In our fast 24 hour society, if a problem appears we demand an immediate response and an action to sort the problem out. The obvious problem is that being seen to do something is not the same as sorting the problem in the first place.
This set of circumstances I think first appeared 25 years ago when a spate of dog attacks on small children led to the Dangerous Dogs Act – a byword for rushing into actions which did more harm than good. It is this Something must be done-ism which came to mind in the aftermath of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
Dear @David_Cameron: Blanket bomb ISIS until they beg us to stop. Then blanket bomb ISIS more until there is no one left alive to beg.— MDW (@mdwsyd) November 13, 2015
I wasn’t aware of events until everything had happened. I then made the cardinal error of checking twitter and saw several tweets calling for direct action against the organisation we will call Daesh. One in particular asked Cameron to carpet-bomb Daesh beyond the point of surrender. The voices calling for direct military action against Daesh looked vocal and intolerant to opposing views (like the tweet above). Kinda like Daesh themselves.
What escaped all of the people advocating the bombing of Daesh areas is that bombing of the Middle East has been done on and off since September 11th 2001 with not a great deal of success. Afghanistan has fallen back into the arms of the Taliban, Pakistan has essentially become a no go area for westerners, Iraq became the vacuum that firstly Al Quaida and then the Wahabists of Daesh desired to set up a sort of homeland. Libya has descended into lawlessness. It’s not a good record of intervention, is it?
What will make things worse and increase the likelihood of more Paris style attacks will be the apparent desire to make our retribution a highly visible one. The Middle East and sub-continent are not pro-Western areas at the best of times. At moments like now, they’d be suspicious of reprisals, which might lead to a rise in support for Daesh. However you look at it, bombing Iraq & Syrian areas under the jackboot of Daesh is not an option.
That’s not to say there are not things that can be done. For starters the west should really start to look at their own role here. They allowed the spread of the Wahabist sect of Islam to spread unchecked throughout the Islamic world from it’s home in Saudi Arabia. Indeed the seeds of this can be traced to the migration of ‘freedom fighters’ from Saudi Arabia, including one Osama Bin Laden, to take part in the Afghanistan War in the 1980’s. Tackling Saudi’s Wahabist tendencies is a vital first step.
We should also try and help and assist Iraq, Syria and the Kurds in driving out Daesh but in a resolutely non visible way – unless officially asked to. This means any available background or supporting roles we can do we should be doing. Anything that does not act as a call to arms against the west.
This is an issue that cannot be solved by a golden bullet. Although there are parallels with the Second World War – Daesh’s values are remarkably similar to the National Socialists values in terms of their vicious intolerance to any dissenters or anything not complying to their values – this cannot be seen as a direct comparison due to the West’s standing in the Middle East. This situation calls for intelligence and smart tactics to defeat Daesh, not the blundering in advocated by right wingers the world over. Something must be done, but not that.