The twelve year old suicide bomber — we are all responsible.
It looks as if ISIS have sent a twelve year old to kill fifty or more people attending a wedding in Turkey. If it turns out to be true, then it must be admitted that we have all played a part in this appalling moral outrage.
We are all guilty of allowing our governments to pursue the projection of extreme force to solve our problems. Attack has been defined as the only form of defence. The excuse we have bought is that there has never been a choice because force can only be met by force. The middle east was on fire before our governments intervened with deadly airpower and high explosive. This much cannot be refuted. Saddam Hussein had slaughtered thousands within Iraq and he did launch a war against Iran that lasted a decade and killed millions. These were barbaric acts of deliberate policy. Wherever we cast our eye in the middle east we see the same crude employment of violence to achieve political objectives. Israel and Hamas each claim to have justice on their side but each has the same strategy of violent force. Gadaffi was a violent dictator who would have massacred millions had he not been overthrown — but his opponents employed his tactics too. In Syria, every party to the conflict has picked up the gun and started firing as soon as possible. Who fired first is irrelevant now.
The western powers, over which we are supposed to have some control, have joined in this frenzy of force projection. Has it helped? Or has it just poured oil on the flames?
The great philosopher of war, Clausewitz, pointed to an uncomfortable truth we have forgotten : all military victories are phyrric. Sooner or later the defeated enemy re-arms and is back. The ideas that burned in their hearts sprout again. Every dead father leaves a son or daughter to avenge him. Fascism and Nazism were bombed into oblivion. Yet the passions that clouded the minds of millions to vote for these tyrants in the thirties, whilst lying dormant for now, are showing disturbing signs of stirring in Europe again. We see PEGITA on the march in Germany and notice German citizens happy to be imposing a version of reparations on Greece where a third of the parliament is in the hands of a Nazi party. The irony of it has gone unnoticed in Germany itself.
In the face of violence there is always a choice ; attack or defence. Both employ force. But defence has a moral component that helps it to avoid the phyrric outcome. It sets an example and reduces tension. It makes vengeance less likely to fester in the hearts of the loser. it creates time and space for negotiation and compromise.
Defence is not as exciting as attack. We prefer force projection and attack to defence because defence sounds passive and weak. And can defensive strategies work at all? Well, our governments show remarkably little imagination if they say no. Our military establishment can only think in terms of attack. But the answer is yes, of course they can. They merely require the application of intelligent and imaginative thought to the technology we possess and continue to develop. They require the study of Sun Tzu and his Art of War and a more reflective reading of Clausewitz.
In Great Britain we have a Ministry of Defence. At one time it was called The War Office. At least that was honest. It is about time that we in the UK, and citizens in the US and Russia and China, started insisting on defence instead of attack. We must reject the claim that attack is always the best form of defence. The spiral of violence will never be stopped until we do. Defence has its own expertise and technolgies. It is these that the powerful should give to the weak. Until we insist on this change we will continue to bear some responsibility for every violent outrage.
Author — Mark Rapley, co-founder of Blabmate