A decade ago, the war on terror seemed to be all the news media talked about, with the narrative of the day casting al-Qaeda as the big bad wolf preying on Little Red Riding Hood. Of course, what we didn’t take into account was that al-Qaeda was in pretty bad shape before Osama bin Laden died. They had a terrible business model that relied on charitable donations, and by the time Osama bin Laden was killed, they were hampered by a cripplingly low budget, dwindling support, and a lack of new recruits. Suffice it to say, they had less chance of destroying Western democracy than the common cold. Today, the Islamic State (popularly known as “ISIS”) are the new villains of our day, working to sow chaos in the world, except this time, the threat from them is very real.
Nothing has served as a more important sign of this than Friday’s unquestionably horrible massacre in Paris. Following the events of that day, social media sites were awash with condolences and prayer, as much of the world stood in solidarity, and the fingers of the world point squarely at ISIS, who appeared to claim responsibility for the attack. Unsurprisingly, the French president, Francois Hollande, responded swiftly with a new round of air strikes against a series of ISIS sites in Raqqa, Syria. As unfortunate as it sounds, a new war in the Middle East might be inevitable, and Friday’s attacks in Paris may just be the tip of the iceberg.
If ISIS is the culprit behind the Paris attacks, as so many of us have suspected, then clearly we are no longer dealing with mindless religious fanatics. Yes, ISIS are principally driven by an insane, distorted interpretation of Islam, but to treat them as merely “violent extremists” is no longer appropriate, as that would be dangerously ignorant of what they have shown themselves to be capable of. We’re talking about a group of militant fanatics who wish to push the world back into the dark ages, and unlike al-Qaeda, they’ve actually planned their moves. They’ve destroyed historic sites that they’ve deemed “un-Islamic”, they’ve captured a significant portion of territory in Syria and beyond, and they’ve beheaded a number people from various countries in a series of graphic videos, and that’s only a brief summation of what they’ve done so far. Given this recent tapestry of atrocities, including the recent attacks in Paris, we can no longer live in ignorance of the threat posed by ISIS.
I think there is a very real possibility of another war in the Middle East, which leaves us in a very difficult position. On the one hand, force seems to be the only way we could stand up to ISIS, and we may be right to fight this war, but on the other hand, it’s still difficult to trust the integrity of any military intervention carried out by the West. Also, we tried bombing Syria earlier this year, and that resulted in the Syrian refugee crisis. That being said, it might be incredibly easy for the West to use both the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and the recent tragedy in Paris to justify a new war in the Middle East, and thus the cycle of barbarism on both sides of the planet goes on.
Ultimately, the saddest part of the current geopolitical situation is that we may inevitably be thrust into another war that half of us don’t want, and that war will only benefit the undertakers and the terrorists. Worse still, given the response of Western governments, the complexity of the current Syrian situation, and the clear drive for war exhibited by Britain and America, it is painfully unlikely that we’ll see a peaceful solution to the conflict. At this point, let’s just hope that, in the event that we find ourselves involved in another war, we can all come to our senses sooner rather than later, unlike in the two previous conflicts. After all, the outlook for peace in the Middle East may look even more bleak than it has before, but there’s always hope for a better way. In the end, for us to descend into fear, ignorance and barbarism is the only way ISIS will ever really win.