By Arley Gill
I have argued for many years that what is referred to as the First and Second World Wars were essentially “European civil wars’’. Granted, that the major European powers had colonies outside of the European continent and — to some extent — the “subjects’’ in these colonies got involved in one way or the other.
The Europeans also were able to get their cousins in the United States of America involved; and, as such, there was serious transatlantic participation. Military bases were constructed in the Caribbean and because of our colonial status, we were participants in a war that was not our own.
Now, if I were to concede that the conflicts of 1914–1918 and 1939–1945 were “World Wars’’, then it is my argument that what we are experiencing now is the Third World War: from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, to Boko Haram in Nigeria, to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan — with their “cells’’ in Europe and North America and wherever else; and the countless and senseless assassinations and murders all over the world.
If this is not a war of global proportions, then someone please tell me what is. Given, this is not a conventional war between states. The battlefields are not defined; in fact, the battlefield is unknown and borderless in some instances as well.
So, too, are the combatants. They defy the definition as the world has known it for “soldiers’’. They do not have the discipline or the dress of soldiers. Their armies do not have the rank and stripes as we know them. However, they use the weapons of soldiers and they kill. Needless to say, they do not always kill fellow combatants.
Their targets all too frequently are innocent, unsuspecting persons going about their daily lives, not knowing or not conscious that they are living in a battlefield. I came to that conclusion sometime ago; but, the recent atrocities in Paris and North Eastern Nigeria prompted me to share my thoughts.
Now, it must be noted that the world and this new battlefield are not an even place. The western media’s coverage of the Paris killings of 17 persons pales in comparison to the slaughtering of hundreds in Nigeria by Boko Haram. However, there were no marches of world leaders in Lagos, Nigeria, as there were last Sunday in Paris, France. US President Barack Obama was not criticized for not going to Nigeria as he was for not going to Paris. A life is a life and every life lost in this world war is equally precious. That message must resonate in the hallowed halls of the White House and 10 Downing Street.
There must be a united and consistent global response from the world powers against these “Combatants’’, “Terrorist’’, “Killers’’ and “Criminals’’ wherever they are. I am of the view that many of these Jihadists are nothing more than common criminals using the religious platform to carry out their criminal enterprises.
Nigeria cannot be left alone to fight Boko Haram; Iraq cannot be left alone to fight ISIL; Yemen cannot be left alone to fight Al-Qaeda. The fact is, the regions where the US and the West have taken a distant look at or, at least, have not engaged militarily, are the places that provide the nursery for training for the offensives or attacks across the world.
The US must reconsider its engagement of mere air strikes against ISIL and put boots on the ground. It is a war, after all. What the world is experiencing goes beyond skirmishes and sporadic gunfights. It is a strategic attack. The manuals of Sandhurst need to be rewritten. This is a new war in a new age.
The US had referred to Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan as “unlawful Combatants’’. Could that description hold now? They are unlawful in the sense that they do not belong to a recognized army of a particular state. But, they are fighting a war. They may be using religion or some other persuasion, but they are certainly not letting up and — importantly — they are prepared to die.
The Al-Qaeda and ISIL-type fighters take lives as if life means nothing, and they are prepared to give up theirs.
Their actions must not only be condemned. They also must be defeated. Full force ought to be used to achieve this objective of complete defeat. This war was declared since 9/11 and it is still raging, with no truce or end in sight.