The attacks in Paris and the new round of declarations of war


After the first rituals of mourning and the general despondency following the bloody terror attacks in the Bataclan music theatre, near the Stade de France and a restaurant, the reaction has once again been one of revenge, so more war.
As in the wake of 9/11, when the obvious suspects (at least, Saudi Arabia and the Pakistani intelligence service ISI) were not held accountable but instead the US government announced a general ‘war on terror’ with which it was able to follow any course of action, Hollande and his prime minister Valls have again declared war on the ‘Islamic State’. Our prime minister, Rutte, too, has joined the call.


After having brought havoc and chaos in the world for 14 years, the ‘war on terror’ has thus been switched into higher gear. Several different wars that have been launched since, are intersecting with each other as a result.

After having chased away the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the Americans took the war to Iraq. In spite of world opinion against such a war, expressed in the largest demonstrations in history during February 2003; in spite of the refusal of France, Russia and China to grant a Security Council mandate for it, and last but not least, in spite of repeated offers of the country’s ruler, Saddam Hussein, to collaborate against al-Qaeda, the invasion went ahead.

This invasion of Iraq fitted into an entirely different project, one that was explained by Paul Wolfowitz when he told General Wesley Clark in 1991 that the US would have ten years to clean out the unfriendly regimes that dated from the Cold War. Hence we see in Syria how the US and the EU are still busy with the fight against Assad and with supporting the uprising against his regime, which they have done from the beginning.

They do so jointly with Saudi Arabia (a collaboration that dates from the period of the Afghan uprising against the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul) and with the Turkey of Erdogan, which is waging its own war against the Kurds.

Finally the West has launched a campaign, also from 1991, to incorporate Eastern Europa into NATO (and into the EU) against Russia. From 2000, Moscow has made objections to that policy. The wars in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine in 2014-’15, both in part caused by cavalier promises about NATO membership, make clear that Russia does not want further expansion on its borders.

When Putin came to power as the strong man against the NATO advance and against the fire-sale of Russian economic assets, there were rumours that some of the bombs that exploded in Russia at the time, may have been planted by helpful spirits from his own FSB. That does not mean that Moscow would not be confronted with a real jihad in Chechnya, which has branched out to Dagestan and other Muslim areas in Russia and which in spite of harsh repression has not been brought under control.

So from a Russian point of view, combating the radical Islamist groups is necessary, both at home and for instance in Syria (in light of the large number of Chechens and other Russian Muslims fighting there).

Since from the Western perspective there are at least three intersecting wars (against terror, against defiant regimes, and a ‘cold’ one against Russia), our policy is completely contradictory. There is more and more chaos and not a single success has been scored anywhere. That Tunisia can maintain a democracy is not thanks to us but in spite of us—Sarkozy’s interior minister Alliot-Marie even offered its dictator, Ben Ali, to dispatch French riot police to restore his regime.

Of course the Russians have far fewer military possibilities (also because of the lack of discipline in the armed forces and the security services), but owing to a most capable diplomatic apparatus led by foreign secretary Lavrov they continue to act from a consistent position. Protecting Russian interests and those of Russians who as a result of the collapse of the multi-ethnic USSR have found themselves as minorities in other states, is their guiding principle.

Because the Western Europeans one after another have rallied to the American war against terror, against the secular regimes in the Middle East (Iraq, Libya, Syria), and against Russia, we now are experiencing the consequences of a contradictory policy. To bring down Gaddafi, tons of weapons were supplied to Libyan jihadists and other militias; the same to the Syrian uprising. That uprising is dragging on because we are against the jihadists but also against the state they are fighting. Certainly the West no longer does not dare engage in an air war against the state Libyan-style, but we do not dare either to take on Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Neither are we ready to take steps to give a voice to our own Muslim population and to prevent that their children depart for Syria.

Now that hundreds of thousands of migrants have made the EU apparatus created to accommodate asylum seekers (the Dublin treaties) collapse, the EU itself is collapsing, an EU that still has no answer to the enduring economic crisis apart from austerity and cutacks—except for defence.

But the war that has now reached our capital cities, will not be stopped by that. Only a consistent diplomacy aimed at a cease-fire, peace and rehabilitation in the Middle East and North Africa will be able to stem the tide.

However, for such a policy we need leaders of a different calibre from Hollande or Rutte.

Kees van der Pijl

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