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The U.S. doesn’t want to be the world’s policeman anymore

David Andelman knows nothing quite puts risk into perspective like a tale of real panic-sweat. And in a round-the-world career that’s involved postings for the New York Times, CBS News and other blue-chip media companies, he’s sure to have a doozy. At the National Insurance Conference of Canada in Montreal, he told folks how he wound up near a Cambodian temple with the legendary journalist, Dith Pranh, and the Khmer Rouge almost on top of them. “I don’t think I ever did a half-mile faster in my entire life.”

Life today must undoubtedly be quieter for Andelman, serving as editor and publisher of World Policy Journal while contributing to other publications, such as USA Today. He’s also an accomplished historian (his latest book, A Shattered Peace, opens with the irresistibly fascinating anecdote of how Allen Dulles was so eager in Bern to go play tennis with a good-looking Swiss gal that he hung up the phone on an anxious Vladimir Lenin—who the Germans put on a train the next night and sent home to Russia.

Covering history as it happened has given Andelman a unique perspective. No, the Iraq War can’t be easily compared to Indochina, and when it comes to ISIS, he told his audience in Montreal, it’s “been helped along by Western reluctance to commit ground forces to dig them out, reluctance to bomb their strongholds in Syria, perhaps giving aid and comfort to Syria’s malignant dictator Bashar al-Assad…To destroy ISIS we must go after their heart and their brain, and that happens to be within Syria.”

Andelman doesn’t suggest the U.S. send ground forces into Syria, but it can provide intelligence and air strikes to “perhaps an Arab league force” that would include Iranian and Jordanian personnel, similar to the coalition intervening in Yemen’s civil war “although in perhaps not quite so pernicious a fashion.” It’s worth pointing out, of course, that the BBC and other news organizations have reported on ISIS defectors—so cracks are beginning to appear in what amounts to a psychopathic crime organization. And the Kurds, clearly the fiercest warriors in the region, have given ISIS a real fight.

“The Kurds are very good,” says Andelman, “but they’re limited in their capability.” And he has a point that the Kurds are primarily concerned with defending Kurdish territory. “So ISIS says, ‘All right, okay, let them defend the Kurdish territories, we’ll go everywhere else. No one is going to stop us.’ They go for the weakest point. They’re not stupid. They’re very good tacticians, the ISIS leaders.”

He concedes that “the American people are sick of being the world’s policeman, there’s no question about that… We’re just not interested in performing that function any more, and that’s probably a good thing. But someone else has got to take up the burden then, whether it’s a regional force, whether it’s some western European force, whether it’s some force of reason has to stand up against ISIS, or trust me, it will overrun a vast part of a very strategic part of the world. And people are beginning to realize that in spades.”

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Copyright 2015 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of Corporate Risk Canada magazine