Sunday, August 24, 2014

Can civilisation confront evil?

When Francis Fukuyama said the end of the Cold War was the "end of history" (a claim that no doubt will plague him for the rest of his life), the great hope was that the world was turning back from a blood soaked century of both war and tyranny.   However, just as the Holocaust was not the final word on genocide, the end of the Cold War was not the end of tyranny.

What we are now seeing unfolding in Iraq and Syria, with the self-styled "Islamic State" is the latest incarnation of the philosophical embrace of the idea, common to all tyrants, that human beings do not exist for their own purposes, but are subordinate to the purposes dreamed up by others - to be slaves to a "greater" ideal, that involves the sacrifice of their time, property, passions, morals, beliefs, bodies, families and 

"Islamic State" has goals which are common to that of other eliminationist totalitarians:

- Impose its totalitarian law on areas it occupies, with brutal punishment for transgressions;
- Demand all residents of those areas embrace its ideology;
- Kill those who reject it or who are deemed to be "inferior";
- Enslave selected numbers of those it controls (in this case women it selects for sex slaves);
- Enforced breeding to grow its own numbers and dilute/weaken those it occupies.

It has parallels throughout history.  The Khmer Rouge (which dispatched between 1-2 million by execution or starvation), the Croatian Ustashe (who famously enforced one third of Serbs to be converted to Catholicism, one third deported and one third executed), militarist Japan, Nazi Germany and numerous Marxist-Leninist regimes once embraced by one of Nicky Hager's heroes.

Some may say it's not "our problem", although it is clear that some of the "Islamic State's" murdering hoards hail from the UK, Australia and other Western countries, and it is also clear that the "Islamic State" is getting funding from individuals in a wide range of countries, both Western, but also the hereditary dictatorships that the West has friendly relationships in the Persian Gulf.   It would appear the idle rich in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and the like are quite keen on funding those who behead children and impales their heads on sticks.  

Yes, just consider that, pause for a minute and think about a "militant group" (as is the accepted euphemism nowadays) that executes young children, impales their heads on sticks in a town, to warn of what happens if people do not embrace its totalitarian form of Islam.   Now consider that there are people in your country that are not only not offended by this, but willing to go and help out the killers.  
Furthermore, the Islamic State does not simply want a Caliphate over Iraq and Syria, but across the entire Middle East and seeks to wage jihad against the United States and Britain.  It doesn't just want to "peacefully" impose Shariah law (you know a bit like how the Taliban did in Afghanistan or the Khmer Rouge turned Cambodia's calendar to Year Zero), it wants the world to become a caliphate.

Be clear also that it is very well funded from selling oil from Syrian oil fields and if it gained control of more in Syria and Iraq, it could acquire weapons and have levels of funding the Taliban could only have dreamed of.

So think 9/11, 7/7 and think a level of danger that betrays the head in the sand "libertarians" who think this is a problem in the Middle East that can be ignored.   Even if Israel and the Palestinians signed a peace treaty tomorrow that finalised the "two state solution" (even if Israel was wiped off the map), the "Islamic State" would not hesitate, unlike its brethren Hamas.  Even if all of the Muslim world was run by a Caliphate, it would not hesitate, unlike its brethren Al Qaeda (who disowned it for being "too violent").

These are killers that, unlike the Nazis, unlike the Khmer Rouge and unlike the Rwandan gangs of blood thirsty murderers, gloat over their brutality.  Yes, it isn't just a surreptitious dark eliminationism, it is a loud and proud campaign of slaughter.
Yes, it is like watching news footage of the Nazis occupying parts of Europe and sending Jews and others by train to Auschwitz.  It is morally equivalent.

This is in Iraq, a country that, for good or bad, was attacked by the US and some allies, to overthrow one tyranny, but was neglected and left to fester with sectarian government, fed by Iranian intervention (not that the so-called "peace" movement cares about states other than Western ones intervening in others' affairs).

Barack Obama has used selective airstrikes to attack the "Islamic State" and of course, it wasn't going to peacefully ignore that.  However, he sat for a month debating whether to rescue Americans held as hostages, and they have now been paying with their blood for a US President who prefers to play golf to confronting a challenge that threatens to go beyond Al Qaeda.

What should be done is starting to become clearer.

First priority is to secure Iraq from the Islamic State.

- Make all efforts to establish an Iraqi government inclusive of Sunni Iraqis, who were excluded and ostracised by Al-Maliki's Iranian backed sectarian government.  This will mean working with Iran, which has every interest in keeping Iraq from being a Sunni Caliphate that will take it on.  That will take some effort, for it is about bringing together a country torn apart by years of terrorism and conflict fueled by domestic and foreign interference.  Kurdish Iraq must be a part of this and have its rights to autonomy defended.

- Provide air cover, arms and intelligence necessary for Kurdish and Iraqi regular troops to eject the Islamic State from Iraq, defend the borders and secure the country from this threat.  For it is what the West owes Iraq for having overthrown Saddam and cutting and running when its own ineptness in governing and transitioning the country cost most of the lives in the aftermath from Iranian and locally backed Islamist insurgents.

Beyond that, the West doesn't owe Syria anything, but it does have the core interest of eliminating the Islamic State in Syria, because if it fails it will be a base for terrorist attacks across the Middle East and the West.  Partnering with Bashar Assad would be a dreadful step, as it would provide moral sanction for his own gassing and barrel bombing of mass civilian populations.   The interest in Syria is confronting those who would be aggressive to ourselves.

That is more difficult, but it does mean airstrikes, it means cutting off sales of oil and funds from donors, and cutting off the supply of eager wannabe psychopaths from other countries.  There should be attempts to gain multilateral support from across the Middle East, including Iran and even Russia, given the interest among many powers in curtailing such Islamism.

However, to achieve this requires clear moral purpose and determination, but there is a distinct lack of that:

- A US President who prefers to play golf, and who spent a month undecided about whether to mount a rescue mission of Americans such as James Foley.  The response so far is about the minimum that is helpful, but then that's more than what Bill Clinton did when Islamists used a truck bomb against the WTC North Tower in 1993.

- A British PM who has gone to the beach, after talking about how "serious" it all is.  Mainly because his biggest opponents (Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage) are isolationists, and going out on a limb about Libya has failed to deliver sustainable results.

- Francois Hollande, who has intervened in Mali and the CAR against Islamists and who rightly feels France acts alone enough.

The lack of interest in intervening in Iraq and Syria is understandable, given the price of money and lives it involves.  However, this time the danger is real.  It is a threat not only to peaceful people who the West owes support to (the Kurds), but to us all from those wishing to wage war against secular Western liberal democracy.

The alternative is to sit back and watch events unfold, to say a lot of words about them, give the Kurds some arms, to watch them take over Syria,  to watch Iran take over non-Kurdish Iraq, to watch the Islamic State acquire ground-to-air missiles to deliberately hit airliners flying overhead, then to await the first terrorist incident in the USA, or UK, or Germany.

The expect to hear a lot more words...

3 comments:

Angry Tory said...

What should be done is starting to become clearer.

It's been clear from the beginning. Strategic, not tactical. Counter-value, not counter-force.

If GW (or even HW) Bush had had the guts back in the 80s, we wouldn't be in this mess now.

What's the point of Global Strike Command & the strategy submarine forces if we never use them?

Anonymous said...

what a selective diatribe of drivel.Take your western,indoctrinated rose tinted glasses off and confront Anglo/American imperialism/colonialism.Human behaviour is consistent,no matter your ideological persuasion...wiki leaks and Snowdens revelations confirm this.

Libertyscott said...

Anonymous: Take your post-modernist, moral relativist hatred for individual freedom and capitalism off and confront the fundamental evil of an ideology that believes human beings don't exist for themselves, but to be sacrificed by others.

Human behaviour is not consistent. Nobody I knows seeks to execute others for their views. Wikileaks is led by a new-leftist psychopath who has allied himself with other psychopaths.

Don't confuse a belief in individual freedom and support for the relative freedom and secularism of the West for absolute support of the actions of governments.

You didn't need to embrace colonialism or statism of the UK and France in 1939 to support it against totalitarian Nazism, nor to support them against totalitarian Stalinism in 1945.

However in the pristine world of the cool, counter-culture, neo-Marxist/green/anti-capitalist middle class post-modernists, you can turn a blind eye to Islamism, Russian revanchist fascism and the like because the US Federal govt has behaved appalling on some occasions.

Go appease the Islamic State, see how long the, admittedly eroded, freedoms you take for granted last there- but you wont, you prefer to disappear up your own arse with vapid sanctimony.

The West could have blamed itself for the rise of Nazi Germany, because it set the scene for it with post WW1 reparations. We can all be grateful that it learned the lesson, but didn't weaken in confronting it.