Europe should steer clear of a war on terror

With the 13/11 Paris terror attacks dominating international headlines, a question that arises is whether these attacks, and the others that will surely follow either in Europe, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Nigeria or elsewhere, could influence a country’s democratic trajectory.

In September 1999 four apartment buildings were bombed in Russia. A fifth bomb was fortunately detected by vigilant citizens of Ryazan and dismantled. Chechen Islamic rebels were immediately fingered and the second Chechen war began the following day with Russian air raids on Grozny.

Many articles, several books, the suspicious deaths of dissidents in London and several slain Russian journalists later, it now seems evident that the Russian state was behind these bombings which killed over 300 of its own citizens.

This ‘false flag’ operation was reportedly intended to safe-guard the political cronies that the then President Boris Yeltsin, who was dying of alcoholism, had assembled around him during Russia’s first  and probably last  attempt at democracy post Mikael Gorbachev, and to ensure the ascendance to power of Russia’s current President Vladimir Putin.

Russia, today, resembles an autocratic kleptocracy with an assertive regional policy of spreading illiberalism (anti-democracy), albeit with a veneer of democracy by means of elections.

In a similar vein, the recent bomb-attacks in Turkey in the run-up to the elections saw Recep Erdogan’s AKP party, which had been doing badly in the same elections just months before, suddenly win a parliamentary majority. Another ‘false flag’?

After the 2001 Twin Towers terror attacks the US government under George W Bush eroded and curtailed civil liberties in the United States that affected the rights of not only foreign nationals but of US citizens too. The 2001 Patriot Act, which permitted mass surveillance of non-US and US citizens serves as a good example.

The two wars the US launched against Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath of the attacks  have done little to quell the threat of international terrorism. Instead they seem to have bred a whole new era of Jihadists committed to a doctrine of fundamentalism even Al Qaeda shies away from. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda is still active despite these retaliatory wars, although not as ‘successfully’ as in the past which is more a result of IS competition.

Radical Islam, spearheaded by the now much feared IS caliphate, was born and has spread its geographic footprint from the Middle East to Africa and beyond, as a result of the US-led destruction of the Iraqi state and the US’s half-hearted attempts at regime-change in Syria.

The IS now threatens democratic development in Iraq and all countries it operates in. It threatens violence on democracies not only in the West as we can see from Boko Haram’s allegiance with the Caliphate and operations in Nigeria. It threatens Tunisia’s progress with transforming its country through its inspiring transition process towards a sustainable democracy. The like-minded Al Shabaab reigns terror on Kenya while barring Somalia from much progress towards creating a viable state.

Post 9/11 Europe saw the erosion of freedoms too as a response to the increased threat of Al Qaeda terrorism against western democracies. This fed the racist underbelly of many a European nation and led to the emergence and exponential growth of new political movements in Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands and other EU members, all with an anti-Islamic, nationalist and racist agenda.

What now for France and the rest of Europe? One can only hope that this does not further grow the far-right Front National. One can only hope that a new consensus and national / European collaboration is achieved that crosses party lines and petty party interests to overcome the challenges France s and Europe now face. One can only hope that France and Europe find new political leadership that seeks to build on the principles their countries and the EU were founded upon.

In the meantime France and Europe will do well to guard against hawkish elements and warmongering. If only to avert inspiring more Jihadis. If only to avoid the mistakes the US has made in its war-against-terror.

*This article appeared in the Sowetan in an edited format. You can also read the article on Press Reader.

Olmo is Executive Director and co-Founder of Democracy Works Foundation. He has worked as a political networker, analyst, social entrepreneur, development practitioner and innovative manager on issues of human rights and democratisation in both Africa and Europe. He has spearheaded various leadership, democracy building and conflict resolution initiatives, in addition to managing funds dedicated to strengthening the role of civil society, political society and media through cross-sector approaches to deepening democracy.

His key interests lie in civil society sustainability and funding mechanisms for governance, human rights and democracy work in Africa and the global South, conflict management, institutions, leadership development, technology for development and climate and environmental issues.

Olmo leads the DWF Team on a day-to-day basis. Besides DWF's regional board, Olmo also sits on the DWF Malawi board.

To read publications by Olmo von Meijenfeldt on our website please click here. To view his tags please click here.

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