Bombs are falling in the Middle-East as we speak. Yeah I know: breaking news, right? But all cynicism aside, the fact that people are killing each other in the Cradle of Civilization has entered yet another phase in the overlong history of Western military intervention in the Arab world with an all-out US led jihad against ISIS. Dutch F-16 fighter jets have joined in on the fun and dropped their deadly load over various targets in Iraqi territory. **** YEAH!
With the fall of respectively Saddam Hussein (Iraq, after the Second Gulf War in 2003) and the current collapse of the Assad regime (Syria), the massive power vacuum has unleashed hordes of factions going at each other’s throat. If this sounds a little bit too much like the overall plot of Game of Thrones (the king dies and an all-out civil war ensues), that’s because it basically is. No, I’m not kidding or being edgy. A Song of Ice and Fire, the superior novels on which the HBO series is based, is in fact inspired by the historical event known as the War of the Roses, a long and bloody civil war over power in Medieval England. The lesson here is that we could learn from history lessons.
Geert Wilders, aka “DutchReview’s second-best guy-we-love-to-hate right after Badr Hari”, is very fond of saying that ‘Islam has always tried to conquer the West.’ A little over the top there, mister Wilders. History is full of wars, some of which were fought over land, over resources, over ideology, over a game of football (sort of), or even over religion. Islam has no more tried to conquer the West than the West has tried to conquer the Arab world. It is a bloody history full of Crusades, underdogs winning incredible sieges, falling empires, Dracula, and the ultimate historical humiliation: defeat by a French army.
In more recent history, in particular after World War II, the Western countries have had the upper hand when it comes to military and economic power. Fortunately, these Western countries, the beacons of philosophical Enlightenment and good old decent Christian faith and liberal values that they are, have never ever abused this power.
The US and its Western allies received a lot of deserved criticism for being quick to intervene during the Libyan civil war while simultaneously not lifting a finger to help the Syrian population. In their defense, the situation in Syria was a lot more complex than in Libya. On top of that, the world seems at time to hold a double standard: blasting the United States’ supposed ‘imperialism’ when they use military action on foreign soil, and blasting their indifference to human suffering when they don’t.
The biggest problem when it comes to deciding whether or not to send in the people holding guns is that it is very difficult to foresee the future consequences of these military actions. Ever noticed how the Mujahideen, the Islamic warriors of Afghanistan, seem to be the good guys in old action flicks like Rambo III and even Bond movies like The Living Daylights? That’s because back in the eighties, the Soviet Union was the ultimate evil in the world, so anyone who opposed them was a-okay. In retrospect, these movie may seem absurd, like unintentional comedy, but that’s only because the reality that they reflect is even weirder than any fiction. During the Cold War, the US supported any country or organization that opposed Communism. Today, we are still living with the after-effects of these proxy wars fought in the name of democracy.
The lesson here is that today’s ally may be tomorrow’s enemy, especially in a world that changes so quickly. The old saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” might just be the worst advice you can get in international politics. In the face of the advance of ISIS in a politically shattered Middle-East we may not even be facing a choice between right and wrong, but simply one between the lesser of two evils.