The news of the savage attack in the Westgate shopping mall of Nairobi and of its more than 60 randomly chosen victims just puts us in front of the same riddle as 9/11: what did the terrorists want to achieve? No positive answer comes to mind. After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Disraeli had already curtly stated the obvious before the House of Commons: "Assassination has never changed the history of the world."
Smoke above Westgate mall
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Smoke above Westgate mall by Wikipedia
Indeed, I can't think of a terrorist campaign which would have achieved its long-term objectives. Even military operations, it can be argued, have more often than not secured territory gains, toppled dictators or bought a few years of peace only to be repaid by another war, while the cost of warfare, always exceeding all previsions, often dangerously weakened the "victor". On the contrary, what violent strategies have generally achieved is generating counter-measures as surely as new viruses have raised the efficiency of immune systems.
Up in arms since its inception, the state of Israel has been at war ever since. Coming from the neighboring countries, the Fedayeen of the 70's produced a double barbed wire fence with a soft sand alley in between so that terrorists footprints could very quickly be spotted; coming from inside Israeli-controlled territory, the intifada of the 90's produced the ultimate fence, an impassable concrete wall. Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has produced various mujahidin movements and eventually the Taliban. US presence on Saudi ground for the Desert Storm campaign has produced al-Qaida. It would be possible to argue that violent actions have repeatedly had the contrary effect to their aims, and for a frightening price.
There is a kind of malediction attached to war and terrorism. Maximilien Robespierre tried to warn the French Convention off sending of troops abroad to support revolution there. These "armed missionaries", he warned, would only be setting the scene for a dictator. Two things are certain: he was not listened to, and Napoleon Bonaparte soon confiscated the French Revolution.
Closer to us, the Independence of Algeria was such a merciless war that Algeria has been living by the sword ever since- and dying by the sword between 1991 and 2002; Somalia was disintegrated by the US-led UN intervention there in 1991-1992 and the Shebabs who have just murdered so many people in Nairobi are a by-product of that particular intervention" Violence hardly seems the shortest route to building the future"
Those who want peace must however consider what the Nairobi massacre tells us.
We have failed to develop a global awareness that conflicts are created by improper policies and by the self-indulging acceptance of unfair situations by the most privileged. What the Kenyan massacre must remind us of is that as long as the global supermarket will serve only a small part of the world's population, as long as misery will chain the poorest to their hopeless fate while others wallow in abundance next door, as long as some are denied basic human rights or legitimate reasons to hope for a better life, there will pirates, Shebabs, or just frustrated young people from our own inner cities to attack the nearest source of wealth, especially when insolent, brazen luxury symbols are on display.
Blatant injustice and humiliation generate anger, resentment, and sometimes hate and revolt. Humanity must urgently learn to deal with the root causes of these situations, and learn to deal with these bad feelings, especially as strategists warn that conflicts are often triggered by the scarcity of resources.
Given that the world population will be soon over 7 billion, up from 3 billion only 50 years ago, and en route to somewhere around 10 billion around 2050, resources will increasingly become the subject of conflicts. These resources include minerals and energy sources but also just water and arable land.
With conflict occasions on the rise, humanity has no choice but
to try to wriggle out of its traditional feudal or national
competitive model which provided the ideal frame for so many
conflicts in the past. Humanity has to learn to manage the planet
resources as a whole. In order to do that it has to discover how to
sit at a table and listen to one another's viewpoints, and how to
discuss general interest" That is, unless misplaced egos get in the
way. French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, who did change the
history of the world when he introduced the first post-war
agreement between France and Germany on May 9 th , 1950,
made it very clear: "Democracy and her freedoms can be saved only
by the quality of the people who speak in her name."
People who care about peace and security should care very much about helping those involved in conflicts to find an answer to anger and to develop new motives to build a safer world. Trust building is the raw material for peace building, and it cannot be developed by mass-media but has to travel from person to person. In our experience at CAUX-Initiatives of Change, and I am sure in other groups' as well, it can be done and it works.
Security policymakers should now seriously consider investing in this kind of security and should look into supporting those who can help on that path.