Syriana – ISIS & Perpetual War

A new war?

As I type the UK (and thus, by extension, Bermuda) is on the verge of a new war in the Middle East.

Although to what degree this is a ‘new war’ or just a continuation of the 1991 Gulf War is very much open to interpretation.

I want to be clear here:

  • I am no fan of the Assad Government, the Iraqi Government or Iran.  These are all rather brutal regimes with various degrees of ruthlessness.
  • I am no fan of ISIS – I do not consider them anymore representative of Islam than I consider the KKK or the Westboro Baptists representative of Christianity.  In fact, I think if we’re going to call them anything it should be the Jahiliyyah (ignorance) State (al-dawlah al-jahiliyyah – الدولة الجاهلية).  They are a brutal terroristic outfit who defame the name of Islam with their barbarism.

Having made the above clear, I cannot support this new ‘war’.


Rather than solving the problem of ISIS this war will only compound the problem.

Crises of the 21st Century...

Crises of the 21st Century…

To use a rather cliched saying, attributed to Einstein ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’.

ISIS exists, and to the extent that it exists, as a result of the ‘war on terror’ initiated by war criminals George W Bush and Tony Blair, and continued by Obama (more through the drone wars than boots on the ground).  It seems insane to think that launching a new war will have any more of an effect than making things worse in the long-term.

It also seems rather hypocritical that the West is suddenly taking action against ISIS, but failed to take any actions against Israel with their recent war crimes, but I digress…

And let’s not mention the absurd alliances that this new war involves, or the lessons the West should’ve learned about the mujahideen in Afghanistan, proxy fighters for the West, who then turned on their previous handlers.  But I digress again…

Bombing Syriana will only generate more extremists and further expand the proxy regional war that is rather misleadingly being described in the media as the ‘Syrian civil war’, drawing more and more into it, and forcing more and more people into barbarism and misery.

It is particularly concerning that there is no clear strategy in this war – something which you’d think the West would’ve realised was a key factor in the quagmire that was the 2003 Iraq war.  The scope for mission creep and blowback (terrorist attacks in Western citadels) is inescapable and unpredictable.

Waging a new war only creates new martyrs, fertilising a whole new generation of extremists who bastardise Islam.  It does nothing to address the causes of this extremism in the first place – a lack of hope, economic and social collapse and the lack of democracy (and with the coup by Sisi in Egypt the door for a democratic moderate Islam has been slammed shut).

If we really wanted to defeat ISIS and its familiars, we need to address these root causes; we need to address poverty and stop supporting authoritarian regimes on the basis of Western interests (like how we turn a blind eye to the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt, because they’re ‘friends’ of the West).

Steps away from war

One of the first steps to dealing with ISIS should be:

  • Brokering a truce between Syria and the various Syrian rebels.  This would halt the advance of ISIS by allowing Syria and the rebels to bolster their defences against the ISIS advance.  It also provides the foundation for a wider political solution to the so called civil war, while also allowing for humanitarian aid into civilian populations – thus reducing the hopelessness of the people, on which extremist ideologies thrive.
  • A political solution in Iraq is needed, one that addresses the sectarian tensions that have been generated there.  This may need a move to full federalism there, between the Shia south and east, the Sunni west and the Kurdish north.
  • Humanitarian aid is desperately needed in the region.  Just as ‘one catches more flies with honey than vinegar’, we win more hearts and minds (and reduce the number of potential recruits to exploit) through helping people fleeing the crisis and providing humanitarian aid to civilians in general.
  • A truce in Syria will also need a wider resolution of the tensions between Russia and the West, and addressing the growing Shia-Sunni tensions that are being exploited in the region for various geopolitical reasons.
  • Israeli apartheid needs to be ended.  As long as it persists there can be no peace in the middle east.
  • Western hypocrisy in the region needs ended.  The West cannot claim to stand for democracy while at the same time aiding and abetting Israeli apartheid and authoritarian regimes such as Egypt (receives billions of dollars in military aid, despite the coup outdoing Tiananmen for deaths of unarmed protestors) or Saudi Arabia.  This fuels hatred of the West and contributes to extremism there.  We either support democracy or we don’t.  Right now we don’t, beyond lying to our own people.  If we want people to trust us, perhaps we should stop propping up brutal regimes while pretending to be defenders of democracy.  Just a thought…

I cannot support this war.

It’s easy to get worked up in the face of ISIS atrocities, but to rush into a war without a clear strategy, without guarding against mission creep, without an exit strategy, without regard to the fact that every time we’ve done this type of war in the past (Afhganistan, Iraq, Libya) it generally makes things worse, all we’re doing is contributing to the problem.

This war will not solve the problem of ISIS.  It will just make things worse.  For everyone.


4 thoughts on “Syriana – ISIS & Perpetual War

  1. Whilst there is much of what you have said I agree with, I would question one aspect.

    Are you so sure that ISIS – or indeed any extreme grouping – would not exist had Bush and Blair not done what they did?

  2. Without having the opportunity to travel across multi-verses it’s impossible to be sure, however I would say that the War on Terror, along with the degradation of Iraqi society since 1991 (which directly led to a neo-tribalism, amongst other things) and the 2003 Gulf War II, was the single most important contributor to the emergence of ISIS and the current barbarism in that region.

    There’s other factors that feed into it (the so called ‘Arab Spring’; exported Wahabbism from Saudi Arabia as a release valve for tensions in Saudi Arabia; Saudi/Iranian tensions for regional hegemony, with the dominance of Shia populations in Saudi’s oil-rich eastern provinces being relevant here too; globalisation further degrading traditional socio-economic relations in the regions; the slamming of the door on moderate political Islam through the coup by Sisi in Egypt; Western support for dictatorships in the region; the continued festering sore of Palestine and Western complicity in Israeli Apartheid; etc. etc.) but the War on Terror is the single biggest factor contributing to the current situation, imho.

  3. As someone once said, “killing people does not kill ideas”

    My worry also, is that I am not convinced that a political and diplomatic approach is workable either, so I wonder where that area of the world might end up at the end of the day if we took that approach. The Israel/Palestinian issue is testament to that surely.

    With regards to the West, the question is would we see attacks on our shores if we did not stick our nose in militarily?.

  4. Pingback: One Westerner’s View of the “Global War on Terror” · Global Voices

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