Clem Sunter

God's messy war

2013-05-31 13:30

Clem Sunter

Three developments suggest that God's messy war has no end in sight and could get worse. Firstly, the Boston bombings indicate that self-radicalisation - a term to denote an individual's conversion from religious zealotry to acts of violence - is on the increase. From an intelligence point of view, this turn of events is potentially very dangerous as it is almost impossible to pick up the signs of a specific individual taking the leap from abstract idea to ghastly deed; and the measures required to reduce the probability of this scenario become extremely costly in terms of money and denial of freedoms which are the foundation of democracy. The butchering of a soldier in civvies in broad daylight in Woolwich in London and impromptu statements by one of his attackers holding a bloody knife and cleaver have increased the urgency of new tactics to counter this trend; as has the incident of a soldier in uniform being almost killed in Paris by being stabbed in the neck.

Secondly, the public acknowledgement by President Obama of the use of drones to kill the leadership of terrorist movements in countries like Pakistan and Yemen indicates how much the game of war has changed. Some three thousand people have been killed, including around 10% of that number being innocent civilians who are described as collateral damage. As I said in a previous column, conventional forces such as armies, navies and airforces become redundant in such a war. It's all about a model aeroplane being directed by a computer boffin sitting in an office in some unknown location in America. With the withdrawal of British and American troops from Afghanistan in 2014, this will become the principal tactic of the West in the overseas fight against terrorism in the years to come. Clinical and remote and maybe joined by robots in time.

Thirdly, the civil war in Syria between rival groups of the same religious faith has just escalated to a new level with the announcement by the Russians that they are supplying the latest anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian government forces.  The war there is already threatening to engulf neighbouring states like Turkey, Lebanon and Israel; and the declared willingness of Britain and France to arm the rebels can only lead to a greater intensity of the battle inside Syria itself. Iraq is also a warzone again between rival religious factions.

There are a host of reasons why wars in history have broken out ranging from emperors wanting to expand their sway in Roman times, the crusades, the historical rivalry between European and other nations and the sheer hatred between different ethnic groups causing genocide in different parts of the world. Then there are the revolutions around ideology or precipitated by the more materialistic ambitions of grabbing power and becoming the next elite in a particular country. The killing will continue as it is in the basic DNA of mankind to compete and fight with intervals of peace breaking out when exhaustion sets in. Religion seems to be the latest excuse to fight but it is the hardest one to quell. Toleration is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to matters of God.

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