As we make plans to destroy more homes and lives by stepping up military attacks in Syria while leaving the repressive government of Syria in place we must consider carefully what we expect to be the outcome of the misery of war.
The stepping up of bombing is likely to make the plight of displaced, homeless people more acute. Leaving migrants with no option but to turn to bandits to escape from violence increases the risk not just to themselves but also to us. It is never wise to feed an uncontrolled and highly lucrative black economy.
It does not solve the problem to force people to stay instead in refugee camps that are little more than concentration camps. Dependency on charitable donations provides victims with little hope for the future. These camps are likely to become fertile recruiting grounds for terrorists.
Prince Charles, today, asks us to look for the root causes of terrorism. He finds a ‘root cause’ in climate change. This only makes sense when placed in the broader context of environmental change that leaves people displaced, impoverished and desperate. In this context not just environmental change but also military conflict, poverty and injustice are the root causes of terrorism. Human misery may in fact be the cause Prince Charles is attempting to identify.
If we are serious about national security we must work not just for military co-operation for waging war, but also for a compassionate international agreement for waging peace. If we do not give people a future we push them, in their desperation, towards dogma-driven alternatives. This is the opposite of what we must hope for.
What we have to defeat is not really an ideology. It seems clear to me that the ideology is the pretext that unifies the disgruntled group of dispossessed individuals in their campaign to recruit alienated youngsters to their cause and then to threaten and intimidate others through terrorist acts. To diffuse the threat we have to defeat extreme poverty and tyranny in the region. Dropping bombs may turn out to be the easiest part of the anti-terrorism operation. We may be able to win the war but can we win the peace?