Posted: October 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

FAMOUS American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington (1927-2008) may be laughing from his grave now with a sense of vindication by more people about his theory, the “Clash of Civilizations”. He had many critics (including this writer) who had questioned his theory, which attributed the main source of serious global conflicts to culture and religion. The main criticism of his theory was that he gave too little emphasis to geo-political factors including vested and economic interests as sources for such conflicts.

Perhaps, Huntington should now deserve more credit for his theory with recent global conflicts, especially those seemingly between Islam and other religions.
Can the new Islamic State (IS) phenomenon be explained by Huntington’s theory? It seems to lend credence to his theory that religious differences between Muslims and Christians are simply too irreconcilable and deep seated in history, that IS is but just an extreme aberration of these differences. Still, such an analysis may not go deep enough to explain what we see are only the religious manifestations of a major conflict. However, it would appear that the anti-Western IS leadership is, wittingly or unwittingly, supporting Huntington’s theory.

That an increasingly large number of young Muslims from the Middle East, many other countries (including our region) and even from the West are falling for this brutal and barbaric ideology is a warning sign that these youths cannot identify and reconcile themselves with their respective moderate, secular or conservative mainstream Islamic societies. Their hatred for Christians and other religious and minority groups including the Shiite Muslims, are so extreme that it is beyond any comprehension by the civilised world.

The concept and creation of a caliphate in vast areas of Iraq and Syria under IS control is a smart, visionary and strategic move which has a strong appeal to many disenfranchised, alienated and disillusioned Muslim youths who cannot connect with their mainstream secular or Islamic society. These countries should do some soul searching to find out what really went wrong and should try to address the social causes of why these youths are turning to the IS as their new found hero.

IS’ “shock and awe” cruelty for the world to see with their video-recorded executions of innocent non-combatants such as journalists and even tourists, may be a deliberate policy to create the psychology of fear to the Western world and to attract more recruits.

But these brazen and high profile acts may also be their biggest strategic mistake of waking up the complacent West, Middle East and other regions to quickly unite and forge a common alliance against IS before it’s too late. These acts of atrocities have also created global public outrage against IS and cause it to lose any sympathy and support from many fence sitters. They have also shaken up many otherwise apathetic people against the IS cause.

IS seems to have bitten off more than it can chew and perhaps, tactically it acted too early to show off its power. It may have overestimated its strengths and underestimated the resolve, capability, intelligence and vast resources of its powerful enemies led by the US.

The anti-IS coalition of mostly Western and Middle Eastern countries has just started an air bombing campaign targeted at IS positions in Iraq and Syria and the coalition is growing bigger with more countries joining in to take part or support the logistics of the air strikes.

However, it has been widely recognised by both that the war against IS cannot be won via air strikes alone, no matter how massive, accurate and devastating they may be.

Many of the IS militants have gone underground while others have mingled in with civilians. If there are high civilian casualties, global public opinion may turn against the air strikes. This is something that the anti-IS coalition cannot afford, especially in the early stage.

Therefore, the only way the war against IS can be won militarily and to minimise civilian casualties, is to have strong and effective ground forces to fight and take back areas under IS control, street by street and town by town.

There is no short cut. After the air strikes, the mopping up, cleaning up, protecting civilians and taking over control of the land areas have to be done by ground forces. The coalition has so far not committed any ground combatants in Iraq except for the protection of certain sensitive areas and installations.

In Iraq, the government armed forces are demoralised and have a weak command structure due to years of sectarian policies by the previous government. The new government has too much on its plate and it needs foreign help to train and advise the ground forces and to develop a more effective command structure. It also needs additional military resources. But the most important ingredient needed in Iraq is to have a strong, efficient, fair and inclusive government leadership in place to unite their people and armed forces to defeat the IS.

As for Syria, the situation is far more complicated with an unpopular and repressive government that the West does not recognise as legitimate and with certain countries such as Iran still backing it. The Syrian government forces are in disarray and the anti-IS coalition is caught in between fighting the IS and still opposing or not seen to be supporting the Syrian Government. Syria may be considered a “failed state” with a non-functioning government machinery in most parts of the country and this has become the ideal breeding ground for IS to set up its bases and grow in strength there.

The IS phenomenon is not just confined to Iraq and Syria or the Middle East. It is a global problem which requires a co-ordinated and effective global response. IS must be seen as a dangerous social cancer that would spread its tentacles all over the world if it is not nipped in the bud in all the countries which it has influence.

No wonder the government leaders of the anti-IS coalition have been warning that the campaign and war against IS might be a long drawn affair, taking years. They have also called for a comprehensive plan which would include the ideological warfare and one which would win over the hearts and minds of young Muslims for a moderate, inclusive and just system.

The whole world better be braced for more violent confrontations with the IS. Many leaders and analysts are also expecting a new surge in acts of terrorism in the countries involved in the anti-IS coalition.

A new global clash has started, not between different cultural civilisations but between an imperfect civilised world and a heinous self-professed regime which has hijacked a religion of peace and justice.

The writer, the CEO of a think-tank, believes that peace and justice would eventually prevail and for the many innocent people who have been brutally murdered, they did not die in vain. Comments:


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