It took a sufficiently Olympian effort from T. E. Lawrence to organise and wage a terrorist war in the Middle East that it earned him a permanent place in history. Today, all it takes is a logo, a few Twitter accounts, and enough accumulated frustration in any given community to stir up. This year it’s Islamic State providing the logo and the Twitter accounts. It’s for voters, and the policymakers they elect and employ, to choose how to calibrate their response: how much political will is to be invested in ameliorating the frustration, and how much on policing it?
It’s hard to see an end to the beginning without a penetrating truth and reconciliation effort in the west. Western powers over the past century have drawn every border in the Middle East; appointed rulers to almost every state; invaded or sanctioned any of those states whose internal population has successfully challenged those appointments; invaded or sanctioned their own appointees when they’ve had a change of heart; nuclear-armed an ally in the region that’s committed a longer list of conflagrations of international law than any of its neighbours, including the summary murder of neighbouring Arab Muslim communities that it’s locked in an open air prison.
Nigh a million slain, in a hundred year orgy of power projection over trade routes and strategic resources.
Yet voters in the west still believe there is no consequent grievance in Muslim discourse. Islamic terrorism is born, apparently, only of a hatred of our freedoms; of unveiled women; of an impassioned desire for religious martyrdom and its celestial rewards. The Arab and Muslim world has suffered everything that’s bad about our way of life, but only hates everything that’s good about it.
If it’s ever time to get tough on the policing, it’s a sure sign that voters failed to get tough on the political narrative.