War not the solution, address root causes

Though it may be justifiable for France to declare war on terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), amid calls for the world to unite against terrorism ("France seeks EU help in 'war' with terrorists"; yesterday), we must be cognisant of the very real possibilities of sparking further escalation and fuelling a "clash of civilisations".

The term was used by political scientist Samuel Huntington to characterise the division of the world along cultural, ethnic and religious lines, of which the Western versus Islamic divide is a stark example.

The lessons of the two world wars provide a sobering reminder of how a relatively small act of violence can lead to nations being embroiled in intractable conflict, and unleashing untold suffering on mankind.

The state of Israel was carved out from Palestinian lands after World War II, displacing vast numbers of Palestinians, the majority of whom are Muslim, and giving rise to various terrorist groups fighting to regain their lands.

Tuesday's commentary shows that terrorism cannot be viewed as a simple absolute, but with nuances of complexity, together with some complicity on the world's part ("Violence and terror: Take a closer look at the 'us v them' rhetoric").

If the world engages in a war fraught with religious overtones against the terrorism perpetuated by ISIS, we may risk oppressing and alienating even more people, many of whom are innocent civilians, and sustaining a never-ending cycle of violence.

Instead, we should look at the root causes of such wanton acts, such as economic or social disenfranchisement, which may have played a role, and address these underlying causes instead.

I fear that as violence begets more violence, the world may be headed for greater disaster ahead.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline 'War not the solution, address root causes'. Print Edition | Subscribe