The British government has voted in favour of joining the fight against Daesh in Syria and begin bombing alongside its allies. This has occurred in large part as a result of the attacks in Paris in November – this course of action seems all too familiar to 11th September 2001.
After a horrific terrorist attack on American soil the US government reacted by announcing a War on Terror. One which has cost trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives and fanned the flames of the threat it so keenly set out to defeat – extremism.
In the Middle East suicide bombings have gone through the roof, destruction has exponentially grown and fundamentalist groups such as Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra have experienced an almost constant swell in members. The reason for this is often seen as a complex and nuanced one, yet the principle explanation is due to the consequences of Western military intervention.
Military intervention has perpetuated, particularly since the announcement of the War on Terror, an unforeseeable and unprecedented level of collateral damage within Middle Eastern societies. Invasions, drone strikes, imprisonment without trial, Guantanamo bay, Abu Ghraib, the propping up of Western backed leaders – have all resulted in breakdown of natural society in the Middle East.
Many have come to see the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the War on Terror itself, as a huge failure from the Western world to curb the rise of terrorism. Instead it has increased extremism by quite some distance. Yet on the 1st December 2015, eleven years after the announcement of the War on Terror, the UK along with the rest of the Western world stand on the precipice of the same fundamental mistakes.
The voices of dissonance towards Daesh are strong from all sides, the condemnation of this “vile cancer” and “poisonous ideology” that Daesh peddles is criticised by the world over. But, subsequent actions of Western governments are still knee-jerk, profoundly confused and insufficient for tackling this “so-called Islamic State”.
David Cameron and the majority of his Conservative MPs make the case that bombing the problem “over there” will by default keep us safe “over here”. This neglects and glosses over the glaring explanation as to why the Paris terror attacks even occurred – as Daesh has stated themselves they are a direct response to the French bombing campaign in Syria.
Despite this obvious explanation, the British government is also ignoring prior evidence that military intervention in the Middle East does not solve the issue of fundamentalism. The US, Russia, France, Turkey and other major Arab powerhouses are already bombing Daesh in both Iraq and Syria – the UK has also been bombing Iraq since last year. Does the government really believe their extra bombs will be the nail in the coffin to defeating Daesh?
The confusion explained
It is this incoherent, international meddling by the West which leads to an escalation in violence and terrorism. World superpowers seek to cling on to geo-political power in the region, by supporting whichever group has the most power at that specific time. There has even been discussion of Britain backing President Assad, who has been responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent Syrian’s for years. And Cameron continues to peddles misleading figures about pro-western “boots on the ground”, such as 70,000 free fighters who wish to support us in defeating Deash.
Once again this brings back an eerie déjà vu to the 1980s, when Western powers funded and armed Al-Qaeda to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Can we really be sure that those we are currently arming in Syria to help us defeat Daesh won’t become the next Al-Qeada in 10 years’ time?
Western foreign policy towards the Middle East is first class short termism; we bomb extremists and invade states, arm rebels and claim to have defeated the problem. Then, in a cycle that is repeated again and again a new extremist group, which holds grievances against the West from the previous bombing campaign or invasion, springs up and poses a new threat.
The passing of this vote, has once again demonstrated Western short termism and our hot-headed style of foreign policy. Bombs may well kill the terrorists but they will not destroy the ideology. The West will once again bomb in the Middle East, it will claim victory against Daesh and then realise that it has no exit strategy and no long term viable solution to rebuild the region. It will cause more collateral damage and again grow more extremism.
What can be done?
To resolve the never ending cycle of extremism and violence in the Middle East there needs to be a well thought out, creative and diplomatic solution. In a first instance we must give control back to the Middle Eastern states; we can no longer be the puppeteers to their future whilst simultaneously cutting off the strings. We must ensure that it is them and not us who control their future.
But we can support these countries in this effort, after all when Europe defeated the Nazis it helped to rebuild Germany to be one of the best economies in the world. We must help resolve the Syrian crisis, ensuring peace in both Iraq and Syria, whilst principally understanding that we can no longer be the driving force in achieving this.
The Western world must be involved in an open debate. It must listen to all sides, make compromises and shut down the growth of the current Islamophobic foreign policy narrative put forward by some. We must understand why young men and women feel disaffected within society, with their only and most appealing option being to join Daesh.
If we cannot understand the reasons for radicalisation, we will never be able to find the solutions.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and again and expecting different results. The UK government’s decision to bomb Syria is the next round to a vicious cycle which began after 9/11, are they really expecting a new outcome this time? I for one believe it is time for change; Western powers need to wake up to the reality that their interventionist foreign policy no longer works. As Jimmy Carter once said: “We’ve fought fire with fire, never thinking that fire is sometimes best quenched with water.”