Standing up to evil

Western powers must act to destroy Islamic State terrorists, writes Michael Kinsella

The scale and ferocity of the so-called Islamic State attacks reveal an enemy utterly convinced that its merciless means of conquest are divinely justified. It would be ill-advised to think that its ideological theatre is confined to the howling dustbowls of Iraq and Syria, Islamic State will not rest until a global Caliphate is established.

Simply by existing, Christians offend its worldview and present legitimate targets of destruction. Any pretence to a just war on its part has been exposed as poisonous self-delusion given the instruments of terror it has normalised: decapitation, crucifixion, rape, mutilation and mass murder. Children are not immune from these acts.

The unfolding of these barbaric events has been facilitated by a combination of Western indifference and complicity in the Middle East. This collusion has a stately form because IS has powerful allies that have helped secure, train and feed supply lines of terrorists and military materiel that have now helped capture a land area larger than the island of Ireland with economic resources in the tens of billions of dollars.

IS, along with a depressingly long litany of jihadist nihilists, is funded, abetted and advised by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey. Ominously, all of these countries are broadly considered essential allies of the US and EU and vital to western strategic interests in the region.

Despite the fact that the toothless Arab League (of which Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait are members) has recently condemned IS actions, all of its member countries have institutionalised discrimination against Christians. In many Islamic states, such as Saudi Arabia, the price for apostasy from Islam is death.

Saudi Arabia sits on the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) yet makes no apologies for the Wahhabi doctrinal catalysts that ideologically fuel Islamic fundamentalism.

Benign presence

Qatar, destination of many an obsequious trade mission from EU countries, has attempted to appropriate a benign presence on the world stage by herding what amounts to the largest population of de facto slaves in human history to build soccer stadiums for the World Cup in 2022. Kuwait, itself released from the clutches of a despot in the first Gulf War by a US-European military alliance, now acts as a sympathetic launching pad for jihadists.

Turkey, a member of NATO and prospective member of the EU, has revealed its true intentions regarding IS in the recent attacks on Kobani, Syria (a mere 10km from the Turkish border). Turkish president Recep Erdogan has long opposed Kurdish self-determination and has been content to play off the Kurdish Peshmerga against IS.

He has also blocked the movement of Syrian Kurdish refugees and humanitarian relief in and through Turkey, while simultaneously having an ‘open borders’ policy for IS militants, cash and materiel.

Turkey is now known to be buying black market oil from IS-held territory, directly helping to fund IS terrorism. What should be troubling for the West is that Mr Erdogan’s complicity in IS atrocities isn’t mere political cynicism – it betrays a sincere affiliation and apologia for IS’s aspirations.

In an astonishing display of moral witlessness and lack of ironic understanding, US President Barack Obama has stated that the US will “hunt down terrorists wherever they may be”. One wonders if the Middle Eastern states that facilitate IS will be become prey to this declaration.

The West has been very swift and efficient in establishing trade missions to the Middle East to broker business deals. It has been shamefully tardy and inept at brokering peace deals.

This failure is clearly not a communications issue (the lines are always open with money) nor is it about trust (each side clearly trusts the other with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of trade each year). This is about Western economic dependency on regimes that support groups specifically designed to perpetrate genocide in the name of Islam. Gary Bass, Professor of Politics at Princeton University, refers to these regimes that project their power through massacre as ‘atrocitarian’.

This is a numbingly precise description of the means and ends of IS political ambitions. Its ideologically-influenced barbarism will simply not succumb through legal coercion or a collective plea to conscience but through the projection of legitimate military force.

Pope Francis was recently asked whether the US bombing of IS was justified. His response was significant: “In these cases where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say this: it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means. With what means can they be stopped? These have to be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit.”

So the Pope is saying that it is the responsibility of those charged with safeguarding the common good to ensure that every effort to ‘stop’ IS conforms to just war theory (JWT). This, beyond any whimsical or self-serving interpretation of international law, is the real dividing line between legitimate self-defence and the type of violent mayhem spread by IS. One must consider whether the damage being perpetrated by IS fulfils any of these JWT stipulations:

The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

            All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

            There must be serious prospects of success against the aggressor;

            The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.

If the West has any aspiration to moral bravery, it would do well to consider the conditions expressed by JWT in responding to the plight of persecuted minorities – particularly the third stipulation. To assist meaningfully in whatever international effort may be assembled to counter the IS threat is paramount and this, inevitably, may require standing armies from the West to attack IS.

This moment in history is one in which we can choose to acquiesce to Islamist nihilism, for fear of causing offence, or be assertive in the defence of reason and civilisation and demand that Muslim countries appropriately denounce and seek to destroy all forces of mass murder.

IS is determined not to stop until a global Islamic caliphate is established. It is neither sensationalist nor alarmist to warn that there are clandestine jihadist riff-raff across continental Europe that live under the protection of rights the West found so hard to establish and secure. These terrorists are radicalised without check, safe in the knowledge that there are havens throughout the Middle-East for their genocidal tendencies.

To stop them will take a vast effort of political and moral will – and military might.


*Michael Kinsella teaches philosophy at University College Dublin.