“The war against ISIS is the kind of war that will become dominant”, new report finds

Published: Tue 12 July 2016
“The war against ISIS is the kind of war that will become dominant”, new report finds

A new report from a leading international security specialist argues that the wars against al-Qaida and ISIS are examples of the kinds of conflicts that will come to dominate international affairs. These will lead to a deeply unstable and violent world in the coming decades unless there are fundamental changes in the world-wide approaches to marginalisation and climate change.

According to Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threats from the Margins, written by Professor Paul Rogers and published today, ISIS, al Qaida, Boko Haram, Al Shabab and the Taliban are all examples of a new non-state dynamic which is now driving international conflict through asymmetric and hybrid warfare, but their real significance is much more fundamental.  

The problem for the future is not a clash of civilisations but a rapidly increasing risk of revolts from the margins.   ISIS, in particular, is a proto-movement for the wars that will become dominant in an increasingly divided and constrained world. 

According to Irregular War, the result of a two-year study, the underlying drivers of future conflict are far more than the growth of extreme Islamist movements.   They stem from a deeply flawed world economic system that is producing greater inequalities and mass marginalisation, resentment and bitterness, combined with the onset of persistent global environmental limits, especially climate disruption which will lead to the migration of millions of people looking for a safe and secure life.

The extreme movements of the future could as easily be rooted in ethnic or nationalist outlooks or political ideologies such as neo-Maoism.   The idea that radical Islamist movements are the only problem is fundamentally misleading and disguises the extent of the problem facing us.

Moreover, the failed war on terror, now heading towards its 16th year, shows that the consequences of these drivers of conflict cannot be controlled by military force and the wealthy of the world cannot “close the castle gates”.  

After all, even the intense two-year air war against ISIS, which has killed 30,000 of its followers, has not brought it under control – attacks from Baghdad to Brussels and Paris to Istanbul demonstrate that to devastating effect.

What is required is a fundamentally new approach to security if we are to avoid a highly unstable and violent world - an age of insurgencies which might even involve weapons of mass destruction.  We need radically to change our understanding of security, a change that is possible but requires vision and commitment.

The report has already gained some strong endorsements. 

The former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, who was in overall charge of UK national security at the time of the 7/7 attacks, has said that the report is:

“Outstanding… Irregular War presents the need to establish a completely different approach to our world economic system, to the challenge of climate change and to conventional ideas of military control. The book is an essential contribution to thinking about the best way to confront the challenges of an unstable world”

The former Director of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, Professor Michael Clarke, describes it as: "a masterly summary of a debate that we are emphatically not having, but which we certainly should.”

The author, Paul Rogers, is Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University and Global Security Consultant to the Oxford Research Group.  He has lectured for over thirty years at Britain’s senior defence colleges and has also briefed senior official at the Home Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, MI5, the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office.  He has written or edited 26 books and is a frequent broadcaster on the national and international media.

Irregular War; ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins will be published by I B Tauris on 14 July 2016.

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