The New Barbarians


BERLIN (Own report) - Within the German establishment, individual criticism of the expansion of military and police operations in the fight against the "Islamic State" (IS) is being raised. Last Friday, following the intensification of French airstrikes against IS positions and the French government's imposition of a state of emergency, the EU interior ministers initiated new domestic repressive measures. In fighting IS, it should not be forgotten that in the primarily military and police-led post-9/11 "war on terror," the "number of violence-prone Islamists, who have joined terrorist groups" has not diminished but rather "multiplied dangerously," warns a renowned Middle East expert. Referring to the fact that the majority of the Paris attackers were citizens of France or Belgium, Hamburg's Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH) asks, "what is the purpose of war rhetoric, when a large portion of the problem is homemade?" This "talk about 'defending our values'," will only "steady the stirrups" for a police/military buildup, according to a longtime expert of German/European think tanks. There is a "sorely felt discrepancy between the values we proclaim and reality," which is a "breeding ground for IS." "We are certainly the rich, but since quite some time, no longer the 'good guys,' in the eyes of many. And some even view us as the barbarians."

Domestic Repression

Last Friday, following the intensification of French airstrikes on IS positions in Syria and the French government's imposition of a state of emergency, the EU interior ministers have also initiated new domestic repressive measures. Border controls will be drastically tightened; even EU citizens will have to expect long lines, when entering the EU. The retention of airline passenger data for flights within the EU will be expanded and will include information, such as itineraries and credit card numbers. In Germany, some are calling for the domestic deployment of the Bundeswehr and for stripping Islamists of their German citizenship, which could only be compatible with Germany's Fundamental Law, if that person has another citizenship. The debate around increasing domestic repression is in full swing.

Dangerously Multiplied

Last week, individual criticism of the expanding military and police operations was raised even within the German political and media establishment. The Middle East expert of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Rainer Hermann, for example, recalled that "most Western military interventions in the Middle East … have failed," in light of their "long term consequences." This is particularly true for the so-called war on terror. Since this war was declared "in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks," the "number of violence-prone Islamists, who have joined terrorist groups" has not decreased but "multiplied dangerously."[1] The war on Iraq, in particular, has played a major role in this development, as well as, in a direct way, the West's incitement of the war in Syria, because the region's closest western allies have encouraged Salafist-jihadist militias in Syria, including al Qaida's offshoot, Al Nusra, as well as, the IS. ( reported [2]). Both have also played an indirect role, because they have created the preconditions for a certain acceptance of IS in Iraq and Syria - still today.

Attractive Calm of the Cemetary

Rainer Hermann described this last week. In spite of its brutal repression, the IS is "attractive to many people living in regions under its control," because it provides "everyone" for example with "services" that had been previously available "only to a privileged elite" or missing entirely because of the destruction of the war. "These range from electricity and free access to hospitals, to consumer protection from faulty goods." The "draconian punishments" were also supposed to prevent "corruption and inefficiency." At least "until the French bombed Raqqa, many inhabitants seemed to have preferred the leaden calm of the cemetery within the IS realm, to that of the chaos of war in other regions of Syria," according to Hermann.[3] The IS, therefore, reproduces in Iraq and Syria, what the Taliban had done in the first half of 1990s in Afghanistan: in a country that had been destroyed in the 1980s with western support. The Taliban had achieved a certain amount of approval within the population because, with brutal repression, they had guaranteed a modicum of social "stability."

Fatal War Rhetoric

The Deputy Director of Hamburg's Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy (IFSH), Wolfgang Zellner, is also warning of the consequences a new round of the "war on terror" will have. He strongly criticizes the war rhetoric being used particularly by the French elite. "What is the purpose of war rhetoric, when a large portion of the problem is homemade," Zellner asks. After all, the majority of the terrorists, who committed the Paris attacks, were citizens of France and Belgium, in other words, "came from within the EU." "It is unclear, what military means are now supposed to achieve." The bellicose rhetoric will only "further enrage those," who "hate western culture." "It is an escalation, to which the opponent usually answers with further escalation." However, there are alternatives that clearly demonstrate that "western politicians are not obligated to respond to the attacks with war rhetoric." Zellner points to the handling of the neo-Nazi terror attack on July 22, 2011 in Utøya (Norway), when the attacker killed 77 people and wounded numerous others.[4]

Double Standards in Deaths

While Berlin and the EU are intensifying the fight against IS, in the targeted areas, it is becoming more difficult to ignore the growing dissatisfaction with the West's military operations. For example, though "news of the Paris attacks" were received "with consternation and mourning" in the countries of the Middle East, "many statements of solidarity and condolence ... were explicitly addressed in remembrance of all those who died in every attack that had taken place over the past few days and weeks - in other words, of those in Paris, as well as those in Beirut, Syria, Palestine, Egypt or Yemen, coupled with the question, why the large number of victims in these other countries have not evoked a similar international reaction," explained Sarah Hartmann, acting head of the DGAP programs for the Middle East and North Africa.[5] "This is often accompanied by the criticism that in the West, the dead are looked upon with double standards."

Breeding Ground for IS

According to the political scientist Ulrike Guérot at the European Democracy Lab, the West's double standards contribute ultimately even to the reinforcement of IS. "The talk of 'defending our values'" in the "war on terror," merely steadies "the stirrups, for, first, an exorbitant buildup of police and security measures throughout Europe," and "second, for an exorbitant military buildup, for which more finances can be mobilized at the bat of an eyelash, than we would have been ready to spend on the refugees." "The sorely felt discrepancy between our proclaimed values and reality is a breeding ground for IS," explains Guérot. "We are certainly the rich, but, since quite some time, no longer the "good guys," in the eyes of many. Some even see us as the barbarians." "With each drone that fires a missile and bombards IS bases, IS will blow up our European cities and we will be even more terrified," warns this former employee of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), and the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). "As long as we do not understand that each person's life is just as precious, we will have lost the fight against IS already, even before it has really begun."[6]

[1] Rainer Hermann: Den IS besiegen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 18.11.2015.
[2] See Vom Nutzen des Jihad (I), Das Spiel mit dem Terror and Der Hauptsponsor des Jihadismus.
[3] Rainer Hermann: "Meine Welt voll Hass". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 17.11.2015.
[4] "Kriegsrhetorik löst hausgemachte Probleme nicht". 18.11.2015.
[5] Nach den Attentaten von Paris. 16.11.2015.
[6] Ulrike Guérot: Wider die Kriegsrhetorik. 18.11.2015.