Terrorism – Dealing With The Big Picture

Prasanth Aby Thomas
Published: October 2016

The world is yet to come to terms with the recent terrorist attacks in major cities like Jakarta and Paris. But while much is said about the need to take action, not much is actually being done.

terrorismThe year 2016 began with several serious threats to global security. In January, a gun and bomb assault on Indonesia’s capital left seven people dead, including the terrorists themselves. It took the local security forces about three hours to bring the attackers and the attack to a close.

Terrorism-related news has mainly centered around one specific group these days- the so called Islamic State (IS) militants. Several attacks in various cities across the globe has heightened the fear of this particular group and raised calls for action against them.

Concerns are up so much that even the US Secretary of State John Kerry had called the group “the gravest extremist threat faced by our generation and the embodiment of evil in our time.” The US President Barack Obama had gone on air saying a coalition of several nations was on its way to fight the IS. None of such rhetoric has actually seen any action on the ground, and the IS continues to show off its atrocities.

With so much rising fears, it is important that we do not heed to the usual media panicking and gain some perspective on the whole issue. First of all, despite what the media says, it is important to realize that IS doesn’t have the power to obliterate the world and establish its rule everywhere. The global security forces are not so weak that the militants can get away with whatever they want.

But the sense of fear is exactly what IS wants to encourage. This is what it has been trying to achieve through the social media, which included grotesque videos of people being killed. Especially in India, there are always concerns on how secure our national security apparatus really is. Media reports have already suggested India is one of the targets for the group.Reports of individuals joining IS group from various countries have give rise to fears of Indians taking similar routes too, although reports suggest this has not been as much as those seen in more developed countries.

But that does not leave the country out of concerns that it could be a prime target of attack. Late last year, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said the country is alert to any kind of threat from the militant group. In line with these comments, authorities managed to capture several terrorists just before Republic Day.

But such precautionary measures from targeted countries don’t solve the problem at its root. What is needed is steps that deals with the group with enough foresight to obliterate them. Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated this as he addressed the UN General Assembly last year, making a strong point against the use of terrorism as a state policy. In dealing with issues with Pakistan, India has already seen how far terrorism can go when supported by a regime itself.

terrorism-1Ultimately, a lot of responsibility on dealing with IS militants falls on the shoulders of the US government. In the modern era after the world wars, the US has had a major role in most conflicts in the Middle East. It cannot afford to ignore the current state of affairs, not just because of its responsibilities to the international community, but for its own national security. To be more clear, this is not just an issue of IS militants, but the larger picture that includes the power struggle that’s been going on in the Middle East and North Africa. The US has already got its feet wet, and it can hardly afford to keep quiet. One would naturally assume the country to be taking a proactive role to maintain peace in the region.

However, in reality what’s happening is that the United States is standing on a pedestal without being sure of how to go about without making a mess once again, especially in the year of election, while its old “frenemy” Russia is making bold strides into Syria.

Last year, President Bashar al-Assad and his allied forces set about to surround the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, which had been devastated by clashes between the regime and rebels since 2012. But to everyone’s surprise, Islamist and other rebels in the area fought off the attack. In fact, the rebels went on to advance further after that, mounting attacks on attacks, so much so that Moscow decided it was time to support its old friend. Since then massive air strikes from Russia has seen Assad getting back control over much of the country.

The US on the other hand, continues to remain on the sidelines, making statements that seem more and more pointless. It’s promises of support to the rebels rings hollow, making it sound all-the-more unreliable.

It is in the whole world’s interest that the Middle East and North Africa return to normalcy. This would ensure no further militant groups come up. But this is not going to happen without a measured intervention from the developed world. Reactive steps are only making the problem worse. In short, there is much to be done here, and we don’t have much time.