New vision to curb monsters
The world changed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Once again, the attacks on Paris by the Islamic State (ISIS) on Nov. 13 have again changed the world as we know it. The world is growing unstable, and our lives have became more uncomfortable. France immediately made retaliatory strikes and sent aircraft carriers to the region. The United States also raised its alert status. ISIS is standing against the most powerful nations by itself.
What is ISIS? In short, they are the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s supporters in Iraq. Those who served in key government and military positions during Hussein’s rule are key members of the ISIS leadership. Strangely, they somehow transformed into monsters of extreme violence. Under the U.S. military occupation, they spent time in concentration camps and adopted terrorist ideologies from Al Qaeda and other militant radicals. They occupy northern Iraq and a part of Syria, and they claim to be building a caliphate of Islam’s golden age. They are different from Al Qaeda as they want to establish a “state.”
The birth of ISIS goes back to the U.S. strike of Iraq in 2003. After driving out Hussein’s regime, the United States and the newly established Iraqi government could not manage the minority Sunnis in Iraq properly. The Assad regime in neighboring Syria began suppressing the Sunnis mercilessly. Naturally, the Sunnis began to unite under ISIS, and an estimated eight million people are under their control. Radical Muslims rave over the vision of bringing back the era of Islam. Currently, an estimated 30,000 international terrorist combatants in over 100 countries are presumed to be associated with ISIS.
The impact of the Paris attacks is serious. Counterterrorism became a major topic at the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, on Sunday and Monday. World leaders condemned ISIS as evil but failed to come up with clear solutions. The Obama administration, which is nearing the end of its term, is not likely to send extensive ground troops. They still remember the quagmire the Bush administration fell into when striking Iraq. After the presidential election next year, the new administration could make more active interventions. In that case, the United States may ask allies to join the cause. Muslims are concerned that Islam could be equated with terrorism. They are worried the Syrian and Iraqi refugees who fled to Europe could be affected. European nations are struggling with the refugee situation, as they pose an economic burden and social unrest.
From now on, Korea cannot be considered safe from terrorist attacks. Dabiq, an official propaganda organ of ISIS, includes Korea in the list of 62 anti-ISIS countries. Possibilities of abduction and terror attacks on Korean residents, workers and diplomats in the Middle East cannot be ruled out. Construction sites in the countries in the Gulf and Iraq are not safe zones. The Korean government is preparing plans for the safety and protection of Korean nationals. Legislation of the anti-terrorism act drafted after the Sept. 11 attacks is under discussion, and tightening immigration control is being reviewed.
How long can ISIS last in the fight against the most powerful allied forces led by the United States? Observers predict it will collapse in a few years or turn into a normal state. The question is not the military resolution but the attitude of the eight million residents. Who wins their hearts is important.
A more fundamental problem is that the world has not been developing evenly. It may be too simple to analyze the current situation with Samuel Huntington’s 1996 book “The Clash of Civilizations.” However, many Muslims feel frustrated that Islamic culture, which had once led world civilization, has become subordinate to the Western world defined by Christianity.
The development of information technology and progress of globalization made the world more even, but the gap among countries and among individuals grew wider. Countless anti-establishment groups are springing up around the world. The Korean man who joined ISIS was not an exception.
American political scientist Francis Fukuyama argued in the 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man” that Western liberal democracy triumphed ultimately in the course of history, and there would be no further evolution. But the Western world’s liberal democracy is showing signs of leaking. Unless there is a new vision and system to accommodate worldwide discontents, radical monsters like ISIS will appear again.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 18, Page 33
*The author is the president of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security.
by Shin Bong-kil