Starting the morning of 11th September 2001, for an entire decade, the world grew accustomed to terrorism that accompanied large-scale destruction and a great number of casualties. The decimation of the Twin Towers in New York was the ideal reflection of what terrorists intended to achieve; a world built on the principles of freedom and openness to be consumed by fear, apprehension, and war. Following 9/11, across the world, terrorist attacks took different forms. The bus bombing in London, the Mumbai carnage of 26/11, inconsistent attacks on public transport, cyber-warfare, and threats that could leave a country paralyzed in minutes became an everyday reality. The free world did fight back with a war that cost it trillions of dollars. Intelligence, firm and falsified, both, was used to back the forces on the ground and eliminate factions of terrorism across the world. Taliban found itself cornered in Asia and other extremist groups too were eliminated in the Middle-East.
No war is without consequences, and as we witnessed in the previous century, a war fought to end one lead to another one. To reverse the failures of The Great War, Germans entered the Second World War. The US brought an end to the conflict through its atomic bombs. Little did they know that they were pushing themselves into a Cold War that would last for almost five decades, cloaked in proxy wars and diplomatic feuds, including the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when the world had embraced the possibility of a nuclear holocaust.
Turns out, history always had lessons for the US. When they extended their war to Iraq, pushing themselves into a domestic debt they had no way out from, the US wasn’t looking to exercise restraint at any front. Without an exit strategy, they created multiple voids of power in the Middle-East. Today, most of these are voids are occupied by ISIS. Keeping themselves from having excessive forces on the ground, the US and its allies, have tried eliminating these extremists from the air, and have been relatively successful as well. Unfortunately, terrorists are no longer cavemen like they once were.
Earlier this year, Turkey witnessed one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in recent history on its soil. A shooting inside a nightclub led to the death of 39, with over 70 injured. The carnage spread to Afghanistan where the Supreme Court was attacked with a bomb, leaving 22 dead. Three isolated but consecutive bombings in Baghdad killed 70 people in January alone. One of the many ISIS’ affiliations across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border (recently bombed by Trump using a MOAB) carried out an attack on a Sufi Shrine in Pakistan, killing 100, most of them children. Recently, the twin Sunday bombings in Cairo, Egypt left over 40 dead, with ISIS claiming responsibility for the same. A couple of days before the initiation of Article 29, the legalization to facilitate the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, an ISIS backed attack assailant killed 6, pushing the city under tremendous fear. Last night, with France looking to go to polling 48-hours later, another ISIS backed terrorist killed a police officer before the former was neutralized. The accounted deaths from these terrorist attacks stand at 3500 in the last 3 years, with close to 400 of them being in the first quarter of 2017 alone. Apparently, the attacks are not getting bigger in scale, but consistent in practice, and that’s where the vulnerability of the free world lies.
To this date, not everyone has a clear idea of what ISIS is looking for. Unlike Al-Qaeda, ISIS doesn’t believe in turning terrorism into a corporation. At the peak of his success, Osama Bin Laden sought concessions from the US and Saudi Arabia while leading proxy wars against the Russians. ISIS, however, sees itself as the catalyst for the doomsday, when every living being shall be judged by some holy authority with questionable lifestyle preferences. They aren’t looking for materialistic success, or even fancy planes or yachts. Their action stems from the ideology they harbor within. In the past few years, ISIS was able to attract young minds from a number of countries, as far as Australia, in its rogue attempt to take over Iraq and eventually all of Central Asia. ISIS believes in restoring the Age of Caliphate, where every other religion shall be eliminated, men from those religions will be beheaded, women shall be raped and kept as slaves, along with the children. What they lose in geography, they make up in ideology, and this is why the free world shouldn’t confuse them with an entity that can be finished with bombs alone. Some people wish to watch the world burn, and ISIS wants to recruit all these people, light the fire, and celebrate it as an awakening. Unlike the Al-Qaeda or Taliban or any other conventional extremist faction, ISIS thrives on ideology. They believe it’s their moral right to stone people from other religion, as evident from the bombings in Cairo, rape women who resist them, as evident in Sweden and Germany where women have repeatedly reported molestations. Also, they see global dominance as the only legitimate way to ensure their survival. In a corporate sense, they are like Uber, as the company, to sustain its profits and business strives for a global presence. In a religious sense, they are more Islamist than any extremist faction in contemporary history, and that is what imparts them with strength and muscle.
ISIS doesn’t want to disrupt your world, it wants to destroy it and replace it with its own.
Every time a terrorist attack takes place, authorities and media label it as an act of a lone wolf, or a self-motivated radical. Not only is this theory used as a distraction from the sins of the Leftists in dealing with ISIS, it also helps to raise questions upon the religious tolerance of the Nationalist governments taking control world over, thus forcing people to see themselves as a problem, instead of ISIS. Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old man from Birmingham, who rammed a car into the pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge was labeled as a lone-wolf by the likes of CNN and Economist, while New York Times went a step ahead and blamed the car. However, Masood was a part of a network looking to recruit jihadists for the Islamic State. Arrests followed the attack, and even though Masood had been alone on the day of the attack, he wasn’t a lone wolf by any means. The fact represents the reality of the terrorists involved in the attacks in Nice and Berlin too. To carry out any terror activity, a certain backing is imperative, however small the attack might be. One or thousands, no terrorist is ever alone, and terms like misguided and poor are tools of the MSM to create confusion, though they aren’t alone in propagating the lone-wolf narrative. Islamic clerics also wish to portray the attacks as an act of a lone-wolf as it depicts phony suppression of Muslims and fuels the conventional argument of the West not ever being able to embrace Muslims or their practices. The propaganda is to widen the fault lines and fuel the divide, for ISIS and its factions to bank upon later.
Europe, for a while now, has been a breeding ground for ISIS’ heinous acts. With the attack last night being a reminder of how ISIS aims to wage a holy war against the continent, one can expect governments to alienate the prospects of accommodating refugees in their respective social structures. With Brexit soon becoming a reality, it won’t come as a surprise if France and Italy decide to leave the union, leaving Germany in shambles. At a time when the European Union should seek collective efforts amongst its members to fight the approaching threat, it finds itself more divided than ever, with its cultural diversity under imminent threat. Taking an example of France, where the population of Muslims is merely 7-8%, but over 70% of the prison population consists of Muslims. Attacks, like the one last night, fuel differences amongst the population, creating a gap hard to traverse through dialogue or otherwise.
ISIS is using the tools of the free world against it. Portals like Twitter, Facebook, and multiple underground networks on the World Wide Web have become recruiting places for the Islamic State. Before forces took control of Raqqa back, people from the world over, including India, were looking to become a part of the holy war, and many went there, to never return. However, after losing territory to the forces on the ground in the complex Syrian Civil War, ISIS is now carrying out attacks that are underlying in nature. They are not looking to crash planes through business centers, but plotting low-key incidents to impart fear. Radicalizing assailants remotely, they are now operating through different networks across the world. Khalid Masood was a part of one such network, and one has every reason to believe that the assailant last night in France was a part of a similar network too. These low-key attacks do not achieve the mammoth destruction ISIS aspires, but instead, create an atmosphere for regression and fear. France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, India, Australia, and Turkey being few of the many countries where Islamic networks continue to strive in order to disrupt governance and civilian life. The question remains, why and how does ISIS gain from such low-key attacks?
Firstly, ISIS goes for easy targets. Street festivals, worship places, and other areas that are a catalyst to civilian life. A single attack leads to increased spending in security and imparts fear in the minds of the population. Most of the assailants are not looking for an exit, and therefore, the possibilities of a suicide attack are greater, thus making these places vulnerable. The attacks in Nice and Berlin last year are examples of this. Second, ISIS plans its attack keeping in mind the significance of time. These are not just random attacks, but well-thought-out theatrics. The London incident happened two days before the British PM was to initiate Article 29, thus strengthening the belief of the voters who voted ‘Yes’ during the Brexit. As France goes to the first round of polling on Sunday with anti-immigrant Right looking to register a victory, the timing of the attack couldn’t be better for ISIS, given how it could swing some more votes towards the Right. Third, such theatrics add to the ongoing apprehension amongst the politicians and civilians, thus helping make them a case for protectionism by alienating Muslims and immigrants. The tough stance taken by politicians against immigration and accommodation of the Muslim brotherhood is then used by ISIS in their propaganda videos to manipulate people world over, leading to more attacks. An example of this can be seen in Kashmir where young boys were seen carrying the flags of ISIS as the media in the West continues to project Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a Hindu Nationalist indifferent to the interests of the Muslims. ISIS doesn’t care for facts, but carefully, much like our media, tweaks the propaganda to further its purpose. They manipulate people with a superficial Islamic ideology, for religious ideologies can’t be constrained by borders or background checks. Lastly, continuous attacks add to the fragility of the Markets, making economic recovery a more volatile process than it already is, especially in Europe.
These attacks aren’t without political implications as well. Turkey, last week voted for a dictator as they saw it as a hope to combat the growing presence of ISIS. The craving for stability was visible amongst a certain section of the population as they voted for President Erdogan, in a referendum shadowed by manipulations of the vote count, to impart stability to the country. Given the attacks in Europe, including those of London, one can expect Theresa May to win the snap election in June with ease, given the other factors are already in her favor. Last night’s attack will certainly swing the vote share towards the Right, thus making Marine Le Pen one of the favorites to win the election in France. Across the world, ISIS is giving governments reason to become more protectionist, and why not, for a single nation is easy to fight against than an entire union.
The likes of India, US, Europe, and Australia, which constitute the free world of the 21st century are the targets of this rogue nation. As these underlying attacks continue to increase, the world has to introspect when it comes to policies in place for eliminating ISIS. You can kill a cleric or terrorist, but the ideology shall remain. Collective intelligence, discreet networks, and global acknowledgment of Islamic terror are a must if the world is looking to save itself from this underlying current. The resources of the free world must be utilized to tackle this menace; else one should prepare themselves to be a part of the world where trucks and axes turn into killing machines. ISIS, in its dispersed form, is far more threatening than Al-Qaeda ever was in its consolidated one.