The savage murder of American journalist James Foley was, for many people, their introduction to the Islamic State (IS). For others who were already aware of this group, it was the killing that vastly ramped up the pressure on political leaders in the West to take action. In the following days we heard talk about Australia possibly joining America in taking military action against IS, and it has been recently confirmed that this action will be taken. Mr Abbott has announced that weapons and aid will be sent to the Iraqi opposition forces, such as the Kurds in northern Iraq, who have been fighting IS, not just for their land or territory, but for their very right to exist.
It should be clear that this is the type of threat the world is encountering with IS. This isn’t a group that is fighting against an oppressive regime or retaliating against another group that has provoked it, this is a movement that is aiming to establish a lost empire and has already shown that civilisation (no need for the prefix ‘Western’) is fit for destruction in the realisation of this objective.
With that in mind, it seems like an opportune moment to discuss the actions that the rest of the world can take using a rational approach. Economics is not the only discipline in which the sweet spot is found when everyone is acting rationally. Politics and international relations are also areas of our discourse that must borrow economic concepts such as a cost-benefit analysis in order to reach the most desirable conclusion. It therefore seems reasonable to apply these ideas to the most pressing issue of our time by examining the three main options that a country – or indeed a coalition of countries – can take.
The first is negotiation. If there is a way to end aggression and injustice without resorting to violence then it should be pursued to its full lengths. Any serious politician should acknowledge this and take it on as a principle. However, in regards to IS, anybody who is even remotely familiar with their agenda and with the nature of jihad will know that this course of action is impossible. IS has as its only long-term goal, as mentioned earlier, the restoration of a lost Islamic empire, the caliphate, which, if realised, will comprise of many countries throughout the Middle East such as Israel, Jordan and Lebanon. The only way negotiation can work is if both sides have something they are willing to compromise on and are willing to find a middle ground that suits both parties. In the case of IS, as with all jihadi’s, they have made it clear that they want nothing from the West other than its total subjection while it takes over much of the Middle East. This option therefore becomes impossible. It’s also not a desirable option even if it were feasible, which becomes clear when one contemplates what the ‘middle ground’ would be in this situation. IS control over Iraq and Syria only? If we have any sense of international solidarity and duty to the people of the Middle East, then the idea of negotiating with IS becomes both unthinkable and untenable.
The second option is appeasement. Instead of asking what we can do to stop IS we can use our time making excuses for them and splitting the difference between them and the West. The appeasement of IS would basically mean surrender and capitulation, both in our own name and in the name of civilisation. This should be the easiest of the three options to dismiss, but then again much of the international left wasted the year’s post-9/11 dabbling in the idea of allowing these fanatical murders of the hook. Jihadists may execute people at the side of the road, massacre Christians, massacre Shia Muslims, rape women and shoot girls in the side of the head for the crime of speaking out for a right to an education, as they did to Malala Yousafzai, but at least it isn’t US imperialism right? Thankfully, I haven’t heard much of this recently from the usual suspects on the international left whether it be Chomsky, Pilger or bad imitations of them like Michael Moore, who post-9/11 seemed to think it was a better use of their time criticising the Pentagon than the Taliban. In fact, it seems like the only rabble that feels stupid enough to make these claims at present are the pseudo-left, wannabe revolutionary cretins that comprise the Socialist Alternative, who seem to have no shame in posturing that the greatest threat to Australian society at present is a Medicare co-payment. However, this kind of mindless drivel can always resurface in a more widespread manner and it should be ridiculed when it does. The opportunity cost of doing nothing is often too high.
The third option is military action. The unwelcome truth is that there are people in the world who mean us harm. While it might be comforting to believe that if we just halt the over-reaching foreign policy and spread more money around the place then groups such as IS will dissolve and we can focus on the real tyrants like Christopher Pyne, this is simply not the case. We know what foreign policy decisions IS resent, the airstrikes authorised by President Obama that stopped their advance on the Kurds was the reason the murderers of James Foley gave for his beheading. That’s easy then, all we have to do is stop those airstrikes and they won’t be mad at us anymore. In the meantime, we’ll just have to stand by while IS slaughter the Kurds. It’s always helpful to be mindful of the consequences of America withdrawing its military power as well as imposing it.
I find it hard to believe that groups like IS really care about the plight of people throughout the Middle East under Western imperialism when they spend much of their time doing the murdering and slaughtering. I also find it hard to believe that a lack of economic opportunity is what drives these people to terrorism when you see young men from the West, with every economic opportunity available to them, join the fight for IS. It seems clear that military action is all that will stop them.
However, after reading many columns in the media over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that lots of people seem to want to have it both ways. Many are quick to point out the savagery and unconscionable evil of a group such as IS but also feel unwilling or unable to support military action. Well, unfortunately they will have to make up their minds at some point. As I hope I’ve confirmed here, the only option that any person who has any respect for the principles that make civilisation possible – namely free speech, women’s rights, religious freedom and the rights of minorities – should be supporting, is military action against a group that is the purest example you will ever see of the antithesis of all these things.