Stop funding it.
One wonders how committed the U.S., UK and their cohorts really are in their so-called war on terror, given that their main ally in the most terror-ridden region on earth is Saudi Arabia, which not only practices an extremist doctrine the likes of which Western leaders so often denounce, but spreads that insidious doctrine through its considerable oil wealth in direct contravention to the claimed efforts of Western leaders.
This is something the U.S., Saudi Arabia’s most faithful ally, has admitted in the past. In 2010 a secret diplomatic cable signed by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban [and Lashkar-e-Taiba]” and “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”. The cable also notes that while the Sauds had made some small effort to combat the flow of money to terror groups, most of the Americans’ recommendations to stop the flow were either reluctantly and half-handedly implemented, or outright ignored.
Saudi Arabia practices vicious interpretations of Islam, such as Wahhabism and Salafism, and suppresses human rights in methods not totally unlike those of ISIS. While some countries are experiencing a shortage of doctors, nurses and teachers, Saudi Arabia is running short of much-needed executioners to carry out the death sentences it hands out like cupcakes at a bake sale. Saudi Arabia is one of only seven countries in the world to administer the death penalty for the “crime” of homosexuality, and activists who escape the chopping block, such as Raif Badawi, are subject to barbaric and intensely painful punishments instead. The methods ISIS uses to murder political prisoners are almost identical to the ones the Sauds use.
That of course, only deals with Islamic terror, which the media considers the only type of terrorism. While confined only to one part of the world, “Jewish” terrorism is spreading similar death and misery to that of “Islamic” terror, this time in Israel and the remains of Palestine. Jewish settlers illegally seizing land reserved for the remnants of a Palestinian state routinely attack Palestinian civilians as part of their lifestyle. Children are run over with cars, holy sites are desecrated, and entire families are driven from their homes thanks to Jewish terrorists, something that has been happening since the ethnic cleansing campaign of the 1940’s. All this occurs with the full backing of successive Israeli governments, who receive around $3 billion of American taxpayer money per year.
Therefore the only way to reduce the existential threat terrorism poses, both “Islamic” and “Jewish” (if we insist on making terrorists the sole representatives and spokespeople for entire religions), is to stop opening our wallets and enabling it. This accusation is mainly pointed at the U.S., but European countries like the UK and Germany have their portion of the blame when it comes to funding terror, given that they pour vicious weapons into the region in order to prop up their allies and make a fat profit in the process. For example, in 2015 the UK’s then-Business and Innovation Secretary Vince Cable approved the sale of over £16 million in “crowd-control” materials to human rights abusing regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, even though the country’s own Foreign Office had them on a blacklist for their shameful human rights record.
Stopping the flow of arms and petro-dollars to terrorist groups and their overlords will not change attitudes and prevent further “radicalization” (more on that pseudoscience later), but it will remove some of their ability to carry out their atrocities. Of course, this assumes that the U.S. and the EU employ any sort of rationality or moral compass when it comes to these matters. As previous paragraphs no doubt demonstrate, the flow of money to terror groups is actually a deliberate consequence of Western (and Middle Eastern) foreign policy.
Stop sensationalizing it.
Groups like ISIS may be vile monsters, but they’re not stupid monsters. Far from being the stupid, risible caricatures that political cartoonists make them out to be, ISIS knows very well the strategy necessary to draw more to their cause, and take great comfort in knowing they have a universal mouthpiece from which to spout their dogma: The media.
When speaking to the West, ISIS does not need to tell the truth, present a rational world-view or stake any claim to a moral high ground. All it needs to do is be sensational and shocking enough to make it into the morning papers. Each time a snuff video is released by the group, depending on its shock factor, the media in the West faithfully laps up the story, plastering stills from the videos on the front pages of their websites, complete with carefully retold explanations from those who carried out the murders, as if they can offer any insight whatsoever.
The media may think it is assisting the narrative by exposing these shocking crimes, perhaps in an attempt to deter naive young people from flying over to Syria to join them, but in the end, acting as the publicist for ISIS just causes more damage. The media is misguided at best, deliberately negligent at worst.
As the media ever so faithfully gives ISIS a platform from which to spout its hatred, it is assisting nobody but the militants themselves. Nobody is arguing that the scourge of terrorism should be outright ignored, but the methodical way media reports deal with terrorist incidents and their perpetrators bears resemblance to the twisted celebrity culture of gossip magazines. We must stop assisting people who wish to make international headlines by committing atrocities. This is part of the problem with perpetrators of gun massacres in the U.S., for example. Many become overnight sensations, thrust into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, and the message from the media is clear: “Commit a horrific crime and we’ll make a celebrity out of you”.
Of course, ignoring the atrocities of ISIS will miraculously not make them treat political prisoners with care, but it takes away some of the bluster. Little good ever comes from “breaking news” headlines about the contents of Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout, or about the troubled background of Dylann Roof.
Stop misinterpreting it.
Contrary to the pseudo-scientific dogma of neoconservatives and New Atheists alike, “radicalization” does not occur in a vacuum. There is a tendency among Western orientalists and so-called terror experts to think that terrorists just decided to strap bombs to their chest while they were spreading jam on their toast. Instead, people are drawn to extreme groups because they feel they have no other choice.
No it doesn’t make it right, no it doesn’t make it sensible, but the old adage “the more you starve us, the more you look like dinner” holds true when thinking about how groups like ISIS are able to recruit so many people. In part it’s because of the sectarian nature of successive Iraqi governments, and, in this case, the decision on the part of the U.S. to make thousands of angry young men unemployed. During the early days of the illegal invasion, Paul Bremer was put in charge of the new provisional authority in Iraq, swiftly gutting its army in order to purge it of Saddam Hussein’s loyalists.
According to Anthony Zinni, former Chief of the U.S. Central Command, “Many of the Sunnis who were chased out [of the Iraqi army] ended up on the other side and are probably ISIS fighters and leaders now”. According to one report, at least half of the top commanders in ISIS once served in the Iraqi military. However unjustified, however wrong, the rise of ISIS is directly related to the fall of the Iraqi Army.
But this is not to say that if only the U.S. had kept the army, things would now be peachy, for the attraction of ISIS is down to more than strategic blunders. The underlying crime, the intervention, is a serious impetus to joining groups like ISIS, when former military commanders feel they have no other way to oust the Western invaders. Gross acts of terrorism on the part of the West, such as the Granai Massacre or the Nisour Square Massacre, provide ISIS with the proverbial means to say “see, I told you so” when drawing fighters to their cause.
The U.S. and its puppet states can vastly help the situation in the Middle East by reversing their gross, inhumane and brutal foreign policy goals of control and subjugation. It is the military meddling of successive U.S. and EU actors that has caused sectarian strifes in the first place, and has exacerbated them to get back at an enemy (see CIA funding of the Afghan Mujahideen) or bring about a regime more friendly to imperial interests (see Abdel Fattah el-Sisi).
But there is only so much to do from our ivory towers in the West. Middle Eastern governments like that of al-Sisi’s repeatedly silence opposition groups, and crack down on the right to protest or assemble, therefore giving these groups no other option (in their minds) than to strike out at the state to get their demands met. Unless a political settlement for countries like Egypt allows people the right to protest and demonstrate, some groups may turn violent. Similarly, the use of technology such as drone strikes should be immediately halted, as the civilian casualties they cause only fuel more discontent with Western nations, and drive people into the arms of groups that resort to violence.