Tensions over the Russian Intervention Crisis have temporarily eased as the US and Russia have made progress on a deal that would allow both militaries to operate safely within Syria. This will do little, however, to resolve the Syrian Civil War and the Islamic State threat as these conflicts are not about Russia or the United States. Despite massive propaganda campaigns that attempt to pin blame on the US, Russia, and other world powers, the violence in Syria is driven by domestic issues and grievances that affect the Syrian People.
Human have tended to blame higher powers when things go wrong since the beginning of history in order to feel a sense of control and security, i.e. war, poverty, and disease will end whenever someone chooses to stop allowing pain. Instead of blaming a god, world powers like the US are today the target of blame. Although it is true outside influences can help or exasperate a situation, and world powers do meddle far too much, conflicts happen for real reasons over real problems. With media attention shifting from Syria to the long running Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the root cause offers the world an important lesson.
The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians had been the focal point of Middle Eastern instability and fighting for decades. Despite the encroaching Islamic State threat, which is a danger to Israelis and Palestinians alike, the conflict is escalating again. Rising above the futile “Palestinians-did-this” and the “Israelis-are-doing-this” debate, it is clear that the broad targeting of any Israeli by violent Palestinians and the broad targeting of all Palestinian by Israeli security forces demonstrates the driving force behind the current and past violence is ethnic division.
In other words, the targets of violence and other reprisals are determined by ethnicity, not wrongdoing. Those attacked by violent Palestinians are not necessarily aggressors; it is the fact that they are “the Jewish enemy” that motivates those attacking them. The targets of Israeli security forces are not necessarily criminals or wrongdoers; they just happened to be part of the threat, because they are Palestinians. The reason the perpetual Israeli-Palestinian conflict has gone unresolved for decades is that both sides target Palestinians and Israelis, instead of the actual issues that sustain the conflict.
Furthermore, the same dynamic is seen in the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. The Islamic State is an imminent threat to both Turkey and the Kurds, yet the Erdogan government has long prioritized the threat of the Kurdish PKK over the Islamic State. In fact, it has continually attempted to hamper the highly effective and critical efforts of the Kurdish Peshmerga against the Islamic State, which includes recent moves to dissuade both the US and Russia from supporting the Peshmerga. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his allies are so anti-Kurd that they will not use the threat of the Islamic State as an opportunity to resolve the long running conflict.
Meanwhile, a Muslim man in India was recently killed over rumors that he ate beef. Although a ridiculous reason to kill from the perspective of Westerners, Africans, and even most Asians, many Hindus believe cattle are sacred beings. To them, the slaughter and consumption of cattle is almost analogous to eating another person. With that in mind, it is easier to comprehend why someone would be motivated to murder a beefeater. Considering many of us eat beef on a regular basis, those who worship cows must either choose to wage war against the world or choose to live in peace with those who offend their religious beliefs.
Despite isolated incidences, most Hindus embrace peace. It is not that they necessarily agree with eating beef, want to tolerate the practice, or respect the religious differences of others. It is that peaceful Hindus have internally reconciled their religious beliefs to the point they choose to live with the sins of others instead of choosing to sin against others. On the other hand, those who seek violent retaliation have faced grievances they have with beefeaters and been unable to address those issues in an appropriate manner. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to end the beef trade in India represents a constructive means to address the grievances of those who worship cows without declaring war against enemy beefeaters.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has long suppressed dissent and the Chinese People have learned to live with that oppression for the benefit of stability and peace; however, the Chinese government is now ramping up efforts to suppress criticism of North Korea. Attempting to heal ties with its rogue ally, the Chinese government hopes to silence those venting their grievances against North Koreans, who have been responsible for several deadly attacks on Chinese in recent months. Where the Chinese see some benefit in accepting their own government’s wrongs, there is no reason for them to accept the wrongs of North Korea while efforts to suppress criticism will only lead the Chinese to start questioning their own government.
Violence is the expression of those who have no other way of expressing themselves. People seek ways of expressing, addressing, and resolving their grievances. When they do not have constructive ways to do this, they will turn to destructive means like violence. In the case of the Middle East, those of different ethnicities and religions are often the target of this violence. While the US and Russia can help address the violence in Syria, it will not end unless grievances against the Assad government, which started this war, can be properly resolved, no matter how much propaganda is used. Moreover, the world cannot hope to have a unified front against terrorist groups like the Islamic State until grievances that make different ethnicities and religions the targets of each others’ violence are expressed, addressed, and resolved.
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