This is World War III
We are at war; of that there is no doubt. In fact, we are in the midst of a world war; yet we fail to realise this because this war is unlike anything we have previously experienced. And by “we” I mean all civilised nations that are either engaged or will become engaged in the fight against the group calling itself the Islamic State.
This war is different because it is being fought simultaneously not only on different fronts but on different planes.
First, the war against the Islamic State (ISIS) is being fought in a conventional manner but not entirely so.
The difference in this war is that the front lines are fluid and the enemy is in multiple locations. There are overt and covert aspects to this war.
Second, this is an asymmetrical war being fought by principals but also by proxies, with parties changing side while the allegiance of others remains unclear.
Third, this is still very much a war against terrorism. On June 26th terrorist attacks occurred in Tunisia, Kuwait and France. The Tunisia attack at a seaside resort left 38 dead and more than 40 wounded, made hundreds of tourists run for the airport, cancelling remaining holiday time, and in all certainty dampened the country’s tourism trade for the next two to five years.
The attack in Kuwait targeted a Shia mosque, killing more than two dozen people and will very likely aggravate community relations. In the attack in France one man was beheaded.
And fourth, this war is also being fought on the world wide web, as the internet has become a valuable place where hearts and minds can be addressed and recruited.
This type of four-pronged conflict has never before been experienced, and it is forcing conventional armies to rethink how they approach conflict.
However, ISIS may have contributed directly to its eventual demise partially due to its arrogance and perhaps overconfidence.
With the establishment of the so-called caliphate, ISIS now has a return address — and that is its Achilles heel. Al-Qaeda was opposed to establishing the caliphate before the United States was defeated because its leaders knew the United States would intervene. ISIS chose to ignore that threat and ploughed ahead and is paying the price for it.
As for defeating ISIS, someone needs to take the lead and, as the remaining superpower, the job befalls on the United States, though this is unlikely to happen unless there is strong leadership in the White House, which is lacking.
Current political differences with Moscow need to be put on the back burner while the ISIS threat is addressed. Let there be no doubt of the magnitude of the task ahead. The bloody events of June 26th showed that despite suffering a military setback with the loss of Tal Abyad to Kurdish forces, ISIS was still able to devote time and resources to carry out the Tunisia, Kuwait and France attacks.
These attacks raise many more questions than there are answers for. In an act of defiance ISIS had announced its intention to commit terrorist acts during the holy month of Ramadan.
Authorities were expecting attacks. Why did ISIS succeed? Unless authorities have advance knowledge of where and when something is planned, generic threats are hard to act upon.
Why were Tunisia and Kuwait targeted? Probably because they are the most liberal Arab countries in their respective region.
Tunisia is the only success story to emerge from the “Arab spring” disaster. It is the antitheses of what ISIS stands for. And probably facilitating the focus on Tunisia is the fact that about 3,000 Tunisians have joined the ranks of the terrorist organisation.
Which raises more questions: Why? And how can the European Union and the United States help Tunisia?