by Sevasti Christoforou
It was not hard to foresee the domino effect which followed the horrific attacks in Paris last month. Just by scrolling through social media or reading the first political responses, one could see that the downward spiral of terror, war and death was about to accelerate. The rhetoric of war and evil was employed straight away by Western leaders; Islamophobic statements and hasty associations of the attacks with Syrian refugees dominated the media landscape. Far-right groups throughout Europe were probably rubbing their hands together.
Soon after the attacks Francois Hollande vowed to lead a pitiless war and President Obama affirmed that the US would stand together with France and do whatever it takes to fight against terrorism and extremism. Meanwhile, the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, said that the Netherlands is at war with Isis, and David Cameron expressed his conviction that Britain should expand its air strikes in Syria.
France, Britain and the US were already engaged in carrying out attacks against ISIS. So why are the leaders now ramping up the rhetoric of war in their statements? What is the purpose behind this? Their selection of words aims to influence public opinion and persuade people that acts of war are now inevitable, necessary and urgent in order to protect our safety. The leaders also want to give the impression that attacks against ISIS have a legal basis.
Soon after the Paris attacks, France, along with US forces, expanded military action against ISIS, carrying out massive air strikes in Raqqa, Syria – one of the most important Isis strongholds. France invoked Article 47/2 of the EU Treaty, an article on common security and defence which states that all Member States are obliged to assist another Member State if it has been the victim of armed aggression, using all available means in their power. On Wednesday 2 December, the majority of the British Parliament voted in favour of carrying out air strikes against Isis in Syria, joining the efforts of France, the US and Russia. Two days later, German MPs voted to join the military campaign against Isis by sending air, land and naval support. It is sad to see that the EU is actually at war.
At this point, it is important to understand that the collective decision to respond to the threat of ISIS by military means, coupled with the failure to adopt a clear and comprehensive strategy for addressing the most compelling aspects of the problem, is likely to have drastic consequences.
Recent history (and logic, for that matter) can teach us that war is definitely not the answer. It is unwise to treat ISIS as the root of the evil of terrorism, because it simply is not. Ideas and especially ideologies do not exist autonomously; they are by-products of the reality in which people exist. Imperialist intervention along with corrupt regimes and climate change are the roots of the evil – the factors that created, fed and nurtured sectarian ideologies and ultimately ISIS. It is of vital importance to take past events into consideration and avoid denying responsibility when attempting to find a solution to dealing with ISIS. War has been a major cause of the problem, so why do we even consider war as a solution now? Moreover, is it ever possible to destroy an ideology with air strikes and weapons? Especially when this ideology has already spread widely outside the area being targeted?
So what are the likely consequences of an intensified “war on terror”? Bombing and killing members of ISIS will probably contribute to the empowerment of their ideology inside and outside the Middle East. A strategy that involves killing people and destroying houses and infrastructure in regions which have already been devastated is likely to reinforce people’s perception of the ugly face of the West and turn dead ISIS members into martyrs or heroes who risked their lives and fought against the cruel invaders. Indeed it is likely to facilitate ISIS’s recruitment of new members. Finally, in the unlikely event of ISIS being destroyed, this war would inevitably lead to the birth of new extremist groups.
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Cockburn, P. (2015). The rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the new Sunni revolution. New York: Verso Books.
Feldman, N. Declaring war on Terror is good rhetoric, bad policy, Bloomberg view. Available from: http://bv.ms/1TFdDib [15 November 2015]
Gottinger, P. Beyond the Hysteria of Vangeance: to defeat ISIS, End the ‘war on terror’, Counter Punch. Available from: http://bit.ly/1NZSoJL [17 November 2015]