Are we being drawn into war we can’t define?
CHRIS MACLEAN
© 2014 FrontLine Defence (Vol 11, No 5)

Let me first address those who have been calling for the West to stop using the word Islamist to describe those who are globally intent on doing us brutal harm. By calling us “bigots”, they are skillfully manipulating the altruistic among us to criticize our own ­governments. Until terrorists stop using the name of Islam as ­justification for bringing “death to non-believers”, and until “peaceful” or “moderate” Muslims boldly, consistently, and repeatedly rise up in large numbers to decry – to the world, and more importantly to each other – the violence being perpetrated in the name of the Prophet, they deserve neither our respect nor protection. Brutal ­violence should be opposed by “civilized” people of all genders, shades, religions and nationalities.

According to John Stuart Mill, the influential 19th century philosopher, “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
 
I couldn’t agree more, but his was a simpler era, when war was led by nations. I believe we are indeed willing to fight for our way of life (and clearly, inaction is not even remotely an option), but who are we fighting, and why?
 
Why? That is the ­nagging question raised by actions of the pretentiously-named “Islamic State” terrorists. The West had pretty much vacated the Middle East backyard. “No more boots on the ground” chorused Western leaders. So why the beheadings of Western journalists, aid workers and now tourists? They taunt us to return, and are intent on doing whatever it takes to drag the West back into their sandbox. Why? We continue to send billions in humanitarian aid to the innocents on their soil as we simultaneously divert our own blood and money to fight... something bad.
 
The U.S. in particular, though trillions in debt, feels morally obligated, along with all other Western countries, to defend the peaceful world against random killings of innocent people. From this perspective, it is a financial war, and they are winning.

I’ve heard the best strategy to win at Scrabble is to cheat. Despite many Hollywood movies to the contrary, it is probably impossible for the naïve to win against the unscrupulous. Jihadists know we follow ethical guidelines (to the extent of prosecuting our own combat soldiers for killing the enemy if our own rules are slightly bent). They laugh at our “rules of engagement” and deftly use them against us in their “no rules, no fear” game.
 
But what is the object of their game? They know, as well as we do, that true change can only come from within and, if they can keep the world distracted from that fact long enough, they will continue to gain ground.

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Chris MacLean is the Editor-in-Chief at FrontLine Defence magazine.
© Frontline Magazines 2014

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