Before we take to Facebook about our views on ISIS and how we need to go to war, can we at least get real about what we’re actually up against?
Since the London bombings of 7/7 that tragically, killed 52 innocent commuters in 2005, we haven’t seen an Islamist terrorist attack claim any lives in the UK until 2013, when Lee Rigby was killed in Woolwich.
So since 2005, more people have died of bee stings in the UK than terrorism.
Is terrorism new?
Hell no. From the late 60s to 2001, there were 36,000 shooting incidents and over 10,000 bomb explosions, according to the Cain database. Over the course of 33 years, more than 3,500 people were killed, 1,707 by the IRA.
So why does it seem bigger than ever? One word: media. Since the creation of the Internet in 1995, technology has revolutionized at a rapid pace. If a bomb goes off or a hurricane begins, you’ll know in a matter of minutes. Facebook statuses will be updated, people will be marked “safe,” opinions will be tweeted, and apps like BBC news will notify you. We live in a world where we are constantly surrounded by freedom of speech on so many different platforms that all major news will surround us for days.
When one country suffers, we all do. In earlier weeks, the Eiffel tower turned off its lights to commemorate those lost by the tragic incidents. But as France turned their lights off, the world turned theirs on, to show their unity and support by lighting their dominant landmarks across the world in France’s colors.
Is ISIS a threat?
Rather than create scenarios and fear over what ISIS can do, let’s talk about what they can’t do. They can’t invade Paris. They can’t invade the UK. It can’t launch an air war against the United States. It can’t even hold its ground—ISIS expert Will McCants estimates the group has lost between 20 and 25 percent of its territory in recent months. The reason terrorist attacks are created is to produce fear—fear that you’re not safe and your government can’t protect you—and fear makes people do stupid things, and it makes countries do stupid things too. ISIS’s real weapon is fear. ISIS can’t defeat America or France—it can only hope that they make us so afraid we do something that helps them or hurts us. Unfortunately, this is already slightly happening.
There’s a controversial debate over refugees—mostly over whether or not the influx of refugees is an obvious way to hide and smuggle ISIS fighters in. Whether it’s true or not, this reason in itself is enough for some countries to close the door.
However, as Zack Beauchamp writes:
“ISIS despises Syrian refugees: It sees them as traitors to the caliphate. By leaving, they turn their back on the caliphate. ISIS depicts its territory as a paradise, and fleeing refugees expose that as a lie. But if refugees do make it out, ISIS wants them to be treated badly—the more the West treats them with suspicion and fear, the more it supports ISIS’s narrative of a West that is hostile to Muslims and bolsters ISIS’s efforts to recruit from migrant communities in Europe.”
Do you see what I’m getting at? The more people who turn against Muslims, the more they feel secluded and isolated, creating a perfect opportunity for ISIS recruiters to come along and say “Us or them?” However, ISIS would probably prefer the latter, as it alienates Muslims and helps ISIS portray itself as defenders of its faith rather than as a gang of medieval thugs, extortionists, and murderers.
The main issue in all of this is no matter what, people need to remember that terrorism has no religion. The reasons the refugees are running away from Syria is because of ISIS. Don’t do what they want us to do.
Why shouldn’t we airstrike Syria?
Although we don’t know the exact amount of ISIS fighters, the chief of staff to Kurdish president Massoud Barzani, told Patrick Cockburn of The Independent that ISIS had at least 200,000 fighters. In Syria alone there is a population of 22.85 million. So around 0.88% of the population is ISIS fighters. So what about the Syrians that aren’t ISIS fighters? When we drop these air strikes what about them?
Yes, Iraqi forces with the support of airstrikes have recaptured 20-25% of Iraqi territory and halted the ISIS advance. But there’s no mention that ISIS has also advanced in some places, for example, capturing Ramadi. Is it because they are the easiest way to show that we are ‘doing something’? Have air strikes ever succeeded in militarily defeating an enemy without ground operations and without a political strategy? Is it really the case that are all other policies have been tried and failed?
It is difficult to see what can be gained from air strikes. The skies above Syria are already congested. The contribution that Britain would make, even if we suppose that air strikes are useful, is marginal. Yet there is a lot to be lost by air strikes.
Featured photo credit: 2014_05_20_tour-montp_097z by Doc Searls via Flickr via flickr.com