Another U.S. Military Intervention

By: Navid Farnia, M.A.

On September 10th, President Barack Obama announced plans to expand US military operations in Iraq and authorized strikes on Syria. In this new campaign, the US is targeting the Islamic State group, which is also known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “Our objective is clear,” Obama explained. “We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy. First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists… I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.” Obama outlined his administration’s strategy, which included four major courses of action.

But the aggressive rhetoric didn’t end there. “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” Obama declared. “This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” In the past week, European and Arab countries also pledged their military support.
Obama’s speech is noteworthy for several reasons. First, his use of words like “comprehensive,” “sustained,” and “systematic” doesn’t just signify the US’s most recent military campaign. Those terms describe the US’s activities in the Middle East and its surrounding countries for the past generation. The United States’ involvement has already been comprehensive, sustained, and systematic. This is the newest episode within a larger history of American intervention. And I argue the White House’s current strategy is merely an avenue to entrench the US’s permanence in the region.

Just a year ago, Obama attempted to gather public support for military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. At the time, the Obama administration was backing the opposition in Syria’s civil war, which included the same Islamic State group the US now targets. It wasn’t until later that the different Syrian opposition groups (which include the Islamic State, the al-Nusra Front, and Western-backed factions the Syrian National Coalition) completely splintered. In a year’s time, the US government shifted its military aspirations from the Syrian establishment to its most powerful adversary. Such a drastic shift reveals that, in reality, the enemy matters little for the US. What does matter is the US’s ability to justify a sustained presence in the Middle East and this can only happen by creating, supporting, maintaining, and reproducing regional instability.

This brings us back to the Islamic State. In his speech, Obama denounced the group as having a “warped ideology.” However, there’s a subtext behind those words. The Islamic State is a direct product of the US’s criminal war and occupation in Iraq. The ruthless group didn’t even exist until the US had already ruined the country and slaughtered and displaced countless Iraqi civilians. The same can be said about every country in which the US has intervened during the 21st century. The Taliban and al-Qaeda substantially grew only after the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Aerial strikes in Libya, Somalia, and Yemen have also produced anger, despair, and, ultimately, militant opposition. Warped bodies and warped lands create “warped ideologies”—i.e., ideologies that aren’t aligned with or subservient to US interests.

In reality, neither the Islamic State, nor the Syrian government or any other regional actor is even a remote threat to the US. Thus, when Obama said there’s no safe haven for those who threaten America, he’s really talking about America’s interests. Those interests include “American personnel and facilities” that colonize the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia, in addition to the US’s trade prospects and other economic pursuits.

US officials are working toward establishing a permanent presence in the Middle East because they see it as necessary for securing American interests. The inconsistencies and contradictions in US rhetoric and action reveal this to be the case. And the US’s constant war-making proves there really is no safety for those who oppose American interests. To be sure, the Islamic State poses a significant threat to Iraqis and Syrians, but the United States is a considerably greater threat. Moreover, if US military strikes are directly responsible for the Islamic State’s creation, then more strikes will only strengthen the group and others like it. History has taught us that much.

Navid Farnia is a Ph.D. student in the Department of African American and African Studies at The Ohio State University.

Improving the lives of Black girls is as important as saving Black boys

By: Kevin L. Brooks, PhD


young black girl

Mentoring is one of the hottest topics concerning today’s youth in the United States, especially for Black males. However, the attention given to the mentoring of Black girls in the media and community forums pale in comparison to that of young males. This occurrence has stirred youth advocates to be more committed not only to developing Black boys, but to generating more responsiveness to the concerns facing Black girls.

Last February, President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative as an effort to work toward enhancing the life trajectories of Black males. The initiative was created and implemented to improve Black boys’ experiences with early childhood education, college readiness and mentoring, as well as reducing their involvement with the criminal justice system and violent crime. President Obama has called on politicians, entrepreneurs, entertainers, actors, athletes, business and religious leaders, along with lay persons to provide financial and human capital to support this cause. And preliminary reports suggest some improvements are being made, particularly in regard to financial contributions.

But, the initiative has not been free of criticism. Many critics have admonished the president and the initiative for the lack of funds allocated to Black organizations that work with Black males and for not addressing adequately structural racism, as well as issues concerning mental health and gun violence. However, the most perceptive critique of the initiative is its sole focus on Black boys.

Many have argued that the addition of Black girls to this endeavor is paramount to strengthening the Black community. More than 200 Black men have composed a letter to the president expressing their concern for Black girls and calling for their inclusion in the initiative. This support of Black girls is not to take away from the challenges affecting Black boys. On the contrary, it is to raise awareness of the distressful events in their lives as well.

According to several reports, Black girls tend to battle greater stressful life events than any other group. For instance, the Girl Scouts’ 2013 State of the Girls report found that Black girls are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to: have a poverty rate that is double that of White girls, live in single-parent households, have a teen birth rate two times the national average, report being hit by a boyfriend, and be overweight or obese.

Another study, the Rise Sister Rise Project, examined trauma and resilience among 400 Ohio African American girls, ages 11–18. The results showed that African American girls are more prone to encounter traumatic stressors than adolescents of other races. To help offset this anguish, the project uses positive socialization through mentoring to improve the girls’ life chances, educational achievement and leadership potential.

The psychosocial development of Black girls has been one of the foremost concerns of their transition to womanhood throughout history. It is generally propagated and widely accepted that men are providers and protectors. This is only a partial truth, given that Black women serve in these capacities alongside men, not behind the scenes.
As mothers of civilization and culture, Black women function as leaders, activists, educators and role models. They have been the CEOs of Black communities as producers and cultivators of spirituality, generational legacies, cultural heritage, and historical knowledge, which were developed when they were girls in youth development programs such as Rites of Passage and other sisterhood programming.

It is critical that programs and initiatives are implemented not only to help Black boys maximize their full potential, but to assist Black girls reach their greatest promise too. These endeavors need to be more inclusive of the diverse needs of boys and girls individually, as well as offer a more holistic approach to their collective development.
Both Black girls and Black boys are needed to uplift and advance the Black community as well as humanity. To shed some light on the severity of the topic consider this. The Liberator journeyed from one civilization to the next instilling virtues of righteousness, faithfulness, and trustworthiness while showing grace and mercy. He carried within him the heart and spirit of woman.

As novelist Pauline E. Hopkins proclaimed in the title of one of her short stories: “As the Lord lives, he is one of our mother’s children.” Transforming the lives of Black girls is as necessary as enhancing the lives of Black boys, perhaps even more crucial.