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No common ground with this enemy

Hook in the west

War on latest terror may be an acceptable solution

War on latest terror may be an acceptable solution


George Hook

WHEN I was a child, I leaned on my father for advice. He had an incredible way of soothing any doubts and fears that I might have had with a few considered words. As I got older, I learned that his pearls of wisdom came from a combination of books and life experience. It was my father that gave me a ferocious appetite for literature.
One afternoon I came home from school upset. A new boy from another class had been giving me a tough time over a number of weeks and despite my best efforts, I could not shake off his unwanted attention. Things finally came to a head and we sorted it out as boys generally do.
I was physically bigger than my opponent and I used my size to come out on top. But the whole experience shook me and I rushed home that afternoon in search of my father’s solace.
Even with victory under my belt, I could not feel any sense of satisfaction. This other kid put up a good fight; he kept coming and coming in spite of my best efforts, and each time I thought I had him bested he got up for more. There was no serious damage done in the end, but I remember feeling an uncomfortable panic each time my tormentor got back to his feet.
I explained the whole thing to my father through a mess of tears and blubber and his eyes told me that he understood. “Embrace your enemy son”, he said when I had eventually calmed down. “Get to know and understand him and this won’t happen again.”
The next day I forced myself to have lunch with this kid. We sat and talked and after a while, I got a clearer picture of where he was coming from.
He was new in school and he figured the best way to get a reputation for himself was to pick on one of the bigger lads and give a good account of himself. I just so happened to be the first big lad he came across. The two of us shook hands, we soon became friends and there was never a problem after that.
My father’s advice has carried me through some tough situations over the years, but it is not without its flaws. Sometimes reasoning with an enemy is impossible and attempting to build bridges in such instances only leads to more damage.
The route to conflict resolution is often built on a foundation of common ground. Extending the hand of friendship after a disagreement is only possible if both parties have a fundamental understanding of each other.
Some of the greatest wars in history have resolved themselves because of mutual understanding. If two parties come to the table with an open mind, resolution is often possible. But when both sides cannot comprehend where the other is coming from, disharmony and friction remain constant.
My father’s words resonated in my brain last week as I absorbed the horror of the latest execution of an innocent American journalist by Iraqi Jihadists. One struggles to comprehend the sheer savagery of these killings and this second beheading has given rise to a shameful sub plot.
The British media, in its scramble to make sense of the incomprehensible, has seen fit to label the perpetrator of the two most recent executions. The words ‘Jihad Johnny’ smeared the front pages of the UK tabloids last week, the alliterated nickname giving an almost respectable glow to a despicable monster.
The crass labelling of a known terrorist in such a manner serves no constructive purpose. All it does is gloss over the inhumanity of his actions to service a cheap headline. Sometimes I wonder if the people behind this type of fodder have a brain cell between them.
Nothing about these sinister executions makes sense. The brutality in the killings of both Stephen Sotloff and James Foley are unfathomable to any rational, forward thinking society. And then to expertly use modern social media to give oxygen to their craving for notoriety? One struggles to comprehend the mindset of a person who could commit such barbarity.
So, given the extremity of the Jihadists measures in their prolonged campaign against Western society and the clear and obvious departure from anything close to logic or reason, how does the rest of the world approach a resolution?
Embracing the enemy is only possible if common ground exists. In this case, there is simply nothing to reach for. The IS extremists operate under a blanket of terror from another era – the Middle Ages. Any attempt to reason with such barbarity is an exercise in futility.
The terrorists seem to be growing in numbers and worsening in their depravity. In such situations, where reason and rationale are clearly absent, there appear to be few other options available. In this instance, is a war on terror an acceptable solution?