In the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Nice, it is starting to look like each act of terror is bringing the world closer to a global conflict.
A woman cries as she and others come to lay flowers and light candles in front of the French embassy in Moscow, July 15, 2016, for the victims of the Bastille Day tragedy in Nice. Photo: AP
The truck ramming women and children who flocked to the promenade in Nice to watch fireworks on Bastille Day is a tragic symbol of our times. Something has gone terribly awry in the world order, upsetting all the norms that we have known for decades, and no one knows how to handle or tame this unchecked force.
Sadly, we have grown used to terrorist attacks and no longer perceive them as a shock. However, the act of terrorism in Nice stands out because it demonstrated the helplessness of law enforcement in the face of the terrorism threat. The authorities can install metal detectors at airports and railway stations, have their agents infiltrate potential terrorist networks, spend vast sums of money on increasing the number of security officers, yet a maniac who has his or her mind set on committing an act of terror will find a way to implement this plan.
Unfortunately, the popular idea that all world leaders should unite and jointly strike against the “breeding grounds of international terrorism” and that “terrorists understand only the language of force” (as Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev put it in his statement following the attack in Nice) is but partly true. Naturally, the use of force is the most obvious response given the circumstances, but it is not likely to yield the desired results.
All responsible and sensible politicians clearly understand that even turning the combined nuclear potential of the world’s powers on the war-torn territories controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS) will not resolve the terrorist problem. Nor are carpet bombings likely to stop the proliferation of destructive extremism. Quite the opposite - they will facilitate the emergence and development of radical ideas in the very heart of Western civilization.
The Russian leadership has long since affirmed that the cause of the current global outbreak of terrorist violence lies in the highly inefficient and erroneous U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. The war in Iraq and support of the Arab Spring disrupted stable power structures in the region that were replaced by terrorists.
This assessment is a very debatable question. Nowadays it is a lot more crucial to forget about pointing fingers toward each others and think about the development of a strategy for improving the current situation in the Middle East and finding an antidote for the terrorist epidemic.
The Kremlin believes that everything should “revert back to the way it once was” and global leaders should prevent the collapse of remaining “legitimate” regimes, such as the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. If this strategy works, the world will recognize that the U.S. brought chaos to the region while Russia interfered to restore order.
However, whether the Pandora’s box in the Middle East was opened due to U.S. actions or the natural downfall of local authoritarian regimes, it is not likely to be closed with the methods advocated by the Kremlin. Even military and political steps taken by the U.S. and its allies, especially when driven by emotions in the aftermath of tragic events like the attack in Nice, are unlikely to be effective.
Modern global leaders need to admit that they do not know how to resolve the crisis in the Middle East, and any statement to the contrary is motivated by the desire to put on a brave front. Presidents and prime ministers are actually engaged in seeking ways to strengthen their national positions against international rivals, or fishing in troubled waters, so to say. Occasionally, Russian President Vladimir Putin comes across as a more honest politician than his colleagues when he states that the modern Middle East is an “arena for a geopolitical fight.”
If the world’s leaders have failed to create a working supranational mechanism for international conflict resolution by the second decade of the 21st century, the current Middle Eastern crisis will be resolved the same way that nations have been using for centuries. Global powers will be competing for influence over the territories that have descended into chaos and are no longer capable of self-propagation and stability. Sooner or later, geopolitical rivalry will result in one side’s victory or partition of territory.
Both scenarios would signify the end of the supremacy of the national sovereignty doctrine and the U.N.’s universal principles. De facto we are moving towards the re-colonization of the Middle East, albeit its conditions are not yet quite clear.
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Given the situation, ruminations about compliance with international law and respect of sovereignty are a mere political charade. Talks of anti-terrorist solidarity and the need for uniting against the common threat should also be taken with a grain of salt. An alliance would be formed had at least someone in Europe, the U.S. or Russia known how to apply allied forces and maintain members’ national interests, how to eliminate international terrorism, or how to restore peace first in Syria and Iraq and then in the U.S., Europe and Russia.
Terrorism will subside once the war in the Middle East is over. The crazed truck driver speeding into a crowd of civilians is the reality that we are currently facing. We need to admit that now is not a good time for innovative experiments in international relations.
Since humanity has failed to come to an agreement over the past decades or devise a new way of conflict resolution that would replace war, we will have to fight. It is increasingly looking like we are heading into a new war or, in the best-case scenario, bitter rivalry - not just against international terrorism, but also against each other.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.