The Spanish Civil War and the Global War on Terror


There is ever increasing evidence of citizens and long-term residents of Western democracies picking up and heading off to Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan, to do their bit in the so-called "global war on terror". Not to strike a blow against terrorists mind you, but to contribute what they can to the efforts to resist a perceived war on Islam. Just this week, two more such young men were arrested in the U.S., allegedly with plans to go to Somalia to assist the Shabab of all groups.

The right-wing will leverage such news to demonize Islam and its adherents. But that would be a mistake. What is important to understand is the extent to which the characterization as a global war what should be a narrow conflict with an extreme terrorist organization, often using language reminiscent of crusades, has radicalized people and romanticized the struggle. In a sense the global war on terror has become the Spanish Civil War of our age, but on a global scale. (Continued...)

Remember that war? The noble struggle of Republicans against the Fascist forces of evil under Franco, who was then supported by Nazi Germany. The Republican cause attracted young men (and women) from all over the world to fight on the side of good and righteousness. Hemingway, Orwell, and a myriad other famous and soon-to-be famous figures dashed off to join the war. It was seen as the romantic war of the era, a cause worth fighting for, even though ultimately it was to be a losing cause.

It is important for policy makers in the West to understand how the global war on terror has allowed the spokesmen of terror to cast the efforts of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Shabab, and various other such organizations as being similarly locked in a righteous struggle against the evils of American imperialism and Western godless capitalism. The more we make it a war against Islam, the more we discriminate against Muslims and marginalize them within our own society, the more we conduct hostilities in Afghanistan and Pakistan in a manner that indiscriminately kills local civilians, the more we play into that narrative. And the more likely it is we will fuel an exodus of young men bent on taking up the standard in a false war of good against evil, and bring the violence home with them. - Gamma.



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