The lessons from Paris we will not learn

Ananda Das
Published : 16 Nov 2015, 11:49 AM
Updated : 16 Nov 2015, 11:49 AM

There is something very horrific about the image of several armed men in an enclosed space shooting at people who are not even their enemy by conventional descriptions. What happened at Paris has shocked everyone to the core and the world will take some time to recover from the nightmare.  The fear is that, before people do so, another attack may happen and more innocent lives may be lost.

The first lesson we don't always recognise is that all non-combatants are innocent. Because global media is in the hands of the Western world, the focus is always when the terrorists attack and the rest who fall everyday at the hands of the West are rarely noticed. Nor does it explain why it happens.

This is only natural as the Western powers are at war and their focus is on their own side, but as it happened during Bush's Iraq war, those who died on the ground were forgotten and only the scourge of Saddam Hossain was reported.

In this, the media was a partner as they decided to conduct biased war reporting at the request of the US powers. That is why, it's always important to remember that there are victims on all sides no matter even if they are not shown on TV.

Terrorism is a form of war by one group which is not resourced or organised enough to fight a conventional army. The image of the terrorist we have today is that of a ragtag band of people regularly beheading people.

However, as history has shown, terrorism is not an action but a reaction. In the Middle East, it began in the days of WWII when Israel was created. Terrorism was not a big force then, but with time it has grown bigger.

The 1967 Israeli –Arab war led to great resentment against the West and the Palestinian-led terrorism began. It is the weapon of the less resourced side that uses fear and anxiety through random actions as weapons. So terrorism rarely if ever occurs where democratic decision making exists and the Middle East is no exception.

The third lesson we will not learn is that politics produces its own reason and justification. To blame a particular type or variation of religion or Islam or any other faith will be wrong for exactly that reason.

During British rule, all those who resisted violently were called terrorists, and innocents were killed on both sides. The legendary Khudiram Bose tried to kill a judge but ended up killing an English family consisting of women and children.

Thus he was demonised but the British never explained that the violence they perpetrated on India led to this extreme situation.

The Anushilan and Jugantor parties were motivated by the slogan of patriotism, however violent they may have been, so it's not the idea source that is the issue but what triggers the reaction.

In the Middle East, Islam is the source of social and political mobilisation as it's part of their external and internal culture. So whether Shia-Iran, Beirut, Lebanon, or Sunnis – IS, al-Qaeda et cetera – the chances of secular terrorism is going to be low.

Every state there including Israel is faith-based. Nor are these positions interested in engaging with Western ideas or concepts because to them, the secular, democratic West appears as a very unfair and cruel force.

The history of that violence began in an era when the West didn't have to explain their behaviour to the world. That world has changed but the problems that were created by that attitude have not. Unreason once sown in the soil continues to breed bitter fruits often for a century.

The fourth lesson is that terrorism is a description and not a name of an enemy.  Once, al-Qaeda was thought to be the main enemy and both were synonymous, but today that has paled in comparison to ISIS. So if the problem doesn't go away, neither will terrorism in any shape or form.  So the unlearnt lesson from Paris is to tackle the issues that breed terrorism and not the phenomenon only.

The final lesson is that not all the options are open to all anymore. The ISIS members are ready to kill the innocent and die, and for them, the enemy is the West and not a particular power or people or group.

For the conventional army of the West, apart from bombing, the only other military option is to go for a ground war. That, security experts warn, is exactly what ISIS wants. It will pin down a large army, commit them to more war and thus radicalise thousands more. And that may lead to the next wave of terrorism.

Such wars can't be won as experts are saying. Some are even saying only Muslims can tackle ISIS which means ME forces, but given what they have experienced in the past, the chances of that happening is very slim.

They may also ask for a reward which in all probability is the rearrangement of Israel which the West can't agree to. Which is why the chance of Paris being the last violent act is rather remote.