Events in the Middle East continue to horrify and escalate in equal measure. Last week Jordan vowed all manner of action against ISIS in Syria for burning a pilot alive, this week Egypt bombed ISIS in Libya for beheading 21 Coptic Christians. At the same time, President Obama convened an international meeting on extremism with the emphasis on prevention and the idea took hold that ISIS would infiltrate people-trafficking boats in the Mediterranean. Arise TV in London were good enough to invite me to hold forth for a few minutes on both Obama and ISIS. We covered a fair amount of ground in 6 minutes:
Arise aired about 15-20 minutes of Obama’s speech to the conference right up until the point where the video clip starts. In lots of ways it is not at all a bad speech and, frankly, far more subtle and balanced than what it feels like I’ve been hearing in Europe for a while now.
But he didn’t talk about the issue I raised in the Arise studio – the need for the West to change so the world becomes less grotesquely unequal. And he didn’t go into the other issue: the wars the West has launched in recent times and the mess the West has made as a result. And I continue that unless we manage to look at ourselves and see what needs to change, which means being open-eyed and honest about the errors we have made, some of them egregious and some downright criminal – without that, I don’t see how the West can cease being part of the problem and start to be part of the solution.
Is there a way out? Yes – because people are always looking for a path to peace. Before going down to the Arise studio I was helping launch a new Syrian Platform for Peace. In the panel discussion we tackled the thorny question: can something like this do any good. And I think it is no exaggeration to say that for all the Syrians present the answer was clear, that both in short-term practical assistance to people who need it, and in the longer term by laying now the seeds for peace and building a constituency for peace, it is possible for an initiative such as this to do a great deal of good.
It was an inspiring evening and I think that was what gave me the confidence to talk about my view of how it could be possible for Libyans to build peace in Libya.
NB: Listening to myself, when saying how many militias there are in Libya, it seems like I said 18 when what I meant to say was 1,800.