We live in a world of myths and new ones are created constantly. That’s because when we hear them presented as facts enough times we start believing and repeating the myths ourselves. One of these myths has to do with the definition of war.
The French President Hollande has been stating several times in recent days that they are at war with ISIS. This is his version of the American War on Terror. It might feel like I’m playing with semantics, but there is no war. Using the word war would be like an old way of thinking. War is a conflict between two states or coalitions, and although ISIS wants to be recognised as a state, or a caliphate with a caliph representing all Muslims in the world, we couldn’t recognize them as having any kind of authority. The whole point of a war is to solve the conflict, which means you see your opponent as having a role to play after the war is over.
This is a new type of conflict and it needs a new word. Solving this conflict is hard, but what puzzles me the most is how desperately stubborn we are. We really don’t want to understand and we are trying awfully hard to get out of thinking about where this hate towards Europe comes from.
A Norwegian blogger I’m following wrote an interesting entry a day or two after the terrorist attack in Paris. He is in France at the moment, but far away from Paris. Much to his surprise it was business as usual in this town. There was nothing at all to indicate what had happened in Paris the night before, but then he noticed olive leaves that restaurants had displayed. This was a quiet, but powerful commemoration. The olive leaf is an important symbol of peace and forgiveness, and was used in Genesis as the first sign of a peace treaty between the Creator and the creature.
I didn’t change my profile picture on facebook to Je suis Charlie. I didn’t have rainbow colours or red when the US Supreme Court made it’s historic decision about gay marriage, or blue for autism awareness or any of the other causes that has offered me that opportunity. Not because I am not willing to, but because I want to do more. Besides, if you respond by asking how high every time someone says jump, you are going to end up being pretty characterless. How many people changing their picture do you think really have a deeper awareness and understanding of what this is really about? I believe a lot would be different if they did. It was the same thing with the bucket challenge. I remember the local TV-station challenged the best football team in town and some of the players went through with it. I don’t know how much awareness and understanding of Lou Gehrig’s Disease they gained, though.
If I changed my photo it would be to an olive tree or leaf. Lebanon seems like a good place to start. This is just one of many countries where the olive has been naturalized. This country that used to have a Christian majority has been sorely tried. I’m not going to share the whole history, but I believe Europe has some responsibility for the way this region has developed. The League of Nations was formed after World War I to maintain peace. France administered Syria and Lebanon.
Britain was very much involved in the formation and development of Palestine, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Libya was an Italian colony and two of the original provinces were under British administration from 1943 to 1951, while the third one was under French control. A few wars and dictators later we have discovered that a region that has never been democratic may not want that, or even be suited for it. Islam is hardly a conducive ally for democracy and equality, and contrary to what many claim it isn’t a religion of peace and tolerance.
We (NATO) have had a tendency to change alliances constantly. USA and Britain orchestrated a coup against the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq of Iran in 1954. In the war betwen Iran and Iraq in the 1980’s we supported Saddam Hussein, and he became a liability later. There are a number of countries where I’m not sure whether they are NATO allies or not. Some of those are Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Qatar. We seem to be thinking short term and things could change.
I’m not an expert on politics. Far from it, but I am trying to understand. It seems to me that the League of Nations more or less built the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and it’s not looking to me like we did a fantastic job. One of the problems in France is that the authorities built apartment complexes in suburbs and these immigrants were seperated from the rest of the society. It still doesn’t matter how skilled they are as long as their names are Hussain, Ibrahim, Karimah or Rasha.
The same thing is happening all over Europe and my country, Norway, is sadly no exception. It’s difficult to talk about it because officially racism doesn’t exist here. There’s no point talking about what doesn’t exist, That seems to be the prevailing attitude. The only accepted view is that immigrants are exclusively positive to our society, but this is not what immigrants are experiencing. I believe we are capable of understanding this, but we don’t want to.
Terrorism isn’t something new, but when it happens in Europe we are frightened. People say that the terrorists are not going to frighten us into changing who we are. We are going to continue our way of life in defiance of the terrorists. The best we can do is to live exactly the way the terrorists don’t want us to. This tells me that we still don’t understand, that changing our profile picture is about all the change we are prepared to make.
If we continue to think of the Arab countries in terms of a traditional enemy in a war, I think ISIS and other organizations will continue to recruit young people from all over the world. I’m not suggesting we show these people any mercy. On the contrary, because they still need to take responsibility for their actions. However, it doesn’t surprise me that the most troubled countries in the world are those we have been kind enough to help in the near past.
It doesn’t do much good to talk about how ISIS isn’t Islam. It doesn’t matter who created the terrorists and where they got their weapons from. The question is whether or not we have given them a reason to be angry, and if we have, it is reasonable to assume that we could defuse the situation in other ways than by use of more force.