It’s been a taxing time for global geopolitics. Eastern countries sense that the West is in crisis, with its rising debts and aging populations. And the West, like a cornered bear protecting it’s young, is growling and showing its teeth.
But underneath this structural change in the balance of power, lies a few more unsettling trends. One is the fact that the Middle East hasn’t become a new American Midwest with palm trees. In fact, by many accounts, it’s now far more unstable than it was before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Back then, Western countries were riding high on the success of their intervention in Kosovo. The removal of dictators on the edge of Europe was a massive and resounding success. Allied powers, emboldened, turned their attention to the Middle East, expecting a similar result. All they needed to do was depose the dictators, install a democratic government. Iraq and the others would become as peaceful and as benign as Serbia and Montenegro are in today’s Europe.
Well, we all know how that turned out. The Middle East has become a very unstable place. In fact, thanks to the action of NATO countries, the risks to national security appear to be higher than ever before. Countries in the Middle East have become a hotbed for terrorism. It’s clear now that there aren’t any so-called “good guys” in these regions. The people the West supports tend to end up being more radical and more violent than the people the West deposes.
This is where Donald Trump comes in. He’s said on many occasions that he actually favors the despots in the Middle East. At least, he says, they were “good at killing terrorists.”
And this brings us to our second, unsettling trend – the proliferation of terrorism itself. The Washington Forum, organized by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, will meet later this year. They will ask the question of whether or not Jihadism can be defeated.
It’s an important question to ask. This isn’t your average pitched battle between nation states where a victory is well-defined. This is a battle with a set of ideas – ideas that can be communicated instantly over Twitter and other, less well known messenger services. Controlling terrorism, therefore, is like trying to stop the flow of a river. You might block one channel, but it will just reroute itself, and find a new direction in which to flow.
Right now, terrorism is a significant threat. But the problem is it’s potential to grow as a threat. The terrorist of today have access to makeshift bombs, able to kills hundreds, maybe thousands of people. The terrorists of tomorrow will have access to biological weapons, able to kill far more.
It’s this sobering reality that is forcing the subject of national security to the top of the agenda. And it’s this trend that will drive its importance well into the future. So long as Jihadism remains an idea, the West will have to be vigilant.