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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

STRATEGICALLY SPEAKING OF HAMMER AND NAIL

Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan ndc, psc (Retd)

"To all those who have seen these awful things, I want to say we are going to lead a war which will be pitiless. Because when terrorists are capable of committing such atrocities they must be certain that they are facing a determined France, a united France, a France that is together and does not let itself be moved, even if today we express infinite sorrow."
THOSE are the words of a person who has been deeply hurt. President Hollande rightly expresses the feeling of a person seeking immediate retribution of deep pain inflicted upon his nation. And that is exactly what begs the question.
Commentators have queried soon after the Paris attacks whether La Republique has the answers to the problems it is facing. François Hollande's immediate response and some of his other actions that he has proposed to the French Parliament on Monday, consequent upon the terrorist attacks, does not suggest that the severity and character of the crisis that France has to deal with, a crisis that stems not only from some of its internal policies but also its participation in wars against terror in recent times, has been really grasped. On the other hand, it does remind one of Abraham Maslow's comment: "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." 
Like any other world leader invested with unrestrained power to act, every problem posed by Islamic extremism to France, and indeed to the Western world, appears to be a nail. The propensity for a kinetic energy approach (as an Indian security expert aptly described) in such a situation, rather than a more sober and perhaps more efficacious and long lasting chemical energy approach, is manifest in the reaction.
The IS phenomenon must be combated and its raison d'ĂȘtre must be defeated, but is a 'pitiless war' the answer to a problem, one that has been created entirely by the monocular, lopsided, biased and double standards approach of the West, particularly of countries like France and the US? President Obama speaks of 'eliminating terrorism totally,' without him or his bevy of advisors having any idea of how to go about it. And the reaction of Polish foreign minister following the Paris attacks betrays a pulverised mind. Remember President Bush brandishing (later retracting) the threat of Crusade after 9/11. What the world is enduring today is in great part the result of Bush's shortsighted strategy.   
President Hollande calls it an act of war by IS on the French people. It indeed is. Nothing of this proportion has been unleashed on the French since WWII. But the irony of the matter is that the act of war has been committed by the very group that the West and France have sponsored against Assad. 
While in no way justifying the senseless attack on civilians and the killings, for the Syrians and the IS, France has been already at war with them since the commencement of bombardment by the coalition air forces of Iraq (against IS targets) and Syria. And as the IS claims, the Paris attacks are in response to the French bombing of IS.  
And if we believe terrorism to be the weapon of the weak, the IS has sought to achieve an equilibrium, since it cannot indulge in open hostility, at least at this particular point in time, by targeting the soft targets - the civilians - which for them are collateral damage, just as the unfortunate civilians in those countries bombarded by the West in their action against the extremists. As an aside, air campaign alone is not the answer to IS; one wonders whether the air campaign over the period of the last one year has in any way degraded IS capability to carry on with their strategic and tactical agenda. 
The purpose of the foregoing comments was to highlight the ineffectiveness of the strategy of the West of combating a peril which the faulty policy of the US and West has in the first place spawned and which their equally contradictory and self defeating policy in Syria has helped to sustain. And whose dire consequences the rest of the world is suffering. 
For the rest of the world the IS has become the greatest threat, and it is not for the US or the West to combat it alone. Terrorism cannot be totally annihilated through a 'pitiless war' only. Those who think in those lines are unaware of what they are dealing with. It needs collaboration, more so of Muslim countries, who stand to suffer as much, if not more, than the others in the ongoing struggle of ideas and scampering for strategic resources. Moderate minds must come together cutting across national divide, beliefs and taboos, to combat this phenomenon.

The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star

Source:  The Daily Star, 19 November 2015

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