Jon Kofas *
Washington D.C., November 15, 2015, (Alochonaa): The bombing that took place in Paris with many casualties was a human tragedy and a political disaster for Western anti-terrorism policy. A day before ISIS suicide bombers in Paris, the bombing in Beirut, Lebanon demonstrated the ease with which jihadists fighting against the Assad regime are able to operate. In both cases the jihadist group ISIS operating in Syria and Iraq claimed responsibility and celebrated its success in retaliation for those trying to strike at ISIS targets. It is also likely that an ISIS affiliate in Egypt bombed a Russian passenger plane killing 224 people on 31 October 2015.
Three bombings within a remarkably short span of time demonstrate the reach of an organization that was once backed by US allies in the Middle East, and possibly by the US indirectly in the war that the US started to bring down the Assad regime, all in the name of freedom and democracy, just as the US has been delivering freedom and democracy in Libya. The quest to destabilize and ultimately overthrow Assad has failed in the last couple of years and made matters worse for everyone, above all the people of Syria. The US and its European and regional allies have managed to create a new force that has some appeal at least with the radicalized Sunni Muslims not just in Syria and Iraq but across the Middle East and beyond. Now that US secretary of State John Kerry has been in talks with Russia about how to stabilize Syria, perhaps agree on limited spheres of influence as imperialists, so that the greater threat of ISIS is contained.
Based on the results alone, one could conclude that the US policy of destabilization that helped to create the conditions for ISIS to operate is a miserable failure with horrible consequences. Of course, if one advocates a policy of redrawing the map of Syria and Iraq, as many Westerners and Zionists do, then the policy has been a resounding success. After all, both countries are already badly divided along sectarian and ethnic lines, and what could be a better way of limiting the influence of Iran in Iran and Syria and Russia in Syria other than redrawing the map just as Western imperialists almost did a century ago?
One would think that the lessons learned from the US policy of supporting jihadists in the 1980s in Afghanistan against the pro-USSR regime had become a lesson for policy change that would actually yield the desired results. On the contrary, as a status quo power immersed in Cold War ideology, the US does not change policy just because it backfires with dire consequences for itself and its allies. The military solution option is the only one on the table for the US for a combination of reasons. This means that cycle of jihadist attacks will continue as will the response with conventional militarist solutions that would in fact produce more unconventional warfare. Looking beyond the military solution to the root causes – social, economic and politic injustice – is out of the question during the era when neoliberal thinking prevails across the Western World.
1. The obsession of projecting strength through raw military power in the world as a way of retaining Pax American alive.
No matter the failures of the military solution, and unintended benefits to US rivals Russia, China and Iran that do not want the US to have exclusive role in determining the balance of power in the Middle East, policymakers in Washington, backed by the corporate world and media do not deviate from the failed military solution option until there is no choice as was the case with Iran and the nuclear deal. The empirical evidence suggests that while military solutions as a means of maintaining Pax Americana began to show weaknesses as far back as the 1960s during the Vietnam War. Yet, the US will not abandon a policy that has failed to deliver. Pax American was dead and buried during Vietnam, and President Johnson implied as much when he announced on TV that he would not seek reelection, knowing the failure of Vietnam was a resounding failure for Pax American he was supposed to guard and expand. However, the lessons of Vietnam included everything but political solutions to crises. Instead, a commitment to go deeper into debt as a nation – currently $17 trillion or about equal to GDP – so that Pax Americana’s glory could live on if not in the real world, at least in the minds of delusional politicians while defense contractors made huge profits.
2. Ideological commitment to militarism and imperialism, despite the evolution of new multi-polar world in which China plays a determining role.
The diehard ideologues to right-wing solutions have been around from the early days of the Truman administration advocating unilateral action in a world where the US defined its national security interests not just within its sovereign territory, not just in the Western Hemisphere as part of the long-standing Pan-Americanism perspective that dates back to the Monroe Doctrine, but across the world as the reckless and dysfunctional world’s policeman. Unable to exist as a society that is content with playing a role commensurate to its actual economic, political and economic power in the world, the ideologues advocating unilateralism, militarism and imperialism (intervention via over military action or covert operations) have proved detrimental to the security of the nation and to the destabilization of all places where there is intervention.
The US invaded and occupied Iraq under Saddam Hussein on a series of blatant lies, created chaos and divisions with an otherwise unified country, and above all it is responsible for millions of refugees that are a huge problem for neighboring nations. Similarly, the US goal to bring down Syria’s Assad and make that country a US satellite instead of one where Russia and Iran enjoy influence has entailed the creation of millions of refugees for which the right-wing American ideologues want harsh punishment instead of amnesty by EU nations. Blinded by the notion of an invincible America pursuing its destiny to exert preeminent influence if not dominate the world, these ideologues making money as consultants, politicians, media analysts and above all defense contractors thrive on destabilization and what they call crisis management; ironically for crises they create but then propose to “manage”.
3. Tangible interests of profits by defense contractors who hire former politicians and high level defense and intelligence officers to work and lobby for them.
President Eisenhower’s warning to the American people about the military industrial complex that was actually forged during the Wilson administration to manage World War I may have come too late. To this day, no one takes seriously the Eisenhower warning, partly because he was then advised by the IMF that the dollar as a reserve currency was becoming weak and would ultimately become even weaker owing to balance of payments deficits. Although the US could hardly afford both guns and butter, Johnson pursued such a reckless policy by escalating the Vietnam War to the delight of defense companies.
Because there is instability, jihadist terrorism, regional conflicts, and neglect of diplomacy as the first rather than the last option to resolve conflict, the profits of defense contractors rise as their stock market price indicates, and indeed the profits of every company from food and soft drink suppliers to defense to makers of drones. One cannot possibly ignore the power of the defense contractors and all industries feeding off the defense and intelligence budgets that simply drive up the public debt and weaken the civilian economy.
These people thrive on events that drive governments raise defense spending just at the time they should be cutting it and considering political solutions that may actually work against the reality of unending military solution failures that only generate more “unconventional warfare” or terrorism. As cynical as it may sound, all those making a living from the defense and intelligence domain delight in events such as that of Paris on 13 November 2015. These people know that peace and stability means cuts in their business, so they have no interest in political solutions to conflict.
4. The media is always there to pump up militarism as the sole solution.
The Western media had no problem with ISIS striking down the Russian plane and Beirut where Hezbollah was the target. In fact, the western media was criticizing Russian president Putin for striking at ISIS targets, prompting the US to indirectly assist ISIS by sending air cover to protect certain pro-West assets in Syria along the Turkish border. The media, reflecting US official position, sent the message to the world that the problem at hand was really Putin and Assad, rather than the barbaric ISIS that Russian planes were targeting; that is until the Paris bombing that had some arguing drive the idea into peoples’ heads that it is possible to wipe out unconventional type of war, or terrorism by simply striking hard at the enemy.
While the media does not create terrorism, it celebrates militarism by selecting news analysts and by reporting on stories of military solutions to conflict. It may be argued that the media must reflect the status quo and mirror what governments are pursuing. Editorial decisions are made on what stories to cover, how to cover them, and what spin to put on them, not just on FOX NEWS that has been called out by a number of organizations for extreme right wing coverage, but the New York Times that many regard as liberal newspaper, yet it hardly differs in goals from FOX.
5. Will Terrorism Subside or proliferate.
Contrary to what many politicians including the French President announced about closing the border and adopting other such “security measures” to preempt any strikes on French soil, and contrary to what British PM announced about striking down and ending jihadist activities, terrorism will continue and proliferate. This is because the underlying causes of terrorism are not addressed, and they include Western militarism and economic imperialism, complemented by racism and religious prejudice.
In 2015, we have much greater and wider forms of terrorism than we did when the US announced its war on terror after 9/11. The public relations exercises intended for mass consumption project the idea that government has the solution at hand and it is in position of protecting its citizens. However, jihadists already reside within the nations they wish to strike and history has demonstrated that unconventional war has never been won by conventional military means. One could argue that the Russian Tsars in the 19th century lacked the sophisticated science and technology available to the West in 2015.
Fair enough, but how do then explain the Paris bombings taking place when France is well known for its sophisticated intelligence and technology available? This does not mean that measures cannot be taken for greater security of citizens, but it does mean that there will never be a full proof method of combating unconventional warfare (terrorism) because of its nature unless the underlying causes are addressed. The political solution remains the only option to eradicate terrorism which is simply a publicity stunt that never brings about systemic change toward greater social justice because it lacks grassroots support and alienates people that would otherwise sympathize with the cause of social justice.
In the aftermath of the Paris bombings, the response I expect from the Western countries is one similar to the US in 9/11, although Russia will take advantage of the situation and once again propose a multilateral approach for a conventional strike against ISIS. One would think that if ISIS was able to bring down the Russia plane over Egypt, hit at the heart of Hezbollah in Beirut and hit Paris within a few days, there must be a wide network of support behind it with significant links.
There are still questions about which governments, corporations and varieties of businessmen still maintain indirect ties to this group that needs such cooperation to manage its considerable economic and strategic affairs. Similarly, there are questions about the US policy toward Syria that one the one hand, claims to be fighting to undermine ISIS, but on the other hand, it wants to bring Assad down and undermines Russia efforts to fight ISIS. Clearly, a coordinated policy between US-NATO with Russia, China and Iran could go a very long way to contain ISIS. However, this is not how US ideologues see the matter resolved; this is not what the defense contractors want, and this is not what the populist Republicans and rightwing media advocate. It makes sense that they keep citizens living in a state of perpetual fear as a means of imposing sociopolitical conformity amid a period when the socioeconomic gap has been widening on the US despite a modest economic recovery. Unless systemic problems of the Muslims – social justice issues – and the relationship of Muslim nations with the West are addressed, terrorism is a reality that will become more prominent in the next decade.
*Jon Kofas is a retired Professor . He has published many works including; Independence From America: Global Integration And Inequality, Under the Eagle’s Claw: Exceptionalism in Postwar U.S, Greek Relations and The Sword of Damocles, and The IMF, the World Bank, and U.S. Foreign Policy in Colombia and Chile, 1950-1970.
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