Don't Cry For Me, Palmyra

In all seriousness, don't cry for me, Palmyra. If it had been my decision, you would be free of jihadists. Cry for those who supported the policies that enabled your current conquers to become as powerful as they are now.

'Guilty as charged,' I said to myself. I am, after all, as what they call, a compassionate conservative, no matter how hard I try to reject judgements based on emotions. That's why, in short, I have always tried to feel my earnest benevolence towards evangelical pacifists. All these well-educated metropolitan 'love not war' and 'why can't we be friends' people are just calling for it. A bit of tenderness, as the tune goes.

Lately, however, I've fallen out with my love mission towards those weird, fluffy species called Homo Pacificus because of the war in Ukraine, in which they openly flirt with Russia - a country that would crack down on their pacifism faster than you could say 'the West provoked Russia.'

This is part of the wider movement's problem of being notoriously inept at choosing the right side, predicting any short-term future, and just simply keeping the plot coherent. In fact, If the West had listened to that loud mob of doves since the early 1990s, the biggest problem in the Middle East wouldn't be sectarian crackpots off the leash from their West London-based mums, but rather reoccurring clashes between professional militaries (remember the war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s and the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq?), proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, constant intentional butchery of populations - using those very same weapons, as the Iraqi Kurds have experienced.

Say what you want, but this is quite a poor record to boast about. And here I've omitted all those nasty events in Africa and Asia that would make the picture even grimmer. At this point, it makes you think that it must take a great deal of futility and blind fatuousness to portray pacifism as the force for peace. But surprisingly, even knowing all this, the movement's inherent optimism still appears to be noble and attractive, no matter how unproductive and devastating it actually is.

Perhaps the last drop in this reckless affair was the recent events in the city of Palmyra and the reaction it caused. As it happened, raving loony jihadists have occupied the city with the sole purpose of destruction. There's hardly any doubt that the adherents of the self-ascribed Islamic state didn't conquer the city to rule it. Creating a burgeoning economy based social media marketing and film production has never been part of their plan. Instead, the belligerent group has spent most of its time in Palmyra murdering hundreds of people, mostly women and children. Not to minimise the tragedy and the loss of human lives, but the city also happens to be an ancient city, a part of Syria's past that celebrated tolerance between identities and religion, yet ISIS is trying to impose a totalitarian verdict on such history through the means of destruction.

Now, you'd think such events would shake even the most peaceful members of the peace lobby. It probably worked for a few, but for the vast majority it was just the signal to start the favourite blame game that doesn't have wrong answers: the Iraq War. This has become some sort of conventional wisdom that whatever happens in the Middle East, let be it deranged Islamists, Iran getting nukes, an argument between Ahmed and Mohammed over football, is the fault of the American and British invasion of Iraq in 2003. Or George W. Bush and Tony Blair, if you prefer a more concrete target for your contempt. In short, according to this logic, the fact that ISIS has captured the ancient city of Palmyra is the direct result of the Iraq War in 2003.

Of course, this is just a bubble of confirmation bias. ISIS wasn't empowered by the presence of American and British troops in the region. On the contrary, the absence of Britain and the U.S was the inspiring factor for the rise of ISIS. Take, for instance, the failed British attempt to act in Syria in 2013. At that time, promising and 'tough enough' Ed Miliband wooed the pacifist elements in Britain and voted no to the intervention in Syria, notwithstanding the evidence that the Syrian government has showered its people with chemical weapons. Rather than putting out a fire in Syria, the country has become an attractive hotspot for young jihadi-wannabes, who eventually were recruited by ISIS.

Moreover, the victory of Obama and his election pledge to pull the troops out of Iraq without much assessment of possible consequences led to abandonment of the fragile democratic country in the heart of the Middle East. Very few seem to comprehend to what extent Iraq was stabilised precisely because of American and British presence. The crime rate in Iraq was contained, while the economy boomed. But instead of continuing the support to the Iraqi military forces logistically and providing vital intelligence, while keeping developing democracy in check, the state was left alone and thus doomed to become a playfield for sectarian politics.

In all seriousness, don't cry for me, Palmyra. If it had been my decision, you would be free of jihadists. Cry for those who supported the policies that enabled your current conquers to become as powerful as they are now.


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