El Mundo, November 16

#Hashtags and Statements Are Not Enough


Like it or not, the group led by Caliph Ibrahim operates as a State, exercises its power as a State, gets fed as a State, and defends itself as a State.

2015-11-16 by Rafael Bardaji


General Sherman said that, “War is Hell,” while he relentlessly set fire to Georgia in 1864. And he was absolutely right: War is pain, destruction, and barbarism; or “Blood, sweat, and tears” according to Winston Churchill. However, war is not a mere act of irrational and purposeless madness. As Clausewitz pointed out; "War is the continuation of politics by other means.”


What Paris experienced last Friday night were not mere terrorist attacks. They were genuine acts of war – only that by other means. Tanks, fighter jets, and destroyers, platforms that symbolize so well the military, do not define what war is. Suicide bombers or car bombs do not define either what terrorism is. War is the clash of wills; the tools used are but mere instruments to achieve the final objective, winning – because, inescapably so, wars are either won or lost.


Certain requirements are to be met in order to win a war. The first and most basic one is to identify the enemy well. It is something that has not yet been distinctly accomplished by the West. It brings a bitter smile to my face when I see how our Spanish cabinet ministers mention Daesh, but refuse to pronounce the words Islamic State after a suggestion of the intelligence agencies to our Spanish officials about a year ago. They believe that doing so denies legitimacy to the Islamic State, in spite of the fact that Daesh in Arabic–a language I doubt very much our cabinet ministers know how to speak–is the acronym for Al-Dawla Al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham. That is in plain words “the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”


However, France’s president Hollande already knows what he is talking about. He has unambiguously accused the Islamic State of being “a terrorist army, a jihadist army.” Regardless of how much our intelligence people at the CNI insist on semantic wars, terrorists never use tanks; pump oil from their wells; care for patients in hospitals; run schools; make policy decisions; collect taxes; and govern a population of nearly 7 million inhabitants in a territory covering an extension going from Barcelona to Huelva. Like it or not, the group led by Caliph Ibrahim operates as a State, exercises its power as a State, gets fed as a State, and defends itself as a State.


The problem of denying the true nature of the Islamic State leads to adopt the wrong policies to eliminate it. Saying it is just a terrorist group, everything then boils down to two things: Prevention through intelligence and police intervention. However, we should know by now that neither the best intelligence in the world, nor the most able police force can thwart the jihadists’ plans for sure. Responding with arrests after attacks is always too late.

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