Another US journalist, Steven Sotloff, has been killed in the Middle East. His murderer appears to be another Brit, possibly “Jihadi John” again. By attacking members of the press, ISIS, ISIL, IS, whatever they are calling themselves today, know what they are doing. They are demonstrating that the sword is mightier than the pen and in doing so, trying to show us that their brand of extremism will crush liberal democracy eventually.
I am under no illusions about whether jihadism is a huge threat to the West or not. It palpably is. I just also happen to know that, sadly, it isn’t only one we face. I bring this up because a line is starting to be thrown around that the Islamic extremists are the only real game in town and thus anyone who is on our side on that one, who theoretically faces the same existential threat, should be taken on board as a friend, regardless of other factors.
This pertains to Russia, who according to this brand of thinking should be appeased so that we can all fight extremism together. They have their problems in Chechnya, after all. Whatever is going on in Ukraine should be brushed to one side in the rush to “solve” the problem in the Middle East.
There are many flaws with this view. First off, it is a return to the thinking that got the West into the trouble it is currently facing in the first place. The “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” has been the cornerstone of every US foreign affairs disaster for the last half a century at least. Just because a country may have a common problem with the West does not mean that they do not pose threats to us elsewhere. Letting Russia off the hook for Ukraine completely poses problems, some of them ironically enough directly relevant to the Middle East situation, such as sanctity of national borders.
Also, Russia doesn’t see the Middle East situation the same way western governments do at all. It is allies with Assad and Iran, for a start. So its solution would be a simple one: help Assad “wipe out” the “extremists”, which in this case would include anyone against the Assad regime, jihadist or no (which would be impossible anyhow, with the Iraq border situation and the fact that the country is about 70% Sunni, by I digress). If Russia felt that Shia extremists would be of help to them in the northern Caucasus region, I’m sure they would consider it. It is a different way of thinking about the world; confusing it with our own would be to make a fundamental error.
Fact is, we live in a multi-polar world now, with several sometimes competing, often overlapping interests. Trying to boil down the planet’s problems to one simple factor, such as jihadism, no matter how virulent that particular variable might be, will always lead to confused thinking. If only it were that simple.