Friday, June 13, 2014
What is ISIS?
The group ISIS has suddenly become prominent in our awareness after the rapid advances in Iraq. What does this signify? What is ISIS? At least three answers arise when we look at it from the Viewpoint of civilizations with distinct characters developing in parallel but displaced in time, see my blog "Comparative history"
1) Like corresponding groups they are bands of terrorists and fanatics with no respect fur even innocent human life.
2) At the same time they are defenders of the Oriental civilization. As I have written in "The Middle East, Rome and the United States" and elsewhere the only surviving of the old civilizations or high cultures is the Oriental-Arab. The others have become part of the all dominant Western civilization. As the Boxers in China a century ago fought Western dominance, so do many groups in the Middle East today. Organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS are extreme versions of this phenomenon.
3) But paradoxically at the same time they are also heralds of Western type nations. As I have written earlier the originally intermingled Oriental nations are being transformed into Western type territorial nations, see "Ethnic cleansing in the Arab world". ISIS is a part of this trend. They want to create a Sunni nation in the Fertile Crescent. A nation with no room for other nations, be it Shia, Kurdish or Cristian. All these nations used to live between each other in small to very small enclaves in the countryside and in the cities. But this type of patchwork coexistence is no longer tolerated. The Westernized nations now want coherent ethnically clean territorial nations. That ISIS wants this is a sign that they are partly Westernized. ISIS is talking about making Karbala a battlefield. This clearly is an ominous sounding expression of a plan to clean this holy Shiite city through blood.
We can not have an extreme terrorist movement control large parts of Iraq (and Syria) as this would promote terrorism all over the region and the globe. That the Americans alone for this reason will have to intervene directly or indirectly is obvious.
But something else is even more important. Groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS hitherto have been too extreme to gather much popular support. This could be changing. As said above ISIS is a part of the Westernization of the Oriental nations. Of course they are not alone in representing this trend. Other Sunnis and other groups in the Middle East have the same wish.
Because of the policies of the governments in Bagdad with their favoring of the Shiites and neglecting and suppressing the Sunnies, this last group now has an even stronger wish for their own coherent and independent territory. The same goes for the Sunnis in Syria oppressed by the Alawites.
But it would be a real disaster if ISIS become the main channel through which the Sunnis in Iraq and Syria try to achieve their territorial nation. Unfortunately a such development has become more likely exactly because of the al-Maliki governments policies. Already now we see all kinds of Sunnis fighting alongside with ISIS, even people from the Baath party. All these people could of course be thought with time to moderate the ISIS policies. But they could themselves become radicalized at the same time.
Of course the Shiites will act reciprocally. If not the government, then the militias. The country would become divided through wars and more ethnic cleansings. Perhaps with Iranian intervention.
Some kind of military action from the outside is needed to stop the fanatics. But at the same time the governments in Bagdad must be forced to make far more balanced policies uniting all Iraqis.
In conclusion heterogenous Middle Eastern countries which become unstable, cannot be left on their own. For the time being this concerns Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. At their present phase of history marked by the fight for survival of the Oriental civilization and the trend toward territorial nations with ethnic cleansings the destabilizing will cause that these trends easily become channelled through terrorist organizations. The anti-Western fight and the wish for nations are radicalized by and is also strengthening terrorism. Terrorism which spills over to hit globally. As this is intolerable so is even more the suffering for the people in the countries. Civil wars often result. And civil wars fought by terrorists are even worse than "normal" civil wars.
We have an obligation to intervene militarilly and politically before things spiral out of control. And this even more if intervention from the West like in Iraq is behind the destabilization. The intervention should not stop when the war is over or even a few years after this. An Iraqization or Afghanistanization is not possible in the short or even medium term.
Unfortunately Western and especially US intervention and control risk triggering even more anti-Western sentiments. This underlines the need for very discrete and also extremely wise long term guidance from the outside. A policy not led by short term wishes to please voters at home and not changed by the changes of government in the USA. And certainly no more unlawful and destabilizing American invasions.
The great powers, the USA, China and Russia should forget the cold war rhetorics over the Ukraine and the Asian seas and cooperate and force through viable solutions for the Middle East. The best would be through a strengthened UN.