Instigating the Islamic State

At the opening of the 69th United Nations General Assembly’s General Debate, world leaders took to the podium to address domestic and world issues. Unsurprisingly, the topic on everyone’s agenda was the Middle East, especially the Islamic State (IS or ISIS). But besides the bold, if messy, speech of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina, no one said anything new or groundbreaking. The presidents, kings and dictators have since flown back home to their respective countries after their 2-weeks of receptions, galas and circumlocutional speeches, but the threat of IS soldiers on.
The USA has begun its third Intervention in Iraq since I was born. Canada and Australia have since joined the campaign of aerial strikes, which also includes several other Western nations. Glaringly obvious is the lack of Arab and Muslim support. Where are the Saudi troops? The Egyptian troops? Why can’t the rich Gulf countries at least financially back the Western nations doing all the dirty work?
It looks like Turkey will become the first Muslim-majority nation to join the campaign against IS, if only because of US ‘bullying.’ But wait, isn’t IS literally knocking at Turkey’s door? The Syria conflict had long spilled in Turkey before IS declared war. Wouldn’t Turkey want to put a stop to the craziness before IS sets its sights on the Turkish border?
The Muslim world has not expressed support of IS, but it is not particularly vocal against it either. True, Islamic organizations and the general public, at least in the West, have been speaking up and denouncing IS as un-Islamic: in Britain there’s been a great social media campaign #NotInMyName. But not enough has been said, in my opinion. Why? The time for fearing scrutiny of Islam is far past.
Why is it that, once again, only the Western world is standing up to combat terrorism?
I don’t believe in war, as I have stated many times. I also do not believe that terrorism can be cured by war. I think the Iraq Invasion after 9/11 was a stupid move. But this time I am not denouncing President Obama and the air strikes (as long as we don’t send any on-the-ground troops in). I’m not sure why I support this move. After all, if IS oil supplies and hideouts get destroyed, the majority of the members killed, those who survive will only bide their time until they see another opportunity and will resurface again. Who were the IS members? Where did IS come from, anyway? It was as though they appeared out of thin air.
Except, of course, they didn’t.”Where do ISIS (ISIL) and Al-Qaeda take their guns from? Yesterday’s freedom fighters are today’s terrorists,” President Kirchner had remarked in her speech. Naturally, the United States and co. did not approve of her….honesty. But why not? It’s the truth.
The history of the USA arming Afghans fighting the Soviets, who later turned out to be Al-Qaeda members, is now well-known. But IS consists of many members who were part of the Syrian Resistance who were trained by the USA in Jordan. Clearly among the Resistance were fundamentalists who decided that, training and arms in hand, they had grander schemes than simply overthrowing Syrian President Bachar Al-Assad: an Islamic Caliphate.
Why do freedom fighters become terrorists? When it comes to war (and history) subjectivity is everything. Who is good versus who is bad naturally depends on what side you are asking or, in the case of spectators, which side you are better buddies/trading partners with. During the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, the Soviets were the bad guys (to the USA and Western Europe) whereas the Afghan rebels defending their land were the good guys, since we hated Soviet Communism back then. Flash forward: Al Qaeda/the Taliban were ‘bad’ because they ran an oppressive state and were terrorists who masterminded 9/11 and the USA was the ‘good guy’ because we were defending….those who died in 9/11, democracy and oppressed Afghan women. If a belligerent goes against a nation’s political/economical (and occassionally moral) interests, no matter who they were before, they become the enemy.
A more interesting question I’d ask is why do ‘freedom fighters’ turn on those who ‘helped’ them? The USA helped the Afghans fight off the Soviets; so why turn around and bomb us? The USA supported Syrian rebels against Assad because the rebels wanted a representative government; in this case, there were obviously wolves in sheep’s clothing, opportunists, hiding among the ‘good,’ who saw an opportunity and ran with it. How was the US to know that, among those who just wanted a new president, were bloodthirsty men who decided to take advantage of a chaotic situation for their own power-tripping dreams?
This brings us back to President Kirchner’s censored comment about freedom fighters: is there a lesson to be learned? Is there a way to spot fake allies from real ones? The friendships in the Western world are highly unlikely to come undone in this life time or the next, because the West has rallied around capitalism and a human rights regime of cooperation. But allies in the Middle East are hard-pressed to be found. Islam is only a surface excuse, a cover to make terrorist groups and power-hungry restrictive governments seem reasonable and legitimate. IS just wants power. Or does it?
The Islamic State must know that by taking over land, massacring a race of people and beheading innocent Western civilians that they would certainly attract the West’s attention.  But how do they think they will win, with the (still most) powerful country in the world and its allies against them? A terrorist group has a better chance because they aren’t necessarily tied to a geographical area, making it more difficult to track them down and attack them. In establishing a caliphate IS is literally sitting ducks, an easy target on any map.
When people take power, its usually because they see a reasonable outcome of success in maintaining that power: there’s a power vacuum that they can fill that will, most importantly, not be challenged. IS can be challenged; can’t they see that? Their success in controlling the captured territory in Iraq and Syria is, inshallah, finite. If they can see that, than they must fully believe in their warped Islamic interpretation and are not just power-crazy with  vendetta against the West. If so, that likely means (given the fact that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban never disappeared) that, as long as members exist, they will never stop their cause. So in attacking IS, are we just further instigating the scenario?

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