You’ve gotta be kidding me… I read a commentary piece from David Warren the other day, in which Warren tried to explain the “right way” of winning in Iraq. Warren likened the war in Iraq to fighting the Nazis in WWII. I’m confused that people still think that this is a simple fight delineated on political lines, rather than ideological ones.
And it’s more than just Warren that sees the current Middle East conflict in such a division of black and white. The NATO mission in Afghanistan and the US war in Iraq are charging ahead with their missions to “colonize” the Middle East, in spite of the vigorous opposition from the local militants.
The obvious problem here is that for the locals, political boundaries don’t seem to matter. In fact, the lines appear to be blurred along cultural and religious boundaries instead. Warren and other traditional military strategists appear, at least to me (an ignorant non-combatant), to be fighting a traditional war against a non-traditional enemy. And what’s worse, I don’t feel confident that current military strategies, at least the way they are conveyed through the media, are showing much of an understanding of this non-traditional enemy either.
The NATO mission in Afghanistan seems to understand this dynamic, as their current offensive, dubbed Operation Baaz Tsuka is attempting to peacefully convince the enemy to reconsider their plans. Dealing with Afghanistan’s tribal problems is long overdue and no easy, peaceful solutions currently exist, but it’s good to see that NATO is attempting to curb the damage being inflicted by the Taliban through less confrontational military means (as much as possible).
The US in Iraq, on the other hand, faces a much more severe challenge. It has been documented time and again that the US led mission in Iraq has been shown to “‘not be in conformity with the [UN] Charter’ and many legal experts now describe the US-UK attack as an act of aggression, violating international law.” It’s no wonder the Middle East is hostile towards the US, considering the arrogance and bullying attitude that the US has been showing towards the Iraq situation.
According to the BBC, “many of the insurgent attacks attributed to foreign jihadis have a sectarian element in that they have targeted Shias with the aim of provoking wider violence between Iraq’s religious communities.”
A recent article in the December 2006 issue of Christianity Today further outlines the sectarian conflict playing out in the Middle East. The article, entitled “Garlic, Dracula and Al Qaeda”, outlines the problem of religious extremism which is currently fueling this international conflict between the East and the West. I don’t mean to diminish the complexities of global politics, but it is quite clear that without extremism, it would be possible to have rational religious discourse without the fear of offending people and sparking riots, protests and worldwide violence (Remember the Muhammad cartoon fiasco of earlier this year? Or, how about the fatwa against Salman Rushdie).
Religious extremism is attempting to subvert our individual freedoms through violent censorship and intimidation. This abuse is so abhorrent that it is difficult, if not impossible, to rationally defend the faith for which these individuals are fighting. I think it would be fair to say that if the only method of coercion available to religious extremists is violence, then that side has already lost the argument. Violence is a failure of an individual to rationally articulate reasons to support one’s opinions. Thus, it is shamefully obvious that those on the side of fanaticism are fighting a self-defeating battle with themselves when violently imposing their views on others.
Although I don’t explicitly support the current military efforts going on in the Middle East, I have to say that I am at least a little impressed with the ideological recognition and strategic adaptations that the NATO led forces are applying to the Afghanistan mission. At the very least, it’ll prove to be a better template of striving for peace than the hammer that the US is applying to Iraq.
Unfortunately, this still leaves plenty of global hostility towards the West that currently exists in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. I think that it is important to peacefully right past wrongs, offer forgiveness on both sides and work towards lasting rational dialogue and relationship building. This requires all sides to be more understanding and respectful of one another.
And for goodness sake, let’s hope that the US administration will soon learn to be a little more respectful of human rights and freedoms when attempting to impose their values on people in other lands.