Reflections on Western-Middle Eastern relations after Paris 2015

The Paris attacks were utterly tragic. There are no words. And yet what I have found equally tragic here is the conversation that never seems to happen – for us to recognise and grieve for how utterly terrible these attacks are, AND for us to recognise the Western nations’ role in creating this situation – a situation that may now escalate to unthinkable levels. How many need to suffer and die before we open our hearts and start respecting each other without agendas of exploitation of domination?

Without a doubt, there are a plethora of internal conflicts present between the warring communities of the Middle East that cannot be reduced to the actions of Western Nations. It is also true though that Western nations have been exploiting and raping so much of the rest of the world for their natural resources for centuries – in particular the Middle Eastern nations. This is not an opinion. This is fact, verifiable by anyone who has an understanding of geopolitical history and current affairs. Western nations have done this to grow, support and maintain a lifestyle of consumption, often deliberately maintaining conflict in the Middle Eastern region in a divide-and-rule move. There are various examples in the past of situations where Middle Eastern nations began to heal or find leaders who could help them take significant steps in their healing. These were efforts and leaders who would have supported them to increasingly stand as autonomous nations that used their resources for the benefit of their own people rather than being sold to the Western nations by the rich ruling family dynasties they keep in power because they keep those natural resources flowing out, to the detriment of their own people, to power Western houses, cars, and lives. In each of those situations, Western nations did the same thing – those leaders and efforts died, one way or another.

To be clear, absolutely none of this is ever an excuse for the tragedies that have occurred in France, more than once, and other such incidents around the world. But let’s not also forget that ISIS have grown out of Syria and Iraq – two countries that have been utterly ravaged by Western nations seeking to destabilise and take out governments largely on the basis of geopolitical interests. Let’s not forget that there wasn’t even a serious UN conversation about military intervention in Syria until 200,000 people – men, women and children – had already been killed by the jungle of civil war there. And Iraq? Well, we all know the score there too.

Extremist views always spike in situations of extreme desperation. Any glance to the realities of human history over the last 100 years can show this clearly. The people of the Middle East have been in situations of desperation beyond that which we in Western nations can possibly imagine, for far too long. There are even studies that show that the places where radicalisation to extremist Islamic ideologies happen most are also the places that are suffering most from environmental desertification from climate change. This is climate change that people in Western governments still debate whether it even exists, while such families and communities in the Middle East are desperate, unable to find water or grow crops to feed their families.

I have absolutely zero doubt that this violence will not end in any sustainable way until a number of things happen. Yes, of course the internal conflicts between the warring communities of the Middle East need to find resolution, and this is a huge topic in itself. As big as it is though, it is one that is discussed widely. What is not discussed so widely is that those Western nations who have been in the past and still today are involved in the large scale exploitation of the Middle East and other parts of the world for their geopolitical agendas – openly recognise this, sincerely apologise, and commit themselves to dialogue that can seek relationships that work for everyone; that are not exploitative; and that of course also do not tolerate violence. Of course more would need to happen too, but for me, there will be no sustainable change unless this happens.

After the Paris attacks, it seemed clear that one of three things would happen:

1) Things stay the same. This would have lead to further such tragedies without a doubt. There would be more deaths, bombings and mass shootings.

2) War. Western nations declare war on ISIS, go in and try to kill them all. This is what happened. This may silence the issue for some time but it will surely and tragically come around again, likely not too far in the future, owing to the profound wounding this mass destruction will involve and perpetuate.

3) The only sustainable possibility, as yet, does not seem to be one that has been openly discussed – THAT WE CHANGE THIS PATTERN, as described above or in a better, more holistic and integrative way.

It’s great for Western people to stand together in love and unity against these attacks, but that is also a superficial response in terms of a solution. We need to look at WHY this is happening, both in terms of the cycles of conflict within the Middle East, and also in relation to the actions of Western nations, and do what we can to bring this conversation into the mainstream. It must be made a legitimate issue in public discourse, and pressure must be put on our governments to start operating in a new way. I pray this might happen.