As the bombs rain down in the Middle East…
With recent terrorist events in San Bernadino, California, Paris, Mali, Ottawa and the bombing of a Metrojet airliner over the Sinai in Egypt, it is becoming clear that it may not be as easy as the authorities would have us believe that ISIL or ISIS could be defeated in the short haul. And that may simply be because ISIS is more of an idea than it is an army.
The United States, France, Canada, Russia and other countries have conventional armies trained to wage war with other conventional armies. And in spite of the persistent bombings of ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq over the last couple of years, we continue to have violent situations popping up all over.
Even when the coalition bombings are successful, as in the case of the Syrian city of Kobani, another problem of refugees is created because more than 70% of the city is destroyed and is uninhabitable. (The family of Alan Kurdi, the three year-old boy found dead on a Turkish beach, believe that their house was destroyed by American bombs). And ISIS continues to show their muscle.
In Montreal, the city administration has set up its own organization to prevent folks from becoming radicalized, and it is quite possible that they may have some success with parents and concerned relatives calling to report on individuals who may be at risk. But the results are yet to be seen.
And at the same time in little, nondescript and far-away-from-Syria Trinidad and Tobago, the government is struggling to deal with some 75-100 of its citizens who have left the sunny island to go and fight in Syria. They are also trying to figure out what to do with them if and when they return.
Then there are the folks, such as U.S. Republican Party candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who believe that perhaps boots on the ground would possibly be more effective in Syria than the somewhat limited impact of the bombings in destroying the enemy.
And, no doubt, the relevant authorities in France and the United States in their recent declaration of war (even after years of bombing) would like us to believe that the Islamic extremist threat would be eliminated completely in as little as the next two years.
To me that seems to be more of a public relations gesture to satisfy worried citizens everywhere, when they may very well know that it is much more difficult to kill an idea than it is to fight a traditional army.
How can they prevent the type of events such as in San Bernardino, California, when the perpetrator was not even on the radar of the authorities? And how many others are lurking undetected out there? For sure, no one could predict when and where the next event will occur.
Needless to say, the folks marketing ISIS have had relatively good success thus far. Using social media (some 90,000 messages per day) and selling the idea of a “just war” and creating a Muslim caliphate where all things would be bright and wonderful, they have been able to get the attention of ordinary youth everywhere who might be feeling displaced and looking for a cause.
I have asked myself the question many times: What would be the motivation for someone in my sweet doubles-eating and sunny Trinidad and Tobago to pick up himself (and sometimes with family) to go and dodge bullets in Syria? As far as I know, Muslims in T&T have always had the freedom to practice their religion.
The ISIS marketing strategy has been such a success (in a bad way, of course) that other radical groups such as the Al-Qaeda-linked group which killed 20 people at the Radisson Hotel in Mali, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab operating in Somalia and Yemen are now buying into the franchise.
I am not sure what the end is going to look like or when it is going to come, but it is surely not a good feeling to know that you could be simply enjoying a Christmas party or going about your ordinary business and your life could end in a flash.