Bullets cannot fight an idea

The world seems to have changed since November 13.

The deaths of young Parisians of all castes and creeds at the hands of gunmen directed or inspired by IS, has transformed a nation.

The ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ have apparently renounced their simian inclinations, set aside the fromage and resolved upon war.

Last week, in a set piece ritual presided over by Monsieur Hollande, France collectively rubbed salt into the national wound to revive their pain and sharpen the hunger for revenge. But the great culinary nation might reflect, that revenge is a dish best served cold, because the bombs it has lately launched fulfil the mission ISIS has set out upon: to draw the West to war.

Yes, one feels the pain of France, but one must also be conscious of what IS want.

They invite destruction, not merely because of their millenarianism, but because an assault by ‘Crusader nations’ fulfils their prophesies of polarisation, validates their mantras, swells their numbers and kickstarts the perpetual motion machine of cyclical violence.

IS foretell of ‘80 flags’ assembling to fight against the Caliphate in the great apocalyptic showdown prophesied to occur at Dabiq in Northern Syria.

Currently, there are about 54 flags represented within the anti IS coalition. Let’s hope al-Baghdadi isn’t counting the 140 nations represented within the French Foreign Legion.

But superciliousness aside, the point is, IS is pulling our strings, pressing our buttons.

It wants people who seek peace to go to war; it wants people who love life to risk death; it wants us to compromise our ideals, ideals it already derides as hollow.

In its latest videos and editorials, ISIS not only recites its usual absolutist mantras of righteousness, incorruptibility and military potency, it accompanies praise for its own dubious virtues with excoriating critiques of Western vice, graft, racism and hypocrisy. And the trouble is, some of it rings true.

We know that democracy is ‘the worst form of government, except for all those other forms...’, but even that nuanced pre-eminence seems questionable after years of political scandals, financial malfeasances, human rights abuses and corporate exploitation.

The golden domes of democracy, which once coruscated on the sunlit uplands of hope and optimism, are now tired and tarnished. Our big idea is dying, and another virile and uncompromising one has come to goad it and usurp it.

But whilst its weapons are perennially cited to be terror and torment, this is really a war of ideologies.

Across the Channel, which has so often provided Britain a moat to safeguard us from the quaint old wars of our forefathers, the public and political debate has centred upon whether we should send eight aeroplanes from Cyprus to the skies of Syria. And now, it’s ‘chocks away!’

With their state of the art Brimstone missiles and Raptor surveillance pods, the PM advises that RAF fighters have a special contribution to make to the assault on the Caliphate and its jihadist jundis.

The media, fetishising military hardware, briefs us that Brimstone is extremely precise and can target adversaries highly accurately, inflicting minimal collateral damage.

But the kinetic kaleidoscopes only dazzle, and pyrotechnics blinds us to the realities.

Quite apart from any debate about whether there can ever be a ‘surgical explosion’, there’s one important thing Brimstone can’t destroy.

Back in 2007, when the US was supporting Iraq’s Sunni Awakening movement, its charismatic poster boy, Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, made a particularly apposite comment.

He said of Al Qaeda in Iraq: “We’re not fighting people – we can deal with people – we’re fighting an idea.”

Until brawn, bombs and bullets can destroy ideas, the deployment of Brimstone or any other weapons system will be largely irrelevant to the destruction of Islamic State – or the credo which inspires it.

So, what is the answer, if it’s not bombing?

It’s always assumed that the opponents of bombing want to insert flowers into muzzles of AK47s and hope for the best. No.

That won’t work either. We do need to show strength and resolve in the Middle East, and we definitely need to stay engaged, but we need to use the brain as well as the desert boot.

Moreover, we need generational policies, not policies that vacillate in the seasonal breeze of British politics. But just as important, we need to get our own house in order.

Islamic State are fuelled by an idea. Once upon a time, so were we. It was called liberal democracy. People gave their lives for a vote; we fought wars to defend it. But it’s been tarnished by political corruption, social injustice, human rights abuses and illegal wars. In short, the democratic West has lost the moral high ground.

So, part of the battle against extremism must surely be the very pressing necessity to recapture it.

Guy Harris

High Street


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