World War 3? – The Power of Religion Still Relevant
The article references the tendency of Western political powers to avoid using terminology such as the word ‘war’ in modern rhetoric when dealing with foreign policy matters. Often, motivations for going to war are multifaceted but it is typical so hear some kind of just war argument from politicians attempting to justify military (or other) involvement in conflicts. In this case, politicians like Obama and John Kerry, have been deliberating avoiding the ‘W’ word altogether in an attempt to compartmentalize this ongoing conflict in the middle east and the newly emergent threat Islamic State poses. The question in this article is not whether or not the West is engaging in warlike behavior (a trend that has gone on since time eternal though under a variety of names; counterterrorism, peacemaking, strategic strikes) but rather if the threat is comparable at all to those of the past.
The very fact the Islamic State dominates current news headlines is evidence enough of the power of religion to catalyze political action. As we have discussed in the course, Islam is one of the most recent religions to gain ‘world religion’ status, and it has been a source (and result) of great social and political change. While the key Western actors attempt to downplay the significance of the movement at hand, the author of the article makes the argument (very bluntly) that this is World War 3. This is hard for many to believe, or perhaps more correctly, it is difficult for many to believe. It seems impossible to conceive of a conflict of scale and potential destruction that does not have a Western power central to it. But this is simply naïve.
What makes this a burgeoning world war, and not a regional war, is not that a wide range of states are directly involved in the conflict. States do not declare war anymore. In fact, virtually no states are involved in the sense of an inter-state conflict (like in WW1 or WW2) both because they refuse to enter into that rhetorical arena and more importantly the simple fact that the Islamic State is, well, not a state. But realize it or not, the international community is already involved both is support for this movement financially, but more importantly through recruitment. Scores of young men from Canada, the United States, Britain and surely many others are flocking to join this movement, motivated by belief in the role Islam should play in governing their lives.
Western politicians may not want to admit it, but this conflict is not regional. It is not a simple conflict between fanatical sects of citizens in a far off country. It is global, and it involves global citizens. Our governments have much less power than we think. Religion is as relevant as ever and this conflict is far, far from over.