In what sense is the beheading of a British Aid worker or a US journalist different from the disintegration of Pakistani, Iraqi or Afghan children by US or UK drones?
Is there a moral distinction between Obama’s ‘collateral damage’ and ISIL’s sword? I’ve no doubt someone will provide an academic reply. Practically: we may agree that the actions of ISIL are barbaric comparing them, perhaps, with the wanton destruction visited on Jerusalem by European crusaders a millennia ago. What about the more recent events? Why not compare with Armenia and Southern Africa in the late 19th & early 20th centuries, more recently Eastern Europe and, again and again, the Middle East.
ISIL has an idea. ISIL believes that the West is decadent, pagan, atheistic, and anti-Islam. Well, what parts of that are mistaken? I can agree substantially with their analysis whilst disagreeing with their solution. The categories are general and simplistic but the sense that all is not well with our societies is shared by many.
I’ve written previously, Ideas cannot be defeated by bombing them into submission. That kind of victory rarely lasts, it usually produces a redistribution of anger. There ensues a peace which is merely the absence of open conflict. Ideas have never been defeated by violence, only by better ideas.
Our response to ISIL, to Al Queda, to the Taliban and their like is always to reply in kind. Perhaps the mantra ‘They only understand the language of force’ should be directed at us. Whatever the political justification Western military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Palestine has a long history that looks to those on the receiving end like ‘imperialism at arms length’. Choose democracy, but make sure we approve! Iran in 1954 and Palestine in 2003 are the more extreme examples.
When the body count stops rising and our TV screens re-focus on X-Factor the ‘public’ quickly forget. People in those lands, do not forget, have not forgotten. It was a different age, a different situation and with different values but the people of Afghanistan have not forgotten the British in the middle of the 19th century.
So, to the point. If we have better ideas we had better find better ways of promoting them. If we have better things to say then it will be best for us to say them, better still to show people why those better ideas are indeed better, (a conscious reference to the NT letter to Hebrew Christians). So, all of you who are, keep up the good work; and those of you who aren’t – please, step up.