The great liberal democracies, the “shining beacon” of the United States (as Ronald Reagan described) have never attempted to fully understand and address the root causes of terrorism. The solution has always been, and will most likely continue to be, war and conquest of hostile territories. The popular soundbites of ‘safeguarding democracy’ and ‘protecting the values we hold dear’ are merely phrases used to justify military intervention which, ironically, has created more problems than it set out to resolve.
Studies show that the War on Terror has claimed, directly and indirectly, 1.3 million lives but this could be anywhere up to 2 million. Whilst the 9/11 attacks were utterly abhorrent and traumatising for hundreds of thousands of people, the loss of 3,000+ lives does not justify the deaths of 1.3-2 million. And herein lies the issue – merely killing terrorists does not solve the problem. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan generated huge collateral damage, showing little concern to the innocent civilian population.
The belief among neo-cons in the United States was that by removing the terrorists and destroying their homes and bases would the problem finally be solved, but little attention was paid to why this terrorist feeling was created. The clear majority of the population in Iraq and Afghanistan were not terrorists yet they were all treated as such, sowing division and generating yet more hatred and extremism towards those who were acting blatantly unjust. This deepened the counterproductive ‘us versus them’ mentality.
Benjamin Netanyahu once defined terrorism as “the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming, and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear”. Unfortunately, this is what the West has done in the Middle East. By inspiring fear, through military superiority, the politicians and generals helped push innocent Afghanis and Iraqis towards those who promised safety from foreign invaders.
By destroying their countries, the West did nothing to rebuild and remodel them along the lines we had envisaged as the reason for invasion. After the Second World War, the Allies rebuilt West Germany so that there would not be a return to extremism. There was detailed research into what had caused Germany to slide towards extremism in the first place, and it was found that the humiliating terms of the Versailles Treaty were the main cause.
The 1945 peace would not be a return to those terms. By helping to rebuild a former foe, the Allies brought about in Germany huge economic growth and development. No such plan was or has been adopted in Iraq or Afghanistan. Al Qaeda and the Taliban were mostly destroyed, and so the conquering armies mostly withdrew, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
Attempts to rebuild those states were lukewarm at best, and half-hearted in their implementation. Efforts at mitigation, negotiation, rebuilding, peacekeeping, and understanding root causes were negligible and virtually non-existent, and so the problems that were the pre-requisite for invasion were made only worse through the actions taken by the West. It would be unfair and illogical to lay all the blame at our own feet, but we must accept responsibility for the large part we played.
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