Rob Idol feels that with the change of approach displayed by ISIS, we need to stop factioning the conflict and conquer ISIS through a united approach.
Following the horrific extremist attacks in Paris last week, I am filled with fury and sorrow; but I must also reflect on why this particular incident caused such a strong reaction in me and so many others like me. The mass taking of human life is a daily recurrence and I’m as guilty as the next white privileged male of glossing over it. The suicide bombings in Beirut that killed forty people just prior to the Paris attacks barely raised my eyebrow, and I’m not alone.
Paris, however, hit me right in the heart.
I have family in and around Paris. I have friends in and around Paris. As I spoke with my cousin in Montreal, who is Parisian by birth, he described his first reggae concert at the Bataclan concert hall in his youth. He described the bars he used to frequent in the neighbourhood where some of the attacks occurred.
I absorbed his pain and made it my own as if the attacks had happened in Adelaide.
This empathy for western victims and relative apathy for others, in many ways, is both the problem and potentially the solution.
When the West is targeted, we are able to empathise. Due to our cultural similarities, the same thing could have happened to us. Make no mistake, groups like ISIS are a threat to anyone that has a modicum of respect for human life. Every life they take, whether it be in Paris, Beirut or Kenya, should offend every single one of us regardless of the religion we choose to identify with, or the country listed on our passport.
What this calls for, is a change in our way of thinking.
Professor Andrew McLeod, an expert in International Relations, wrote an article in The Age this week echoing this statement. He defined the “us” and the “them” in this situation. The “us” need to be “moderates” from all religions and backgrounds and the “them” need to be extremists from opposing camps. In order for this fight to be won, an unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination is required.
But not in a Nationalist approach; in a human one. An approach that leverages off the very horror we have witnessed, where all those that find it deplorable are firmly on the same side.
There is not enough time for me to explain the complexities of Syria, ISIS and the entire region in this piece.
I do, however, highly recommend you have at look this quick video which explains the background.
I’m do not claim to be a military strategist nor am I an expert in the politics of the region. So you’ll have to forgive me for my naivety or idealism here. But in my opinion, the following things need to transpire if we are to rid the world of ISIS and establish stability in the region.
- Accept that, for the time being at least, Assad is not going anywhere. If we are to have any hope of dealing with ISIS in Syria, we need to take steps to ensure a stable political environment within the country which, as unpalatable as it might sound, involves keeping Assad in place.
- When and if Assad is replaced, the solution must be political, not military; and it must be led by Syria’s closest allies, Russia and Iran, with support and cooperation from other nations, particularly the US.
- A new coalition must be formed with a focus on dealing with ISIS, dealing with the humanitarian crisis in the region and returning not only stability, but also prosperity to the region – especially focusing on Iraq and Syria.
- A firm and actionable strategy is developed that outlines the steps that need to be taken post-ISIS. The members of the coalition and the world at large must work together to rebuild Syria and Iraq. This is the only way that the humanitarian crisis can be dealt with long term.
- The US (and by proxy, Australia,) must accept that in order to achieve sustainable stability, they must take a step back. They are not geographically or culturally equipped to deal with the complexities. This situation can only be resolved via a strong contribution by Arab nations, with military support provided by those more geographically suited to do so (Russia and other European nations). We can be part of the conversation, but we simply can’t be the enforcers. This doesn’t preclude military involvement from the US, but it must be part of a larger strategy that involves the key regional stakeholders. The US and its closest allies taking the lead will only continue to feed the propaganda machine that brings growth to ISIS.
As Professor McLeod indicated, if we can define the “us” as all who oppose what ISIS stands for (and there is a hell of a lot of us from all lands and backgrounds), then we can defeat these butchers.
Taking this definition represents far more than that, however.
Dealing with this problem offers the rare chance for the human race to evolve. It’s a chance for all of us to draw a line in the sand. To drop the petty, nationalistic and egotistical bullshit that has plagued all of our societies for generations; the same bullshit that keeps returning us to the same point in history over and over again. That point where human life is allowed to be sacrificed for a “greater good” that is anything but.
Groups like ISIS are beyond reconciliation. But with a true cooperative approach, we can remove the environment that creates a need for such a voice to exist. They will have nothing to fight for, and no-one to fight in their name.
What I’m suggesting doesn’t have to be a Kumbaya campfire session with world leaders holding hands and pledging peace. It simply has to be an acceptance that our reasons for continuing to fight – religion, territory, ideology, megalomania, money, ego or power – are simply not worth the cost. Maybe then, we can actually set a good example that others might follow; particularly when they see how immediately and fruitfully it benefits all of our societies.
As Aristotle said, “A common danger unites even the bitterest enemies.” Not only do these words seem incredibly apt right now, but they were spoken by a man that fittingly has influenced, and has been revered by philosophers and theologians from Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
It’s time to put our differences aside in order to unite and conquer.