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Defeating Isis


July 18, 2016

The Ramazan assault by Isis has challenged the security community across the world. As states and countries hunker down, there is a need to review the global strategy against this monster and take effective measures to stem the tide of terror before it engulfs more states.

What scholars of international relations and history have done after the propagation of Huntington’s clash of civilisation thesis and Francis Fukuyama’s ‘The End of History’ is to make these two treatises as the baselines for reading into conflicts at the global level, especially the infamous global ‘war on terror’.

Incidentally, no gigantic conflict between the great civilizstions of Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, as visualised by Huntington, has taken place. There, however, has been consistent stereotyping of the clash of civilisations thesis to prove that such clash is taking place. On ground the fault-line wars within these groupings have dominated the global scene. Western Europe has also seen the rise of neo-Nazi groups and victory of the Far-Right in some countries in the recent past; that too does not point to a clash of civilisations.

Fault-lines exist in any state or system; it is the ability of the state to manage these fault-lines that would dictate the security environment in a particular state or a region. Nobody could believe that in the 20th century Nigeria would start imploding due to groups like Boko Haram or that Syria would witness this tragic conflict and throw up such ruthless groups like Isis.

What has gone wrong? Is the modern state of post-Westphalia dispensation becoming redundant? Is state sovereignty is becoming a thing of the past? The answer probably lies in the inability of modern statecraft (especially in developing countries) to understand the nuances of the information age.

Brzezinski’s book, ‘The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperative’ has influenced US foreign policy since its appearance in 1997. Brzezinski had focused on the issue of the Eurasian Balkans, an area covering former Central Asian states and their periphery including Russia, Pakistan, China, India, Middle East and even Ukraine, with the US as the preeminent extra regional superpower with high stakes in the Grand Chessboard.

Brzezinski had predicted that the power struggle in the region would usher in instability because of pull and push by countries on the periphery of the Eurasian Balkans as well as conflicting interests of the major players. Brzezinski urged the US to adopt proactive strategies to shape the future of the region – almost supplementing the ‘creative chaos theory’ promulgated by George Bush Jr in the first decade of the 21st century. The shaping of the regional environment through ‘creative chaos’ has cost the region a staggering three million lives and continues to destabilise it further in a domino effect.

This new creative chaos theory in international relations jolted the foundations of the modern state built over three centuries of intellectual and political discourse and recognised by the international community as a legitimate expression of human evolution and a developmental model for civilisational coexistence. When George Bush Jr came up with the idea of creative chaos, he contextualised it as: “the best way to get results is to blow things up and then see what happens”.

Two major terrorist organisations, Boko Haram in West Africa and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) in Middle East have become household names in the world. Their ideology and modus operandi appear to be almost similar. Apparently they are looking at the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate and lately we have seen one map showing a united caliphate ruling the area between the Atlantic and Indian oceans, even covering the better part of Europe.

These terrorist organisations claim to champion cause of political Islam. Someone should ask them: are they serving the interest of Muslims around the world? Are they helping build a positive image of Islam and isn’t their greater design of the caliphate a recipe for destruction of states considered part of the Islamic fraternity?

Isis is the most ruthless terrorist organisation the 21st century has produced so far. It is a product of civil wars within Iraq and Syria and has divided the Middle East and the Levant on sectarian lines. The message going out is that Sunnis and Shia cannot co-exist.

If Muslim countries don’t stem the tide of Isis, we may witness a gigantic and destructive war on the scale of the two great wars of the 20th century, and total collapse of the security system within the Middle East.

Looking at international media, especially that sponsored by the West, one can see that the media has actually put more fuel on the existing fire and helped accentuate the divide between Muslim sects, through the use of non-kinetic warfare.

Isis has extensively used social media and displayed its ability to hit across the better part of the Muslim world, with terrorist attacks in Europe and North America as well. In supporting proxies to fight petty wars for national interests and knee-jerk reactions to Isis-sponsored terror the organisation has been helped in expansion.

The Muslim world needs to come to grips with the new reality and stop sleeping over the issue of Isis.

Isis has to be dealt at three major front. In the non-kinetic domain, the Muslim world will have to come up with a strong counter-narrative, disregarding sectarian, ethnic and linguistic differences and convincing the general public that Isis is the enemy. The non-kinetic effort has to take help from social and conventional media platforms, diplomatic initiatives and economic strangulation of Isis networks.

In the kinetic domain, a counter-strategy to Isis will have to be worked out. That would include concept development, training, preparation and promulgation of a joint doctrine and deployment of forces at regional level. Pakistan could offer expertise in all the above fields due to its vast experience of successfully fighting a hybrid war.

At the international level, the Muslim world has to become proactive by exposing the surrogates and international sponsors of Isis. There are zones and areas in the greater Levant, West Africa and West Asia, which can be tackled through a comprehensive military strategy.

The writers are freelance columnists based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]


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