I am totally in agreement with a war on terror, my only disagreement with the British and American governments is about what weapons we should use. You cannot fight terror with terror. Sure, you may be able to kill a few terrorists and destroy some of the infrastructure of their organisation with bombs and missiles, but the ideology of terror cannot be so easily dismantled and will continue to inspire violence until overcome by something better.
The first demonstration of that better thing would be the refusal of democratic nations to use violence in their own interests, for of course, the pretence that we use it to defend our populations is threadbare; the likelihood is that it will make our people more open to violent reprisal. No, we do it to defend what we call our interests, meaning ultimately our economic interest, our trade and commerce, our access to markets, commodities and crucially these days, energy. These are exactly the same interests that drive Daesh, although they like to conceal them under a cloak of religion. If all we can offer the world is competition as to who are the bigger or more effective terrorists, we will always be menaced by groups who want to contest our superiority.
So we should stop not only our violence but also our pretence that we know what’s best for the world. It would be much better to show an example of patience, non- violence and intelligent diplomacy.
But you may say that that will do nothing for the poor souls caught up in a maelstrom of jihadist killing in Syria and Iraq. True, it won’t do much, although it might prevent an escalation of killing. But to be of real help to the victims of these conflicts we have to put boots on the ground.
“Boots on the ground! ” I hear you cry, “I thought you were non- violent!”
I am. The people who have already put boots on the ground in the areas affected by war, are as always, the humanitarian agencies who try to assist the casualties of war. Refugee agencies have made heroic attempts to deal with the overwhelming number of people who simply want to get as far from violence as possible. They could doubtless benefit from the assistance of our armed forces in logistics and the protection of refugees, and from capital for food, sanitation and medicines. A fully coordinated effort to provide safe corridors for refugees, more camps for temporary housing, and more opportunities for migration to permanent homes in the UK, Europe and the USA would be a huge demostration of the best values of citizens and in particular of Christian values.
There is no doubt that those who have dared to put their boots on the ground are already making a difference. Medicins Sans Frontieres/ Doctors Without Borders, have provided staff for field stations all over the region, putting themselves at risk not only from the savagery of Daesh and Assad, but also from careless missile attacks by the US- led coalition. Their staff come from all round the world including Syria and Iraq. If, instead of wasting resources on missile attacks, we were to provide resources and protection for the work of MSF, we would demonstrate compassion, practicality and courage, in real contrast to the savagery, religious mania and cowardice of Daesh.
Indeed, once we start to think of putting boots on the dangerous ground that the victims of war inhabit, we will realise that there are many ways in which peaceful but determined interventions can be made. It’s not a bad time of year to be considering such a programme, especially for Christian believers, as it’s the time when we celebrate the refusal of God to solve human evil by divine violence and his decision to put his boots on the ground in the person of the child of Bethlehem, the man of Galilee.
I hope Christian and other peaceful people will advocate this course of action and also make a serious donation now to MSF or any other NGO that has put boots on the ground in the conflict zone.