Lessons From History

Paul Syers

The events unfolding in the Middle East in recent months have gotten many people questioning if we’ve reached the precipice of World War III. This immediately conjures memories of the last World War. Is Daesh like the Nazis? They both fit the description of an organization with an extreme ideology based on external control instead of reason and thought, taking territory and bent on the total destruction of an entire way life. We make comparisons to history in hopes of recognizing the faults of the past and avoiding them. In the most recent rise in tensions between Russia and Turkey I see a lesson that comes not from WWII, but from WWI.

These parallels between WWI and today’s conflict have been noticed by others and are few and broad, but the common thread is that larger powers got distracted by smaller interests and lost the larger perspective. They used alliances to escalate a small event and get pulled into a much larger conflict with each other.

The tangled set of alliances that evolved in the fight against Daesh as well as the fight over control of Syria and Iraq has begun to shake the modern balance of powers. Things were strained when Russia began bombing U.S. aided rebels in Syria. Most recently, tensions have escalated between Turkey, backed by NATO, and Russia. We cannot make the same mistakes of a century ago and let the differing national interests of Russia, Syria, Turkey, the US, and the European powers create and escalate more conflicts. It poses a needless danger and it distracts us from the real enemy, which is Daesh and the extreme ideology that terrorist organization spreads.

Syria, the U.S., Russia, France, Turkey and other nations involved need not suddenly become close allies, but they should start focusing on the bigger picture and the end-game, which is stamping an ideology that does not allow freedom of thought.

A twisted strength of Daesh is that it has a unified message and set of goals. Sadly, I can’t say the same thing about the combined actions of the international community in recent months. Putting individual national interests aside, focusing on the end game and coordinating efforts to reach it should be our top priority in the war against terrorism. A coordinated effort will make it easier to provide an overwhelming force without forcing a single nation to provide all those resources. The world needs a global, united strategy if we are to defeat not only the fighters of Daesh, but also their mindset.

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