Last summer, Pope Francis issued a stunning call for global action against ISIS, but stopped short of a demand for war. The pontiff carefully explained that the world needed to “stop the unjust aggressor,” that force might be required to do so, and that the proper venue for such action would be the United Nations. “One single nation cannot judge how he is to be stopped, how an unjust aggressor is to be stopped,” Francis told a plane full of reporters as he left South Korea, but insisted that “it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor.”
Yesterday, on the second anniversary of Pope Francis’ election, the Vatican made it much more explicit. The world must come together in force to stop the genocides of ISIS, in what Crux’s John Allen called “an unusually blunt endorsement of military action”:
“We have to stop this kind of genocide,” said Italian Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative in Geneva. “Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t so something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.”
Tomasi said that any anti-ISIS coalition has to include the Muslim states of the Middle East, and can’t simply be a “Western approach.” He also said it should unfold under the aegis of the United Nations.
The call for force is striking, given that the Vatican traditionally has opposed military interventions in the Middle East, including the two US-led Gulf Wars. It builds, however, on comments from Pope Francis that the use of force is “legitimate … to stop an unjust aggressor.” …
“It will be up the United Nations and its member states, especially the Security Council, to determine the exact form of intervention necessary,” he said, “but some responsibility [to act] is clear.”
In other words, we seem to have moved from what Allen described as a “yellow light” last summer to a very bright, flashing green light. Needless to say, this is not just “unusually blunt,” it’s unusually hawkish for the Vatican, which almost always endorses conciliation and diplomacy over conflict. It’s a measure of just how radically dangerous this situation has become with ISIS, and how much death and destruction has resulted from its rapid expansion.
Speaking of rapid expansion, CIA Director John Brennan says that ISIS is now operating in 90 countries. Ninety:
CIA Director John Brennan said Friday that the Islamic State had “snowballed” beyond Iraq and Syria, expanding its presence in more than 90 countries.
Brennan’s statement marks a change from the narrative the Obama administration has been pushing on the success of the fight against ISIS.
“Left unchecked, the group would pose a serious danger not only to Syria and Iraq, but to the wider region and beyond, including the threat of attacks in the homelands of the United States and our partners,” Brennan told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
So much for the “we’re degrading ISIS” claims from the White House, eh? At least someone’s talking about this at the UN as a need for emergency action, but …. why is it the Vatican that has to raise the point? George H. W. Bush would have gone to the UN to build the kind of coalition that the Vatican demanded yesterday (and did, in fact, put together such a coalition for an action that St. John Paul II opposed), but so far no Western nation has bothered to make the case for a global military intervention. Allen reports that France will raise the issue at the next UN Security Council meeting in April, but that comes more than a year after ISIS began its sweep across Syria and Iraq, and nearly a year since they began genocidal campaigns against Assyrian Christians and Yazidis, among others.
Of course, the US actually has put together a coalition of Muslim nations to fight ISIS, but so far ineffectively. Barack Obama does not want to put ground troops in Iraq, but neither do his coalition partners, at least not without American participation in ground operations. Instead of going to the UN to bypass Congress on Iran, perhaps Obama would be better advised to go to the UN Security Council to find a more effective strategy than the one being used currently.