In the last few years we’re witnessing a new phase in the phenomenon of Jihaidism, the shift from terrorist organizations to the embryos of new states. There was a precedent, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan held by the Taliban between 1996 and 2001. A number of small and not-so-small group tried to stage up coup d’etat in various countries in Africa and Asia. In my opinion, there is a red line that connect the various “islamic” states, nowadays under the resonant label “caliphate”.
There’s a difference between the words “emirate” and “caliphate”. It’s not a simple semiotic matter. When we talk about an emirate we’re referring to a state ruled by a central authority, named emir, and that implies a dynasty, a succession of power based on a bloodline. Think about Saudi Arabia, it’s a good example. On the other hand a caliphate implies a leadership that is both political and religious, the caliph claims a direct descendent from the prophet Muhammad, imposing the full weight of religion on its population.
You see, from my point of view this is the new direction indicated by Al-Quaeda to its followers. Stage up wannabe nations, getting the best from the former experiences. They’re not stupid. Nor they are something that we can ignore. Because there are a number of failed states and a bigger number of nations who do not control large parts of their territories, all ripe for a bloody harvest. This is the red line I was talking about, the connection between Sirya and Mali, Libya and Iraq, Nigeria and Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.
This nations are really different from each other but they share some common points. Central governments unable to do more than control the mayor cities, deep inner conflicts based on religion or tribal clashes, no adjoining country powerful enough to come in to clean the house (or not willing to do that, just think about Turkey…). Add a black economy based on every illicit commerce you may think of and a number of foreign rich sponsors and the work is done. When a power vacuum exists in a territory, somebody will step in to claim it. Simple like that.
Then there’s another element to consider. Western countries, with a few exceptions, aren’t willing to take the fight. The reason is quite simple, you can’t win a war without boots on the field and after two major conflicts in Iraq and another one in Afghanistan is difficult to explain to the public the needs for more fighting. It’s not possible to think about a fast war, not against this kind of enemy. We may control the skies and the seas with ease but we cannot get control of every village and every goddamn outpost in the mountains (or in the desert).
The conflicts in Viet Nam teach a hard lesson to the French and to the Americans in the past, Afghanistan and Iraq repeat the lesson decades after. In an asymmetrical conflict the weaker side will try to bleed dry the occupant army, one soldier at the time. So we can’t leave them alone, we can’t get a fast victory and we can’t simply make atomic wastelands of so many parts of our world. That leaves us no simple solutions and a long road to ride to achieve some improvement. You see, we will have to step in. To send again our boys and girls in uniform to the four corners of our planet.
It’s the domino theory all over again, just like in the ’50 and the ’60. Back then it was the Russian version of communism that spread from country to country, one “revolution” at a time. Now there is the fighting Islamism, ready to spread fires all around. ISIS in Sirya and Iraq (but do not forget Jordan and Lebanon!), Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroun, al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula that is trying to get its hands on Yemen and look around to revive the quaedism in Somalia, Eritrea and Oman, a large number of groups (too many to name here) that have similar aims to the territories of Libya, Algeria, Mali, Chad and Tunisia. Are you sure we can avoid a conflict?