Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson

You don’t have to be Einstein to define crazy as doing the same thing repeatedly, always with the same result, yet still expecting a different outcome.

We keep combating terrorism with militarism expecting that somehow, this time, it will actually succeed. Crazier still, this time we expect that, where throwing everything we have at our enemies failed, completely, somehow a limited engagement through air strikes and special ops will now prove successful against a stronger and more organized opponent. We can’t defeat al-Qaeda, but we hope to defeat ISIL, an al-Qaeda on steroids, with even less military investment.

Recently, President Obama addressed this volatile corner we have painted ourselves into, speaking before a uniformed backdrop of stalwart military personnel. Despite all efforts by those who served so capably, that capability is no longer a workable option in our unparalleled arsenal. The seemingly unending recycling of our beleaguered military manpower can now stand down. Thank you all, but your service has been demonstrated a complete tactical error, pursued until exhaustion.

Our president, obviously exhausted himself, explained that our endeavors over the past 13 unlucky years in Afghanistan have been profoundly ill considered in obtaining their objective of dispelling terrorism and establishing admiration for American ideals by those we took to be easily vanquished and readily reoriented towards our unquestioned world view.

Iraq’s experiment was run concurrently just to drive home how clueless we were in our strategic long view. We still remain confused as to even who we are trying to defend or destroy, as those we set out to destroy are now those we wish to standby and defend. Even Iran is momentarily sought as an ally. Meanwhile, politicians still find it difficult to correctly differentiate Sunni vs Shiite, as all Muslims still look the same when viewed by our fundamental indifference to their culture. Until our invasion of Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites lived there peaceable in their Muslim differences. Now those tolerable differences have escalated into ever shifting sectarian violence, as we remain disinterested to the dynamics of an ancient culture that safeguarded Christianity’s scriptural heritage in Greek and then bestowed that treasure to Latin translation, enabling the Bible and our Western cultural identity.

Identity is what all this is all about. Muslim identity and our own. Today’s Muslim Brotherhood was actually created in 1928 as a Sunni defense against Western cultural influence. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, both Sunni, fought the Great Satan quite differently. Al-Qaeda and ISIL, both antiinfidel, are Sunni adversaries. The Iraq we destroyed and now defend is still a Sunni majority despite Western imposed Kurdish-Shiite leadership. Like the British before us, we remain an uninvited and unwanted kingmaker implementing Western solutions to complex regional concepts of Muslim sovereignty.

Muslim fundamentalists, like our own religious fundamentalists, are all about conservative virtues, meaning traditional religious values, adamant that secular freedoms in society are a ruination. Sharia law is just Old Testament law. To call such barbaric is to say the Old Testament is barbaric. John the Baptist was beheaded. Christ was crucified. Jihadism is an extremist practice of fundamental belief by ancient means. Catholics and Protestants have each employed similarly cruel practices. Burning at the stake was a particular favorite. How less barbaric is a modern car bomb, whether Iraqi, Afghan, or Irish? American drone delivered hellfire brings ruthlessness to an amazing technological detachment. None compare to Hiroshima.

How less barbaric is Israel’s treatment of Palestinians? How is their sovereignty as a Jewish State so much different from ISIL’s ambition for an Islamic State? Isn’t Israel something approximating a Jewish Caliphate?

Afghanistan was actually quite modern in outlook before Soviet invasion, as Iraq was before being shocked and awed by American’s gift of liberation. Now, we have created yet another warring Islamic faction threatening a regional rejection of modernity in a return to age-old politics dictated by divine guidance. Soviet intervention in Afghanistan brought about al- Qaida. Our mishandling of retaliation against al-Qaeda has now brought about a even more virulent fundamental uprising threatening Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Maybe our persistent insistence on midwifing a pro-Western Middle East can succeed despite itself by flipping the the region’s perception of a common enemy, making our newest enemy the enemy of all. But, that would entail finding even stranger regional bedfellows and working towards an actual marriage of cultures rather than another marriage of convenience.

For extreme Islamists any marriage is out of the question without full embrace of a “pure” Islam. Our dilemma, if we are ever to truly defeat such terrorism, is to find a means to accommodate that nonaccommodation. We still haven’t defeated Communism, but accommodation has been found. Islamism’s radicalism only grows stronger through violent attack from the West. Profound cultural differences remain a most difficult adversary, especially if one never chooses to engage an understanding of them.

It has been said that violence only begets violence and evil begets evil. Expecting violence to beget lasting peace in a war powered by martyrdom against perceived evil is just plainly an insane playbook we need to move on from.

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Gary Anderson lives in Bath.


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