WARNING: This is going to be pretty political-y, heavy on international relations, and perhaps a bit more challenging that some other writings if you don’t know fundamental international politics-speak. I’m an international political guru, so it’s going to be an examination of conservatism and the current ISIS/Syria situation.
I’ve done my obligatory disclaimer.
Also, if you don’t know about it, read some background on international politics and terms, PLEASE (I’ve also written a decent amount about these fundamentals).
Now, on to international stuff …
If you haven’t heard, the opposition party is now in control of the government in Venezuela. Also, if you didn’t know, the new majority is a pro-business bunch, and they’re working on getting a supermajority. Should that happen, things like writing a new constitution could become a reality.
The pro-business movement in Venezuela is battling against Chavez’s socialist government, and this move is primarily because of an economic crisis in the country.
In France, far right contenders are gaining ground following the shootings.
The entire Middle East is either on the far right (or even a monarchy still), or in the middle of conflict.
Russia wants a Russian Empire again, and heavy-handed order in the Middle East.
Europe is battling with immigrant influxes, and dealing with far right reactionaries; let them in, or leave them out?
The United States seems to be growing impatient with non-movement in defeating ISIS, and the recent terror attack again invokes hardliner views.
There’s all sorts of stuff going on right now, and at the center of this storm is ISIS (or, more broadly, terrorism; and even more broadly, extremism).
The trend is shifting from advocating for fundamental human rights to “conserving” what each state has.
Acknowledging that Islamic group …
Everybody remember that second Gulf war in 2003? Well, the haphazardly constructed vision for post-war Iraq created pretty intense civil conflict, and it became a breeding ground, like a lot of the Middle East, for extremism. In fact, extremists have become so well organized they control a pseudo-state … called the Islamic State.
Blah Blah, we’ve all heard what they want … destruction of West, Israel, and implementation of fire-and-brimstone religious laws. I get it. We all do.
But the fact that President Obama had to come on television to reassure everyone that everything is OK is probably a sign that he’s facing substantial push back, and he knows it.
The ISIS problem is one that people want resolved, and it doesn’t matter if the ISIS threat is constructed or real.
Is this group of radicals a real and credible threat to the global conduct of politics and security? I don’t think it’s that clear, but ISIS wants everyone to think that they’re an immediate threat.
As with all threats and heinous actions, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and I’m willing to bet ISIS planners understand this. In this case, terrorist organizations are consolidating and gaining actual territory in addition to putting out some pretty sophisticated propaganda. In reaction, people are watching and consequently reacting — because the most-effective motivators for action are fear and love. And people are reacting to fear; most notably, the discussion is shifting from progressing human rights, to containing them.
Here’s the real kicker: ISIS is succeeding, by and large.
I understand they call for stuff like the destruction of Israel, and the West and such … but really, I don’t think they actually think that they can blow these countries up (though some might think that’s what will happen).
In reality, this organization knows how to be effective, and can plan stuff pretty well with minimal resources.
So, if I were to walk through the terrorist logic, it may look something like the following (spoken like a true terrorist):
I want the destruction of America and all that, but can’t actually destroy it, because it’s politics are too institutionalized and there aren’t enough extreme terrorists, yet — not to mention I don’t have sophisticated arms, ships, bombs and the like.
So what’s the next best thing?
To reverse the clock on political development; sort of a de-evolution of positive politics.
While I can’t destroy the West, I CAN undo a lot of what development has been done, which is kind of the same thing — taking away their credibility and achievement. And I’ll do so by taking advantage of their democratic values.
I can effectually scare enough people by doing ridiculously outlandish things, which prompts a highly conservative reaction. This puts pressure on countries to abandon individual rights (searches and stuff) and spend lots of money fighting terrorist ghosts. I’ll also use human shields to expose the killing of innocents, cut heads off infidels to manufacture fear, and the free-market news outlets will have no choice but to show all of this, because it gets ratings.
If we can get highly conservative leaders in charge, we can at least undo any meaningful political development at the international level (i.e. civil rights, women’s rights, democracy formation in third world countries, etc.), and instead create countries that are xenophobic, stay within their borders, are afraid to travel, and we can also radicalize those extreme elements within each country that are there, but dormant.
Should this unfold successfully, they’ll be a whole lot of western countries that are confused, angry, full of contradictory logic, and they won’t work together; because the developing norm of states working together would be out of fashion; instead, it will be each state for itself. This means that the West isn’t “destroyed,” but it’s definitely been set back, and people will see how feeble these “great nations” really are.
… I know their talk is tough, but I am thinking that ISIS and organizations of the like aren’t realistically trying to take down Western democracies; they’re really attacking the international phenomena of globalization — because that’s a huge threat to traditional, agrarian, religious-based life. Not to mention that modernization would challenge traditional power structures, and minorities COULD have a voice with modernization, which the powerholders in the Middle East don’t want.
My bet is that ISIS only likes the internet for recruiting and propaganda (I’ve read that they control all of the internet cafes in the area, only 10); ISIS doesn’t like all that pesky information out there. It likes when people only buy into their interpretation of the Koran and I’m willing to be its leaders profit in some way — it’s like a really traditional, militant Scientology.
International political standstill
So what’s going on at the international level? If democracies are scrambling to find a lead country to defeat ISIS, and other countries like Russia are just moving in all Willie Nilly; what does that mean overall?
First, it means that creating a coordinated and coherent policy to defeat ISIS is going to be difficult — especially since bombs alone won’t do anything, ground troops are needed, and that’s pretty obvious.
ISIS has managed to anger nearly all of the world’s most-powerful nations. However, instead of working together to defeat a common enemy, ISIS’ leaders know there’s more at stake. Namely, Syria.
First, Russia wants Assad to rule Syria; the US does not. Reconciling those differences is the biggest obstacle. So, after taking out ISIS, then what? The US willfully concedes to letting Russia prop up Assad? That’s actually an offer from Russia, but it’s doubtful the US would agree. We want a functioning liberal democracy in the Middle East, dammit!
Second, Israel doesn’t seem to respond to Obama very well. The Iran deal put them over the edge, so, while Israel doesn’t like ISIS I’m sure, I doubt they’re interested in coordinating effective attacks with the US because of the Iran problem.
Syria doesn’t like ISIS either, and Assad is aligned with Russia on this one; he also doesn’t think there are enough moderates to take over, should he leave (and he’s probably right).
Saudi Arabia is with the US, and so is Britain, and they keep talking about “moderate rebels,” but, I mean really, how many “moderate” forces exist in borders where a civil war has been going on for like 4-5 years? Hence the CIA program, which is going slow, from what I understand. Moderates in war-torn Middle Eastern countries …. good luck.
France is gung ho, but the Syrian question complicates everything else.
And NOBODY wants to commit ground troops. So the only option is to raise a Kurdish army, or moderate faction … which is something that wouldn’t happen fast, like at all.
… so there’s a lot of stuff there.
The reality is that the great powers need to hash out political deals before Syria, OR ISIS, can be diplomatically resolved at all. And even post-ISIS, Assad probably won’t want to go — dictators rarely willfully give up power.
But Assad is suppose to be meeting with rebel leaders to broker a cease fire this week … we’ll see how that goes.
While all of this is happening, ISIS is organizing, gaining territory (then loosing some, and gaining again). They’re selling oil (though some sites are hit), publishing magazines, trying to fish for the next Western hostage, and they’re inspiring troubled, extreme Muslims.
At the end of the day, any sense of a peaceful post-9/11 world just got infinitely more complex. Now leaders not only have to manage uncertain international affairs, they also have to worry about domestic instability and uncertainty.
When people face uncertainty, they tend to become more hard-lined (exacerbating the general extremism problem in the world), and tend to “conserve” more than “liberate.” My guess is that, unless great-power problems are solved in a timely manner, we’ll start seeing increased calls for conservative policies, calls for more force, and people will increasingly want ISIS destroyed despite a dysfunctional international climate.
… and it looks like ISIS is getting what it wants: an unraveling of any sense of progression or development, thereby de-legitimatizing the West, thereby increasing their own reputation.
Frustrating, it is.
In 1989, a guy named Francis Fukuyama wrote a paper called End of History. In it, he put forth a very convincing argument that us, as people, have developed the most ideal political system, and the end of the Cold War marked the success of this system.
Generally speaking, the best system, according to Francis, is a blended liberal democracy — meaning democratic-based republics with emphasis on law and life, liberty, and property. And because of the Cold War, ideologically speaking, this approach to politics, in essence, defeated both totalitarianism (Cold War) and fascism (WWII).
It’s the “end of history” because there is not more convincing people of the inherit amazing-ness of a particular ideological political system, because people just naturally understand that western, liberal democratic institutions are the pinnacle of political design. … and I would agree with Fukuyama.
However, in reaction, a guy named Samuel Huntington wrote a paper called Clash of Civilizations in 1993 (interestingly, a former professor of Fukuyama’s). In this paper, Huntington explained that future conflict won’t be fought across ideological lines; rather, it would be fought across civilizations. Not ethnic groups, not political groups, but civilizations — meaning conflict among groups of people based along lines of, beliefs, ideological history, geography, and historically shared culture. So, Islam would qualify as a civilization, and so would “Western” countries.
So, we’re at a point now where politically, we generally know which system works best to mediate human nature. Even Russia has SOME form of democracy, and China allows free trade.
However, conflict is now going old school, so to speak. ISIS knows this, and it’s taking advantage of the international climate in order dismantle any kernels of international cooperation and global modernization.
Timing meets opportunity for ISIS, and eradicating the organization is going to be difficult enough. But the real challenge is figuring out what to do in a post-ISIS world, because extremism will still very much be alive, if not worse.