Terrorism is certainly no stranger to modern history, and it still remains a harsh reality present in the international community. To be sure, the events of 9/11 saw a sharp increase in exposure of terrorist acts, but that does not erase or diminish previous terrorist efforts carried out over the past half-century by such organizations as the Irish Republican Army, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Al-Qaeda.
The ringleaders of the “war on terrorism” would have been wise to garner wisdom from these experiences, perhaps waging the war of ideas rather than bombs to achieve peace, a means other than the paradox of violence. Unfortunately, the higher ground was beyond the grasp and comprehension of those we entrusted.
Instead, they chose to simultaneously ignore history and abandon one of the most basic axioms of mankind: the idea that violence begets violence, in favor of politics and a bloodlust for vengeance. And now for three years we’ve been forced to bear witness to a wealth of simplistic reactions juvenile in their conception and sloppy in their execution, all while terrorism increased in its ferocity around the world.
This reality was driven home very pointedly the other week in the terrible siege on a Russian elementary school in the city of Beslan that has left 335 dead men, women and children in its wake.
Aside from my initial reaction of sadness, I began to wonder how President Vladimir Putin would respond. Would he lead his people down the road less traveled with decisions based on the welfare of those in his charge, or would he fall back on politically safe grounds where scant opponents may criticize him, but not history? Sadly, it appears the latter is the preferred choice. No real surprise coming from a leader as notoriously authoritarian as Putin, but no less disappointing.
So now the question lingers, how much longer are we doomed to watch history repeat itself; or, to be more accurate, how much longer will we allow ourselves to repeat our own sorrowful history?
In the wake of the hostage situation and in response to two days of heavy advertising on state-controlled TV networks, there was a huge rally of approximately 130,000 people demonstrating in front of the Kremlin in Moscow on Sept. 7. This was not simply a show of solidarity; it was more along the lines of a war rally. Such slogans as “We won’t give Russia to the terrorists” and more disturbingly, “The enemy will be crushed; victory will be ours” were visible throughout the crowd.
I’m sorry, but have they not been bearing witness to the failure that is Iraq, where there are at least three or four terrorist attacks a week? Or the worsening situation in Afghanistan, where warlords still maintain strict control over large regions? Just as we did not heed call to the lessons of the past, the Russians appear bent on a path ignorant to the mistakes of their fellow world powers.
They will bomb and raid cities that they claim house rebels, razing houses, shooting militants and taking captives. And then the terrorists will strike back, be it through hostages or suicide bombings. Stop, rewind and play. Continued violence in nearly a decade of wartime activity has borne nothing but continued resentment and bloodshed, so why will now be any different?
Albert Einstein was once asked what weaponry World War III would be fought with and he responded that he did not know. But, he knew what the fourth world war would be fought with: sticks and stones.
At some point, a nation must rise above the rest and make concessions, placing peace before politics and human life before careers. If not, we truly will be left with nothing except a world broken beyond repair.
Noah Potvin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.