maronite (Christian) militia, as all the Muslims and Druse had deserted in the 1970s. As such, when U.S. service members arrived in Lebanon to support the LAF, all opposing Lebanese militias saw this as the U.S. (a largely Christian nation) coming to the aid of the LAF (Christian militia). The results were unfortunate for U.S. service members as 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers lost their lives as the result of two-truck bomb attacks on the American and French barracks one night while service members slept. The French lost 58 paratroopers in the truck bomb attack on their building. Shortly after the bombing of the U.S. and French barracks, the U.S. and other peacekeeping forces withdrew from Lebanon, leaving the Lebanese to suffer through civil war that did not conclude until 1990.

Today, the U.S. faces a dilemma: The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) forces are quickly overrunning cities in Iraq. Thus far, Iraqi Armed Forces (IAF) are not even putting up a fight to protect their cities, because they do not believe that the IAF are there to protect all Iraqis (Sunni, Shia, Kurds, and Christians); instead, many Iraqis believe that the IAF are simply a Shia militia guided by Iran. It is important to U.S. and world security that ISIS does not gain dominates anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, if we side with the Maliki government and support the IAF, we run the risk of becoming involved in a civil war and alienating all non-Shia Arabs, which in the end, could cost many American lives and billions of dollars over many years. The best chance that the world has to shrink the influence of ISIS is to force Iraqi leaders to construct a government where the Shia’s power is limited and where the Sunni, Kurds, and Christians contribute to government policy and regain their position within the IAF. My plea to the Obama administration is to force the Maliki government to implement concrete changes to include Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians in the governing of Iraqi and in the IAF — please Mr. President, learn from the mistakes made in Lebanon, by the Reagan Administration, so many years ago.

Fred Thurber

academic coordinator

Denham Springs