In the aftermath of the November 13 terror attacks in Paris it is hard to believe that the world has not suddenly been thrown into World War Three. A new “fascist” regime threatens world peace and is personified by the so-called Islamic State. The new “Nazism” is religious fundamentalism from the middle east. The Allied victory of World War One sowed the initial seeds of discontent in the region when the British and French divided up the region in one last example of colonial posturing. The creation of Israel after World War Two drove a sword through an already volatile area and challenged Arab leaders to come with some sort of response to the permanent presence of westerners in their land. Hatred for the west- usually the United States or Israel- and the puppet governments, or dictatorships, the west set up across the region eventually boiled over and climaxed with the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States. And rather than see this attack as the reflex action of a culture fed up with western neo-colonialism the Americans declared war on Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. After almost 15 years of conflict almost all of what was once the Ottoman Empire, stretching from Egypt to Turkey, has been laid waste. From this vacuum the fundamentalist forces of ISIS have arisen.
Just as Germany was swallowed up by the Nationalist fervour of the Nazis Iraq has been taken hostage by a similar evil in the form of Islamic Fanaticism. Both movements are eerily similar. The Nazis intended to purify themselves and create a master race of racial separatists. ISIS sees itself as the truth path of Islam and has set out to cleanse and redefine it’s Reich, or empire. The Nazis chose ethnic cleansing as a means of purifying their people and all those who didn’t fit their profile or who stood in their way were annihilated. Isis too has chosen the path of genocide and intolerance to achieve its aims. Both regimes have persecuted their chosen enemies in the most barbaric and inhuman ways. And just as Germany was not satisfied with the limited expansion and consolidation of their territory and began invading and subjugating their enemies and neighbours through the terror of “blitzkrieg”, Isis also seems unsatisfied with the establishment of their “caliphate” and has decided to expand their presence globally through the terrorism.
War with the Nazi regime was unavoidable after the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the Allies united to meet and defeat the threat. Isis has, in recent weeks, launched attacks against Russia and France, as well as Lebanon and Turkey and it now seems inevitable the Allies will once again unite to fight against the twin-terror of Fascism and Fanaticism.
The November 13 terror attacks in Paris represent the latest and bloodiest ISIS attacks in the west. If we are going to effectively combat this threat against Western Idealism by Islamic Fanaticism (a new Cruscade?) the following strategy is required: an intelligence-oriented, military commitment to confront and annihilate the enemy wherever he may be (abroad AND at home) based upon an unbiased and thorough historical study of the root causes of the present conflict. It is one thing to defeat the enemy physically and win the war; we must also ensure that we do not further antagonize and isolate the homeland from where the enemy was born and lose the peace afterwards.
The relationship between the Middle East and West has historically been complicated, divisive and all-too-often bloody. Since the days of the Crusades it has been a history of racist imperialism and religious intolerance. The immediate history of what is fast becoming a quagmire of cultural conflict is easy enough to trace and begins with Osama Bin Laden. Unfortunately it does not end with his death. If the same strategy I have suggested for the present conflict against ISIS had been adopted against Bin Laden and his organization, Al Queda, it is arguable that things never would have reached the explosive stage they have now. Just as if Germany’s grievances before and after World War One had been appreciated and assuaged the Second World War would not have been so inevitable, so too if the grievances of the Arab world had been addressed more sympathetically before and (especially) after the events of September 11, 2001 the present crisis might also have been averted.
While going after Bin Laden and the fundamentalist Taliban government in Afghanistan which housed and supported him was arguably justified and sadly unavoidable the West, in the form of American President George Bush and his conservative administration, made little effort to understand what forces had compelled Bin Laden to marshall his limited forces for a one-time attack against the United States. Bin Laden may have called for a Jihad against the West but he must have known he himself was doomed from the start. And that’s probably what he counted upon, dying as a martyr and somehow inspiring a larger movement against the infidel West he and many others had so come to hate. In this sense he achieved his aim. The belief that their “purer” Islamic culture was being diluted by the “alien” culture of the West had reached a boiling point and Bin Laden decided he would be the one who would take action, if no one else.
Whatever efforts were made to win a war and then establish peace in Afghanistan failed when the United States illegally, insanely and unjustifiably decided to invade Iraq after Afghanistan. This was the worst thing the West could have done. Rather than isolate the threat against the United States in Afghanistan and surgically deal with Bin Laden and his Taliban cohorts the United States proudly (or greedily) over-reached themselves and threw themselves into an unnecessary power struggle in neighbouring Iraq, again without much understanding if any of the tribal and ethnic politics at play there. How could anyone, especially in the Middle East except Israel, interpret the invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq as an effort to win peace in a region already alienated and long persecuted by western powers?
The Invasion of Iraq was unconvincingly justified by the Americans as necessary to rid the region of a despotic dictator, Saddam Hussein, who was practicing genocide on his own people AND was in possession of mass destruction with intent to use them against Western enemies. Now as a United States-backed dictator one can only wonder who those western enemies could have been! The cruelty and ruthlessness of Saddam Hussein may have been very real but the allegations of weapons of mass destruction have since been proven false. It is far more likely the US decided to invade Iraq because they had simply grown tired of one of their dictators no longer content to play the role of puppet and follow orders from his handlers. Saddam had simply outgrown his usefulness and had become a liability. It is also possible the US decided to take advantage of their presence in Afghanistan to flex a little more muscle in the region and re-establish their political presence in a region with vast oil reserves.
To say the US-led invasion of Iraq was ultimately a failure is an understatement. The modern, if problematic, nation of Iraq was destroyed. Removing Saddam (and his repressive Baathist party government) did not result in the beginnings of a new, freer and more democratic Iraq (if that ever was part of the plan). After almost 15 years of conflict without result the US finally decided to withdraw its military and abandon Iraq. What arose from the chaotic vacuum of power was ISIS.
In a very short time ISIS has morphed from a regional to global threat. Having now carved out their “Caliphate” nation from the wasteland of war torn Iraq and territory unclaimed by civil war in neighbouring Syria, home of another western-sponsored dictator, Bashar al Assad, ISIS has decided to pick up the baton of western hatred left behind by Bin Laden’s Al Queda and strike across additional international borders.
So once again we are back at the start, and on the brink of world war. The West continues to misunderstand the Middle East and vilify, rather than, empathize with the people of the Middle East. The West’s response continues to involve little more than military thinking. Without forethought and an understanding of how to win the inevitable peace that will come a military response will achieve little beyond containing a simmering pot from boiling over again next time. And unless we learn from the past and apply lessons learned from the past to the present situation there will be a next time, who knows where, who knows when fanatical, militant Islamists attack “soft” western targets. We would do well to listen to the cries of an angry and bereaved people. If we don’t we risk losing the support of the local population in favour of their determined leadership and that will make the war to come that longer, bloodier and more difficult to win.
How are we ever going to win over the hearts and minds of the people if our only response is always violence and war? As we deal militarily with the threat violent Jihad against the West we must not lose track of our ultimate goal which is to re-establish peace between the West and Middle East and not allow another senseless Crusade to come between us.
Afterward One: One important reason why the present conflict should not in any way be seen as some sort of third world war is that the population of the ISIS caliphate do not play a role on the administration of their so-called leaders, willingly or unwillingly. Whoever is able to flee the horrors of the Syrian Civil War and the atrocities of nation-building ISIS forces has done so. ISIS has no popular support amongst moderate Muslims in the region. And this is something that can be used against them. Without the support of the local population for food, forces and revenue, and even as human shields, the military forces of ISIS should be easy to target, attack and eliminate. So why doesn’t the West just piece together it’s overwhelming military and intelligence forces and destroy ISIS on the field. Arguably without its military force the ideological force of ISIS would soon wither and die. Then, and only then, can the long overdue work of peace-making between the West and Middle East begin again.
Afterward Two: The “mass shooting” December 15 in San Bernardino, California is an example of home grown terrorism here in the USA. The shooters were of Middle-eastern decent but the husband involved was US-born, US-raised, US-educated and US-employed. (And aren’t the terrorists in Belgium all of Middle-eastern decent but Belge-born, Belge-raised, Belge-educated, Belge-employed or unemployed?) His “mail-order” bride may have been “a plant” or she may have “radicalized” her husband. They, like their European counterparts claim they were “inspired” by ISIS to attack their target. This incident of course exposes our vulnerability to a spontaneous attack on the public at any time and in any place by otherwise normal looking citizens who suddenly strike without apparent warning or reasonable cause. This violence can only be countered by the vigilance and preparedness of normal citizens working together with local police authorities to insure the safety of our communities. These incidents might also be prevented by addressing more seriously the causes of diverse mental health problems affecting so many of our citizens and residents. Not only must we do more to make our society fairer and more democratic- so no one is excluded from the prosperity of our nation- but we also need to understand that we have a responsibility to help others lest their problems become our own. We must unite in an effort to make the purchase and distribution of fire arms as regulated a process as possible without infringing upon the right of our citizens to bear these same arms for sport and to defend themselves. It’s not that guns are the problem or people are the problem…what needs to be prevented are guns in the hands of people with problems.
Afterward Three: On March 22, 4 days after the last suspect in the November Paris bombings was captured, ISIS-inspired terrorists struck again in Europe, this time in the country the Paris bombers called home. In two separate, but apparently coordinated, attacks suicide bombers in Belgium killed more than 20 persons and wounded hundreds after detonating bombs at the main Brussels airport and in the city center. Whether these bombers were part of the same terrorist cell as the Paris group- or if this is another, secondary cell following its own agenda- remains to be seen. But these attacks will keep certainly Europe on high alert for a long time to come. These attacks also beg the question, how could the best security forces in Europe allow another series of terrorist attacks to occur with their resources in full use since the Charlie Hebdo attacks last January and especially since the attacks in Paris last November?