Syria, Daesh and imperial hubris

Syria, Daesh and imperial hubris

Syria, Daesh and imperial hubris
Fools rush in where fools have been before. Is it just me or has the world really turned on its head? I find it hard to believe that after all the havoc wreaked on Iraq and the fine mess that the blessed Coalition of the Willing led by the US and UK has made of the Middle East, the West still hasn’t got over its itch to bomb “the barbarians” (in the words of France’s Francois Hollande).
After US, Russia and France, it is now the UK’s turn to join the so-called international coalition to bomb Syria. Within hours of the parliament’s nod after a 10-hour long debate on Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the first airstrikes on the Daesh targets in Syria. And in doing so he has once again followed in the footsteps of his Labour predecessor Tony Blair, defying the strong anti-war protests and sentiment at home.
A YouGov poll for the Times on Wednesday suggested that UK voters are “increasingly impressed by the case against war”. In just seven days, more than five million people joined the ranks of those opposing the air strikes on Syria.
The UK lawmakers and leadership nonetheless chose to go to another war in the Middle East, ignoring the stark, sobering lessons of the last such Western adventure, in the last decade.
This when Iraq is still burning and reeling from the catastrophic effects of the war that was supposed to end all tyranny and gift “democracy and human freedom” to the Middle East. Indeed, the monster that the West and Russia are now purportedly fighting in Syria was directly fathered by the Iraq war, if not by its architects.
Einstein is said to have defined stupidity as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results every time. World powers are not just unprepared to learn from history, they are unwilling to learn from their own recent disasters in the region and are thus condemned to repeat them.
Of course, no one could have any sympathy for the bloodthirsty fiends and crazies like the Daesh terrorists. Especially Arabs and Muslims. After all, the Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of this satanic death cult. Since the day they surfaced, they have brought nothing but shame and infamy to Islam and Muslims, adding to the woes of the Middle East and Muslims around the world, especially those living in the West.
The Paris attacks, apparently carried out by Daesh, have turned the popular sentiment against the desperate and long suffering Syrian refugees. No wonder many Arabs and Muslims are convinced that Daesh is the creation of international intelligence agencies and the Israelis. Daesh and the so-called Caliphate it claims to found is like our worst nightmare come true. It materialized out of thin air, like clouds of locusts, taking over the vast swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory.
In the words of Yvonne Ridley reasons, Daesh achieved in a matter of weeks what the US and its allies failed to do in 10 years of occupation. This couldn’t have happened by accident. Military victories on this scale take strategic planning and inside help.
So who, exactly, is behind Daesh? More importantly, who stands to benefit from this carefully calibrated mayhem in the heart of the Middle East? The same folks who created Al-Qaeda and used it ingenuously and effectively for years until Osama and his baby had exhausted their uses and were past their sell-by date. Whoever are the progenitors of this misbegotten monster, they cannot be the well-wishers of Muslims.
Doubtless Daesh has emerged as a clear and present danger to our world, especially the safety and security of Muslim lands. It has to be confronted and eliminated before its malignant influence spreads any further.
However, it cannot be done by indiscriminately and mindlessly bombing the war-ravaged Syria or heavily populated cities like Raqqa, the so-called headquarters of the terror army. The Daesh assets in cities like Raqqa, Mosul in Iraq and elsewhere are said to be deeply embedded in civilian areas and the extremists have been using the city’s population as human shield.
Under the circumstances, innocent civilians are bound to suffer the most and pay the ultimate price for the Western and Russian bombing campaign with casualties running into tens of thousands.
The world powers have to work with the Arab and Muslim allies and, perhaps more importantly with Russia and Iran, which have all these years disastrously propped up the Baathist regime in Damascus compounding the suffering and misery of the Syrian people.
All said and done, let us not lose sight of the basic fact that Bashar Assad and his oppressive regime are at the heart of this conflict and have indirectly and directly helped Daesh grow into the fearsome force that it has become, attracting the young and restless Muslims from around the world.
If world powers, instead of showcasing and marketing their awesome weapons and firepower in Syria, had paid more attention to finding a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict, Syria could have been spared a great deal of grief, not to mention thousands of precious lives.
More important, what we are seeing in Syria and Iraq is only a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself.
If we are to prevent the rise of more Daesh like monsters and more Paris like attacks — the latest outrage being the horrific mass shooting in San Bernadino, California, on Wednesday killing 14 people — the world powers and Arab and Muslim countries have to go beyond cosmetic, Band-Aid solutions and get to the underlying roots of this radicalization.
After all, the young, angry and armed extremists as represented by Daesh today and Al-Qaeda yesterday were not there in our midst even a generation ago. How did they come about? The extremist narrative of victimhood may use Islamic symbols and images for emotional effect and connect. But it would be absurd to blame the pathological anger and frustration of the extremists on Islam.
The forces like Isis are actually spawned by massive political upheavals and sociopolitical processes in the Islamic world which still battles the effects of long colonial occupation and corrupt systems that are essentially a colonial legacy.
A ham-handed, imperial approach like that adopted by Bush and Blair yesterday and by the likes of Putin, Hollande and Cameron today only exacerbates the problem and is invariably a godsend to the extremists. On the other hand, extremism also feeds on the casual brutality and corruption of tyrants like Assad, Saddam Hussain and their fellow travelers.
As Palestinian American journalist Rami Khouri argues: “The Daesh phenomenon is the latest and perhaps not the final stop on a journey of mass Arab humiliation and dehumanization. Foreign attacks have exacerbated this trend, as has Israeli aggression against Palestinians and other Arabs. But the single biggest driver of the kind of criminal Islamist extremism we see in this phenomenon is the predicament of several hundred million individual men and women who are unable to achieve their full humanity or potential.”
Groups like Daesh succeed because both the global powers and the tyrants that they seemingly oppose, aid and enable them with their hubris and intolerable cruelty.

Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Middle East-based writer.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view