When a few thousand fanatics of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS) stormed into Mosul on June 10 and consolidated their hold over swaths of northern and western Iraq, few would have predicted that in a little over three months the world would be entering a global war. In a way that echoes how the global economy and electronic media have broken down barriers and radically changed the relationship between individuals, states and international organizations, ISIS has drawn more than 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 states to Syria and Iraq in the past few years. This threatens not only the Middle East, it has also turned the region into an incubator for terror around the planet.
The international community responded on Wednesday, when the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling on all member states to “prevent and suppress the recruiting, organizing, transporting or equipping of individuals” who cross borders to take part in terrorist activity or training. “The words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action, into deeds – concrete action, within nations and between them, not just in the days ahead, but for years to come,” said US President Barack Obama. “For if there was ever a challenge in our interconnected world that cannot be met by any one nation alone, it is this: terrorists crossing borders and threatening to unleash unspeakable violence.” The resolution was passed unanimously in a rare meeting of the Security Council members’ heads of state. Obama stressed that 104 countries around the world had sponsored it. King Abdullah II of Jordan stressed the threat posed by extremists using social media to recruit around the world, saying, “It is the fight of our times.”
The fight of our times crosses all continents, involves religions, affects every generation, every person on the planet. It is being fought with every means, from ships and warplanes costing hundreds of millions of dollars each to kitchen knives, video cameras and tweets. Recruits to the extremists’ cause come not only from “the repression, the lack of opportunity, too often the helplessness that can make some individuals more susceptible to appeals to extremism and violence,” as Obama said. About 1,000 ISIS fighters are believed to have traveled there from France, with about 500 from Britain, at least 250 each from Belgium and Australia and about 100 from the United States. Recruits from these countries are not the products of repression by dictatorial governments; more likely they are youths alienated by the surrounding culture who see an opportunity for action and revenge, through membership of a group that not only has all the answers, that is unequivocal as to the holiness of its cause, but is also on a triumphal rampage, offering a sense of belonging and the thrill of victory.
The bid to stop globalization through stricter border controls will either fail or will degrade the freedoms of even free nations. What is needed now is decisive military action to destroy ISIS. This will unmask its killers and destroy the dangerous power it exerts over individual misfits and copycat groups around the world.