The following is an editorial by Dillon Freed.
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Sunday, August 24, 2014
LET THE CALIPHATE FORM?
The following is an editorial by Dillon Freed.
This is a radical suggestion, so let me be strident: I am unequivocally not endorsing it. I am merely thinking it out, that’s it. Others can game theorize the suggestion as they wish. And yes, I can easily see nearly all the possible, nasty consequences if the following I shall write about were to transpire. But I only put forth the positive case, that is, what good could possibly come of such, with but a brief mention of the downside. That’s the intent of this article.
What is this “such”? It is the acquiescence by the West, namely America, to the formation of an ‘official’ Terrorist State; a place with borders, an army with uniforms, a government with elected or at least identifiable leaders - in shorthand, a real nation.
That is exactly what ISIS and others are attempting to create in the Levant. What if the world lets them do it? Would there be any reason to welcome it? Maybe. Let me articulate it in a few ways.
First, since you cannot attack dispersions then it may be wise to let the dispersion come together. It may be useful to let the pieces congeal, let the terrorists glob, as it were, and then the West and its allies shall have something to strike. (Trust me, the differences between al Qaeda and ISIS will be buried quickly.)
We can give some support to this idea of allowing a Caliphate/State by considering a scary question: would the Nazis have been annihilated had they fought as al Qaeda does? Imagine pockets of those Germans slowly killing off Jews in handfuls and planning attacks with IEDs everywhere where Jews and the friends of Jews lived? If this in fact had happened the West would still be living with murderously active Nazi sects.
In a sense then, one could be thankful Hitler had his own nation, had an army. Yes, it led to horror and major death, but because of that unified beast we could attack them and defeat them - conclusively.
How much easier could it theoretically have been if bin Laden and Company were the heads of a state, lived within a state, and were in command?
More yet, historically, a case could be made that every pushback against expansionistic Islamic Empire in the past came down to decisive battles against a more or less geographically consolidated foe. Just take Poitiers/Tours in 732, or Lepanto in 1571, or at the so-called Gates of Vienna in 1683.
Further upshots of the solidification of rather gaseous Islamic terrorism would be 1) that the differentiation between terrorists and nations that harbor them could be far less ambiguous as we would hope extremists would flock to the epicenter of their belief sects to become citizens; 2) that we would have to imagine it would be easier to cripple them financially since they would be more localized; and 3) that it would really give other Islamic nations a yardstick to measure their moderation against.
To this last point, the creation of the Caliphate may force the rest of the Middle East to actually undergo a reformation. Maybe witnessing radicalism in high definition will cause them to shift from an obsessive focus and literal interpretation of their holy canon, to a more back-of-the-mind as well as euphemized, metaphorical interpretation of it - just as most in the West have done with the Bible.
Again, I’m only positing possible upsides. The downsides will strike you starkly if you have a single neuron. To name but a very few against the formation: a major deterioration of the entire region (or better put, an increased death spiral); oil rich terrorists; the non-radical people who will suffer under a theocratic regime; potential acquisition of nuclear weapons by a government with apocalyptic mien; a threatened Israel; a massive Sunni-Shia religious war/genocide; a Christian genocide (in progress already); and of course, if we went to war with this new State we could still lose a "decisive battle." The communists had a nation in Vietnam, and that didn’t go too well.
However, Islamic terrorists are not Viet Cong, and they want a traditional military, they want a great battle. They want to save face after the historical humiliations listed above. They hate being the underdog, and it seems a bit incongruous that the true believers, the righteous ones are so impecunious and don’t really make or invent or create anything. The fact that they are so dependent upon infidels for their technology and weapons has to fester humiliation within their ranks. Terrorists would love an empire, and not to fight as a ragtag, flip-flopped bricolage of gangs with clunky guns and spare-part bombs. To have this nation and fight as a nation would prove that Allah is truly on their side.
In sum, sometimes the way to win is to let the enemy gain what it wants at first, lull them into the position you desire. The West along with the rest of the world could let them form their state - and then they could have them right where they wanted them. No more killing the bees at the flower, they could finally hit the hive and maybe destroy the source of the problem. A great, final battle would prove that Allah is on the side of moderates, not the extremists.
Dillon Freed is a journalist located in New York City. He has also been a correspondent for several international magazines.