BU shares the Jeff Cumberbatch Barbados Advocate column – Senior Lecturer in law at the University of the West Indies since 1983, a Columnist with the Barbados Advocate
The primary, the fundamental, the essential purpose of the United Nations is to keep peace.
Everything it does which helps prevent World War III is good. Everything which does not further that goal, either directly or indirectly, is at best superfluous… Henry Cabot Loge Jr.
It would be gormless to think, given the rapid pace of technological development over the past three decades at least, that modern warfare would be conducted according to the historical confrontation of opposing armies rushing towards each other hell-bent on mutual destruction. Or, alternatively, in a jungle theatre, with cleverly camouflaged troops lying in wait for the opposing host. Nowadays, with pre-programmed smart bombs and drones, it is possible to execute precise lethal strikes against an enemy without even leaving home or taking off one’s pyjamas. Similarly, the shrinkage of the world through travel and miscegenation has made it impractical to identify either friend or foe by a simple process of external appearance.
This notion of the unseen and anonymous assailant had its most recent manifestation in Paris between Friday night and yesterday [Saturday] morning when, in an orgy of shooting, explosions and hostage taking, for which the ISIS [ Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham] group has now claimed responsibility, over 120 persons met their deaths.
Perhaps, in order to avoid the embarrassing admission of facing an enemy that wears no distinctive uniform; that, because of assimilation looks no different from the ordinary citizen and, like the heads of mythical Hydra re-emerges nine-fold when one is destroyed, we in the West tend to define their current form of warfare as “terrorism”. But, in its traditional definition, terrorism evokes a concept whose end is political regime change. Yet there is the distinct impression that the jihadists do not desire regime change so much as the destruction of the Western way of life; indeed, what they seek through the use of their tactics of terror could be more accurately termed cultural change. Cultural change on a global scale.
In such a context, it might be submitted, albeit tentatively, that a third world war has indeed begun, not among the states of Europe as were the first two, but between the cultures of the fundamentalist East and the liberal West. This analysis is not new, by any means. In his seminal 1993 work, “The Clash of Civilizations”, the late US political scientist and academic, Samuel P Huntington, argued prophetically that future wars would be fought not between nation-states but between (sic) cultures. He averred too that Islamic extremism would become the biggest threat to Western world domination and that global instability would be inevitable.
While Huntington’s thesis has been variously criticised as overly simplistic in its failure to take account of the inherent tensions within civilizations that are by no means monolithic on either side of the posited divide, it may be submitted in his defence that he referred rather to the hawkish extremists in each camp, rather than the centrists who would be readier to accept a divergence in cultures as being intrinsically human.
On this basis, we may safely argue that World War III has already begun and that the events of 9/11 in New York, those of last night in Paris and others similar are clear instances of offensives by one side while those in Pakistan, in Syria and in other parts of the globe are themselves indisputable sallies by their opponents.
One question that begs urgent asking is that as to the role to be played by the regional states in this on-going conflict. Are we to be mere spectators to an event that we may believe does not touch and concern us? Are we to throw in our lot with our natural hemispheric allies? Or should we choose to adopt the passive-neutralist, but now arguably unrealistic, stance advocated nearly 50 years ago by the founding father of the nation that we should be “friends of all and satellites of none”?
There is little doubt that we are likely to be affected, even if indirectly, by any escalation in hostilities between the extreme elements of the two cultures. For one, there are likely to be increased travel restrictions at a time just when there was the onset of a seeming relaxation. As a consequence, the recent forecast of a booming winter tourist season locally might have to be substantially revised -an eventuality that Barbados can ill-afford at this time.
For another, while it may be that our physical spaces do not readily provide likely theatres for this war, the allure that the ISIS jihad already appears to hold for some of our region’s nationals raises the possibility of an unprovoked mimicry or retaliation in these parts. More over, the ready access of the region’s youth to high-powered weaponry is scarcely cause for comfort in this regard.
What is equally terrifying about the current conflict is the high degree of likelihood of collateral damage to innocent bystanders from the various methods of destruction employed by both sides such as suicide bombers, exploding vehicles and “mis-targeted” strikes. Is the UN the answer as the epigraph suggests? Or is this our Armageddon, as some would have it?
Once more, Musings is obliged to offer condolences to the family and friends of two relatively young men of my acquaintance at their recent shuffling off this mortal coil. These are Mr Roosevelt King, the former president of the Barbados Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, and Mr Mark Thompson, former acting Assistant Commissioner of Police. Both were men of incredibly formidable intellect, and while I was more familiar with Mark’s cerebral talents, having been fortunate to observe them first-hand when he was a student pursuing his LLB and subsequently, ROK’s contributions to public debate and in private conversations also marked him out as an astute alternative thinker.
To the family and friends of both of these gentlemen-scholars, I should wish to publicly extend sentiments of condolence and feel sure that they will both live on forever in your respective hearts. Barbados is today much the poorer for their passing.