As people the world over shout out in unison their unwavering support and sympathy for the victims across Paris, we are remiss to not connect and unify the similar atrocities that occurred just before and just after France in Lebanon and Kenya.
This is not an insipid American liberal diatribe, trying to shame people for caring about the ‘white Western’ victims while barely paying attention to the ‘less white Middle East’ victims and even ‘lesser white African’ victims. That type of limited and mind-numbingly ignorant categorizing needs to stop in what is truly a civilizational battle for the soul of the globe. Make no mistake: all of these victims that crossed the spectrum geographically, religiously, racially, ethnically are forming an ever-lengthening line. And it is a line that should only be considered the march of Huntington’s martyrs.
Samuel Huntington, with his seminal and polarizing musings on ‘the Clash of Civilizations,’ was both prophetically right and disturbingly wrong. Indeed, his thesis basically engineered an entire generation of academics dedicated solely to either making him a deity or decrying him a demon. The ironic thing is he was neither: his work simply pointed in a direction for future conflict that would often prove true while also making major errors in just how the shape and scope of that actual conflict would emerge. What we have today is not ‘civilizational’ conflict as Huntington described where Islamic civilization is trying to destroy Western civilization. That is an unsubtle and inaccurate characterization. The people and their worldviews behind the disgusting and pathetic acts in France, Lebanon, and Kenya are not fighting ‘Western civilization’ or ‘Western citizens.’ What these attacks represent is a brazen attempt to undo the civilization we should all be calling ENLIGHTENED MODERNITY.
It is this civilization that has swept across the world, across almost all countries, been infused within almost all people, and represents the simple desire to live openly and peacefully and successfully, where people offer no interference to others pursuing the same while expecting no interference in their own similar pursuits. It does not matter from where this civilization’s ethos first emerged: every country and culture has largely adopted and adapted it to its own colorings and style. It is truly a global endeavor now. Enlightened Modernity is the civilization that was in the music theatre in Paris, the hospital in Beirut, and the university in Garissa. It is now a civilizational ethic that unifies all people regardless of location, upbringing, color, or creed: it is the desire to make oneself better while living without fear of unjust atrocity and expecting protection from baseless violence.
Standing against this civilization, engaged in a nihilistic battle of annihilation with it, is what I simply call the ZEALOT ETHIC. It is this civilization that offers no room for negotiation, no space for peaceful coexistence, and breeds an orgiastic passion to destroy anything that does not conform. It is the world of the zealot that ran through the streets of Paris, Beirut, Garissa, and many other places we have either forgotten about or never even bothered to make note of, with guns and home-made explosive devices aimed to do one very elementary thing: destroy enlightenment and modernity and wash the world in the fear of zealous outrage, blind ignorance, and violent judgment. It is this battle that must be waged holistically. The old battle lines of traditional warfare must be erased: the ones that make states and cultures and religions and peoples try to fight the battle individually, on their own, left to their own devices and methods, when only a truly unified and global bombardment can succeed.
Indeed, the members of the ZEALOT ETHIC have capitalized on our own prideful ignorance now for decades. Historically, it has always been the ‘high culture,’ the colonizers and imperialists, who deftly employed a divide-and-conquer strategy to maintain leverage and sow discord wherever they wanted advantage. What we have failed to realize is how the Enlightened Modern World has fed directly into this mistake against the Zealots. The Christians do not fight this war together with the Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus. The Americans do not fight these battles together with the Russians or the Chinese. Everyone earnestly pledges sympathy and unity in the face of atrocity after atrocity while simultaneously refusing to put aside old grudges (even temporarily) to tackle the greater enemy and threat. This stubborn arrogance to go it alone benefits only the zealots, who have far softer targets for killing, far lower thresholds for success, and far easier standards for declaring victory. Back in the 1990s, when Russia was neck-deep in repulsing a religious jihad waged by Chechen mujahideen, one Russian general was famously attributed as saying, ‘how do you deter an enemy when he can stare straight down the barrel of your gun and see only Paradise?’ This is the single basic reality of zealots that enlightened moderns often confuse or are simply too uncomfortable to admit: this battle cannot be for conversion or epiphany or deterrence. It is to the death simply because one side wants it that way.
This should be reminiscent to all of the painstaking effort George W. Bush made time and time again after 9/11, telling everyone that the Global War on Terror was NOT a war against Muslims or a war against Islam. Many people in America took that to be simply a necessary nod to diplomatic political correctness, while others found the remark accurate and inspiring. Bush was adamant, in a non-deferential rejection of Huntington, that America was NOT fighting a war against Islamic civilization. The problem, of course, was that Osama bin Laden was on the other side of the world preaching the exact opposite. For him and his followers, that is exactly what they were engaged in and exactly what they were trying to craft: a millenarian struggle to bring the apocalypse about which they rapturously fantasize. Unfortunately, just like love, war does not need consensus: if one side is saying it is a battle for civilization, then it is, plain and simple. You need two people to be in love, but only one to fall out of it. You need two people to sustain meaningful and lasting peace, but only one person to utterly destroy it. The mistake we have made for nearly two decades now is that we have ignorantly drawn up civilizational lines based on geography, political ideology, state/religious boundaries, even economic strategies. These lines have allowed us to divide ourselves into ever smaller camps, making the undersides of our societies ever easier and more susceptible to bloodshed and horror. In this battle it has never been the West against the Rest. It has never been white against color. It has never been the Global North against the Global South. It has ALWAYS been the Moderns against the Zealots. Until the world embraces this reality and begins to smash its own self-imposed boundaries of nationalism, statehood, religion, ethnicity, and geography, it will constantly be putting itself in a limited and exposed position against this enemy. And scenes like the ones played out in France, Lebanon, and Kenya will continue.
This is a hard thing to come to terms with, a deeply sorrowful conclusion to make for a Modern. Enlightened Modernity has always prided itself on being a belief system and a worldview that can literally embrace all people and all regions. It was with the sincerest of good-intentions that it believed the only thing necessary was honest and transparent exposure to its ideals and the intense shining light of rational freedom would carry the day. For the most part, and this is important, it is true: the civilization of Enlightened Modernity can be found in almost every country and most certainly within the majority of every people. But it is in the desire to see TOTAL acceptance, to see the absence of any exceptions to that acceptance, which has pushed Moderns from the path of reality. The Zealots of this world were never going to be converted. They will never achieve the epiphany for which Enlightened Moderns hope. And because of the very nature of zealotry, deterrence of such a group is not possible. This simple lesson in logic is what the world needs to remember now more than ever. While this fight is civilizational we must finally recognize what the civilization actually is that we are fighting and what options are, and are not, available for the fight. In the end, one bitter but eternal fact must be accepted: you cannot grant life to an enemy that only wants death.
New technologies, artificial intelligence aid fight against global terrorism
Although terrorists have become skilled at manipulating the Internet and other new technologies, artificial intelligence or AI, is a powerful tool in the fight against them, a top UN counter-terrorism official said this week at a high-level conference on strengthening international cooperation against the scourge.
Co-organized by Belarus and the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), “Countering terrorism through innovative approaches and the use of new and emerging technologies” concluded on Wednesday in Minsk.
The internet “expands technological boundaries literally every day” and AI, 3D printing biotechnology innovations, can help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said Vladimir Voronkov, the first-ever Under Secretary-General for the UN Counter-Terrorism Office.
But it also provides “live video broadcasting of brutal killings”, he continued, citing the recent attack in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, where dozens of Muslim worshippers were killed by a self-avowed white supremacist.
“This is done in order to spread fear and split society”, maintained the UNOCT chief, warning of more serious developments, such as attempts by terrorists to create home-made biological weapons.
He pointed out that terrorists have the capacity to use drones to deliver chemical, biological or radiological materials, which Mr. Voronkov said, “are even hard to imagine.”
But the international community is “not sitting idly by”, he stressed, noting that developments in this area allow the processing and identification of key information, which can counter terrorist operations with lightning speed.
“The Internet content of terrorists is detected and deleted faster than ever”, elaborated the UNOCT chief. “Fifteen to twenty minutes is enough to detect and remove such content thanks to machine algorithms”.
Crediting quantum computing coupled with the use of AI, he explained that accelerated information processing enables terrorist tracing.
Mr. Voronkov added that the use of blockchain registration – a growing list of records, or blocks, that are linked using cryptography – is also being explored to identify companies and individuals responsible for financing terrorism.
“It is necessary to increase the exchange of expert knowledge on technologies such as 3D printing, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, robotics, the synthesis of the human face and autonomous weapons”, he underscored. “This will help to better identify and respond to risks before it is too late”.
The two-day conference was divided into three themed sessions that focused at global, regional and national levels on the misuse of new technologies and AI by terrorists; approaches and strategies to counteract terrorist propaganda; and the misuse of scientific innovations.
Afghanistan bloodshed mars 100 years of independence
Afghanistan is at a “crucial moment” in its history as it marks 100 years of independence, the head of the UN Mission there said on Monday, following a series of terror attacks in recent days.
In a statement on Monday, Tadamichi Yamamoto, who heads the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said that despite decades of conflict, Afghans remain committed to a nation that is stable, peaceful and prosperous, and that upholds the human rights of women and men alike.
Mr. Yamamoto also expressed hope that elections due to take place next month would give voice to the people, while also maintaining that there was “a real possibility for breakthroughs in peace” after so many years of war – a reference to on-going negotiations between Taliban leaders and the United States, that it is hoped will lead to a lasting ceasefire and talks involving the Afghan Government.
The UNAMA chief’s comments come amid numerous recent terror attacks on civilians, including a suicide bombing towards the end of a large wedding party on Saturday, that claimed the lives of 63 people and injured over 180.
In a statement released on Sunday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres “strongly condemned” the “horrific” attack, and expressed his “deepest sympathies to the families of the victims, and the Government and people of Afghanistan.”
The attack took place in the Shahr-e-Dubai Wedding Hall in West Kabul where approximately 1,000 people were gathered for a Shia wedding ceremony, said UNAMA in a statement, adding that the mission’s human rights team would investigate the incident.
According to news reports, a local affiliate of the ISIL terrorist group claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.
“An attack deliberately targeting civilians is an outrage, and deeply troubling, as it can only be described as a cowardly act of terror,” said Mr. Yamamoto. “I condemn these deliberate attacks on civilians that signal a deliberate intent to spread fear among the population, which has already suffered too much.”
The wedding hall where the attack took place is situated in an area of the city heavily populated by Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim minority. UNAMA has documented several previous attacks deliberately carried out against this community.
“The pace of such atrocious attacks indicates that current measures in place to protect must be strengthened, and that those who have organized and enabled such attacks must be brought to justice and held to account,” said the UNAMA chief. “The United Nations stands with all Afghans in solidarity and remains committed to an Afghan-led peace process that will end the war and bring about a lasting peace.”
Does Kenya Really Want To End Terrorism?
New dangerous dynamics are emerging at the Horn of Africa. Political tension emanating from maritime territory that Somalia and Kenya, both claim it as part of their legitimate border is getting more volatile. As the International Court of Justice gets ready to hold public hearings on “Maritime Delimitation in the Indian Ocean (Somalia v. Kenya)” September 9-13, Kenya continues to intensify its efforts to lobby the U.N, and key allies to help add al-Shabab to UNSC Resolution 1267.
If you are wondering what does al-Shabab have to do with this matter, you apparently are not part of the Kenyan political pundits, law-makers, and credulous Somalis who have been cheerleading for this unjustifiable initiative.
It Is What It Is
Let us imagine that it is late September, the time when leaders representing 195 member states would be attending the 74th UN General Assembly. Let us imagine during one of the debate sessions, this multiple choice question was raised:
What is al-Shabab?
- A law-abiding neighborhood watch group
- A self-less patriots fighting for self-determination
- A ruthless terrorist group
How many do you think will stutter with the answer, or not know that al-Shabab is a terrorist organization? By all legal and moral standards, al-Shabab is a terrorist organization.
If al-Shabab was not already considered a terrorist organization by the UN, why would the Security Council mandate AMISOM to fight them along the Somali National Army and periodically capture territories from them? So, since al-Shabab is already considered a terrorist organization, why spend such energy and political capital on redundancy? Or rather bluntly: who is Kenya’s real target?
Widening The Net
While fingers were frantically pointing at o all directions as to who was behind the Kismayo terrorist attack that killed 26 people including a beloved Somali-Canadian journalist, HodanNalayeh, Kenya’s top diplomat—Monica Juma—went on politicking on twitter. Before offering any condolences, she wrote: “This attack is another reminder to the international community of the imperative to list the al-Shabaab, like all other terrorist groups, under the UNSC resolution 1267.”
On the surface this may seem ordinary attempt to tighten the screws on al-Shabab, but it is far from that.
Said resolution, also known as the ISIS/al-Qaida resolution, mandates the harshest international sanctions on assets freeze and travel ban measures on individuals, entities and groups who are suspected of being remotely associated with those terrorist groups. And that blanket condemnation increases the chance of innocents in the periphery getting caught in the net or communities suffering as a result.
Though this could get some Kenya Defense Force officials who operate an illicit business with al-Shabab that the Kenyatta government has been turning a blind eye in serious trouble, Kenya is eager to advance the initiative in order to use it as an insurance against any unfavorable decision from ICJ.
If Kenya’s endeavor succeeds, it will give Kenya the freehand to pressure and coerce top politicians and influential business leaders who have various investments and retain residential statuses in Kenya to assist her in achieving its objective of annexing the maritime territory- blocks that it already marketed for oil exploration. It is also an insurance policy against some of her Somali allies such as Ahmed Islam (Madobe)—president of Jubbaland federal state—who is currently much closer to Kenya than to the Federal Government of Somalia. Kenya is not oblivious to the fluidity of clan politics and the unpredictability of how Madobe, with his shady past, may act once it becomes clear to him that he was exploited as the game-changing pawn.
Feeling The Weight
A few months back as Kenya’s hostile diplomacy grew more aggressive, Somalia’s diplomacy grew more diffident and passive. As Kenya suspended diplomatic ties with Somalia, invited a delegation from Somaliland, humiliated Somali Ministers by denying them to transit through Kenya, FGS opted to respond passively.
This was consistent with FGS’ ill-advised decision to turn a blind eye to Kenya’s unilateral decision to build a border wall that would divide Somali families, undermine businesses, and deprive them essential services such as health care, and allow Kenya to establish new facts of the ground that will in due course make a case for annexation of territories that belong to Somalia.
Lately, Kenya has been under intense U.S. diplomatic pressure to drop its bid and not make the Horn of Africa more volatile than it already is. This pressure is likely to increase now that 16 senior national security and humanitarian officials have written an open letter urging the U.S. to stop Kenya from creating a grave humanitarian disaster as the resolution at hand does not allow any type of exemption for humanitarian delivery. Against that backdrop, Kenya resorted to strengthen its Plan B- legislative support to annex the maritime territory by any means necessary.
In attempt to lend Kenyatta’s government the legislative support to declare war against Somalia should ICJ rules its favor, the Kenya National Assembly, led by Hon. Aden Duale, is set to pass a perfectly tailored bill that makes the disputed maritime territory as part and parcel of Kenya’s territorial integrity. The impetus motion cites Article 241 (3) of the country’s constitution that the Kenya Defense Forces are responsible for protecting Kenya’s ‘territorial integrity’. “Unless the People of Kenya resolve by way of referendum to alter the territory of Kenya,” said Duale.
Make no mistake, terrorism poses a threat to international peace and security and Kenya did suffer its share of terrorist attacks, therefore it is in our best interest to collectively address that threat. However, that would be extremely difficult now that we know that Kenya’s real objective is not “to annihilate the extremist group (al-Shabab).”
Political rhetoric aside, Kenya, like a number of other foreign actors in Somalia, would’ve been eager to invent al-Shabab had it not already existed. To some, al-Shabab as a manageable threat is strategically convenient. After all, it was Kenya’s pretext for 2011 invasion of today’s Jubbaland, also for the 2012 integration of KDF into AMISOM, also for the 2017 unilaterally initiated border-altering wall.
Five years after Somalia filed the boundary delimitation dispute with the ICJ and millions of dollars were spent by both sides, no one is sure how the end result might be. The only sure thing is that any attempt to solve this matter militarily will only make the current crisis a catastrophe.
If Kenya decides to go with the military option as some intellectuals have openly been advocating, it is likely to prove both positive and negative:
Positive as it is likely to unite the now divided Somalis to rally against a single common threat. Negative as it would ignite domestic disharmony and, in due course, make Nairobi the epicenter of terrorism and compel foreign investors such as China flee with their fat wallets.
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