I WONDER whether the Islamic State (IS) leaders have ever seen the war movie, Tora! Tora! Tora! It is about the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, on Dec 7, 1941.
They should watch it to learn about the consequences of their actions.
In the movie, when the Japanese naval supreme commander was told by his excited admirals that their aircraft fighters and dive bombers had successfully sunk several United States warships within a few hours of the attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbour and severely crippled the US Pacific Fleet, he looked down and said softly to the officers gathered around him, as if aware of the consequences: “Now, we have awakened the sleeping giant.”
Sure enough, the next day, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan, and a few days later, he declared war on its Axis partner, Germany, too, thus bringing the US into the World War 2.
The Japanese military leaders had miscalculated the American resolve to fight, and this resulted in Japan paying a heavy price for that terrible mistake in 1941.
IS is making the same mistake in thinking that their terror tactics will coerce the US, Europe and Middle Eastern countries into submission, and that they will be allowed to establish their caliphate without resistance from any country.
Instead, the opposite is happening now. By gloating over the beheadings and executions of Westerners, soldiers as well as innocent civilians, and displaying the gruesome videos on TV for the whole world to see, the IS has provoked the US, Britain and France into taking military action in the region.
Now, the opinion polls have turned against the IS. More importantly, the Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, have agreed to join the Western countries in a grand coalition to fight the terrorist threat and cut off the IS’s access to financial and volunteer support.
It is apparent that the terror tactics have backfired on IS.
The history of post-war Germany and Japan shows that when democracy is strong and the economy thriving, extremists have little room to exploit the people’s frustrations and incite them with hate ideologies.
This lesson of history is applicable to the Middle East, too. Therefore, we can expect the West to work with the Arab states to mount Marshall Plan style programmes for economic reforms and install democratic systems to bring Iraq and Syria into the world economy so that their people can be liberated from political and economic oppression as soon as possible.
We will see history repeat itself in Iraq and Syria. These countries will emerge from the war to become progressive nations, with Sunnis, Shias, Alawites and Christians living peacefully side by side as before. They will change, because the West will make sure that this time, they change for the better.
In the process, the whole Arab world will change, too, to become more progressive in their social, political and religious life, and more tolerant of other religious beliefs.
Sometimes, it takes great tragedies to bring change for the better. That is the sad story of our world.