ISIS: Negotiation, Not Bombing
EDITORIAL, 13 Oct 2014
More senseless bombing of Muslims, more defeats for USA-West, more ISIS-type movements, more West-Islam polarization. Any way out?
“ISIS, Islamic State in Iraq-Syria, appeals to a Longing for the Caliphate” writes Farhang Johanpour in an IPS column. For the Ottoman Caliphate with the Sultan as Caliph–the Shadow of God on Earth–after the 1516-17 victories all over till the collapse of both Empire and Caliphate in 1922, at the hands of the allies England-France-Russia.
Imagine the collapse of the Vatican, not Catholic Christianity, at the hands of somebody, Protestant or Orthodox Christians, meaning Anglo-Americans or Russians, or Muslims. A center in this world for the transition to the next, headed by a Pope, the apostolic successor to The Holy Spirit, an emanation of God in Heaven. Imagine it gone.
And imagine that they who had brought about the collapse had a tendency to bomb, invade, conquer, dominate Catholic countries, one after the other, like after 2 Bush wars in Afghanistan-Iraq, 5 Obama wars in Pakistan-Yemen-Somalia-Libya-Syria, and “special operations”. Would we not predict  a longing for the Vatican, and  an extreme hatred of the perpetrators? Fortunately, it did not happen.
But it happened in the Middle East: leaving a trauma fueled by killing hundreds of thousands. The Sykes-Picot England-France agreement of 16 May 1916 led to the collapse, with their four well-known colonies, the less known promise of Istanbul to Russia(!), and the 1917 Balfour declaration offering parts of Arab lands as “national home for the Jewish people”. Johanpour quotes Churchill: “Selling one piece of real estate, not theirs, to two peoples at the same time”.
The Middle East colonies fought the West through military coups for independence; Kemal Atatürk was a model. The second liberation is militant Islam–Muslim Brotherhood, FIS-Federation Islamique de Salvation in Algeria, etc.–against military-secular dictatorships. The West prefers the military; order against history.
The longing cannot be stopped. ISIS is only one expression, and exceedingly brutal. But, a damage and destruction by Obama and allies will be followed by a dozen ISIS from 1.6 billion Muslims in 57 countries. A little military politicking today, some “training” here, fighting there, bombing all over, are only ripples on a groundswell.
This will end with a Sunni caliphate sooner or later. And, the lost caliphate they are longing for, had not Israel been awarded a “national home”. This is behind some of the US-West despair. Any solution?
The way out is cease-fire and negotiation. Under United Nations auspices, with full UN Security Council backing. To gain time, switch to a defensive military strategy, defending Baghdad, the Kurds, the Shia and others in Syria and Iraq. Problematic for the USA, so maybe some other members of the coalition can do better, leaving Baghdad to the USA. After all, the US embassy there must be very attractive as a Caliphate See.
The historical-cultural-political position of ISIS and its successors is strong; the West is weak, also economically. The West cannot offer withdrawal in return for anything as it has already officially withdrawn. The West, however, can offer reconciliation, both in the sense of clearing the past and opening the future. Known in USA as “apologism” a difficult policy to pursue. But the onus of Sykes-Picot is for once not on the USA, but on UK-France. Russia dropped out after the 1917 revolution, but revealed the plot.
Bombing, an atrocity, will lead to more ISIS atrocities. A conciliatory West might change that. An international commission could work on Sykes-Picot and its aftermath, and open the book with compensation on it. As a principle; the West cannot pay anyhow.
Above all, future cooperation. The West, and here USA enters, could make Israel return the West Bank, except for small cantons, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital–or else!–sparing the Arabs and the Israelis horrible long-lasting warfare.
This would be decency, sanity, rationality; the question is whether the West possesses these qualities. The prognosis is dim.
There is the Anglo-American self-image as infallible, a gift to humanity, a little rough at times civilizing the diehards, but not weak. If not an apology, at least they could wish their own policies in the region since, say, 1967, undone. No sign of that.
So much for the willingness. Does the West have the ability? Do they know how to reconcile? After Portugal and England conquering the East China-East Africa sea lane around 1500, ultimately establishing themselves in Macao and Hong Kong, after the First and Second Opium wars 1839-1860 in China, ending with Anglo-French forces burning the Imperial Palace in Beijing, did England use the “hand over” of Hong Kong for reflections on the past? Not a word from Prince Charles.
China could have flattened those two colonies–but did not. As Islam has retaliation among its values, the West may be in for a lot.
Slavery, colonialism, imperialism. My country, Norway, accused by Caribbean countries of complicity in slavery, is now joining; it is the fourth war since 2001. Yet the tiny opposition has no alternative.
Le Nouvel Observateur lists “groupes terroristes islamistes” in the world: Iraq-Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Libya, Algeria, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Uzbekistan, and Chechnya. The groups, named, grew out of similar local circumstances. Imagine they increasingly share that longing for a caliphate; the Ottoman Empire covered much more than the Middle East, way into Africa and Asia. And more groups are coming. Invincible.
Imagine that Turkey itself shares that dream, maybe hoping to play a major role (the Prime Minister, Davutoglu, was in his past a superb academic, specialist on the Empire). Could that be the reason for Turkey not really joining, as it seems, this anti-ISIS crusade?
The West should be realistic, not “realist”. Switch to rationality.
Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Oct 2014.
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