ISIL is an extremely dangerous organization! It has the elements of both a terrorist organization and an insurgent army. It kills innocent civilians, and has seized large amounts of territory in Iraq and Syria, which it can utilize for safe haven, training, command and control, and from which it can launch attacks. It engages in 30-40 attacks per month and has an estimated 15,000 fighters. It takes in as much as a million dollars a day from illicit oil sales, smuggling and ransom payments. We know that ISIL is prepared to kill innocent Americans and we know ISIL views the United States as an enemy.
Certainly ISIL is brutal and inhumane, as evidenced by videotaped beheadings of Western hostages and the mass execution of unarmed Iraqi prisoners. But are they really a threat to United States vital interest?
This paper will discuss the history and the problems with defining vital interest. Next, I will assess the relative merits of Johnson and Fukyama’s different viewpoints.
To answer whether ISIL is or is not a threat to US vital interest I feel it’s important to take a look at American history and government policy to define our “vital interest”. Dating back to the Constitution the founding fathers saw the primary job of the federal government as keeping the peace and protecting the country from foreign enemies. Given the relatively low threat of invasion, America’s interests focus more on preventing hostile powers from dominating entire regions, and securing the means for trade and economic growth. Our conception of the national interest has gradually expanded beyond the strict constitutional conception or the commercially oriented approach. The expansions often come when a president annou...
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Phrased another way, this question is, simply put, “Why should the United States care?” This question is the most important national security question, because any other question regarding the fight against ISIL becomes irrelevant if the United States does not have a vital interest in the operation. Before committing resources, military, economic or otherwise, to foreign policy, it is critical that the vital national interests of the United States be considered. Resources cost money and with $18 trillion dollars in national debt, the United States has a fiscal responsibility to allocate its national resources wisely to ensure that vital national interests are protected. The geographic location, economy, culture and religion of a nation play a part in the decision to determine whether the United States has a vital national interest the fight against ISIL.
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