It will not be like other world wars, of course, just as the previous ones have also come as unwelcome surprises. This one – if it develops – will see airstrikes matched by bombs on buses and trains, the drones of the western world answered by the scimitar, and appeals for level-headedness leading to beheadings.
It was the events in the Security Council of the UN this week that may well be seen as the watershed, from which there was no easy turning back. Omaba, Cameron, Hollande, Abbott et al were all competing with each other to demonstrate resolve against barbarity. They all felt, undoubtedly, that they had no choice but to declare war on IS. If one’s children are being stung by bees, it is hard to resist the temptation to attack the beehive, even if one’s only weapon is a cricket bat.
The pundits say it will be a long road. They are right. I fear the road will lead further and further into the abyss of a war where there will be few boundaries.The IS fighters are not going to be limited to the Middle East, nor are they poor or stupid. They can read the Koran, and it is not all a pretty read. Translations of various passages vary: here is a selection:
8:12: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.”
9.29: “Kill the Jews and the Christians if they do not convert to Islam or refuse to pay Jizya tax”
22.19: “Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire, hooked iron rods, boiling water; melt their skin and bellies”
47:4: “Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), strike off their heads”
Telling these people that Islam is a religion of peace is not going to convince them to stop fighting, and neither is bombing their brothers-in-arms.
The Western allies have far more conventional firepower, of course. But IS has far more comitment, and far few scruples. It may be a rather more even battle than the UN imagines.