London has Fallen: Thoughts on ‘collateral damage’ in ‘clash of civilisations’

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The question as to the root cause of the violence now raging in the battles against religious extremists around the globe must be asked, says Teo Chuen Tick.

London has Fallen is a thought-provoking movie – not because of the violence and the unbelievable heroics of its star who is so skilful he can more than take on a whole army of extremists.

What comes to mind as I see the western democracies [read the US and UK, in this case] battling the extremists [not named explicitly in the show but portrayed as Islamic] is the thought that hatred is not overcome by hatred.

‘Collateral damage’

In the movie, a drone strike fails to take out the man supposed to be the top arms supplier to extremist groups. This in turn triggers a revenge attack on London.

The protagonist is so embittered by the drone strike that kills his sister and other civilians, he vows to take the battle to the Western democracies, where warfare is conducted from the comfort of air-conditioned command centres.

He spends two years planning the revenge attack, and his eventual success shows up the absolute failure of western intelligence agencies. [Of course, this is only a movie]. He wants the Western leaders to feel the pain when the horror strikes home, when the violence is brought to their own doorsteps.

This is not a new issue nor is it the first time the issue of “collateral damage” of civilians in the fight against Islamic extremists – especially in drone strikes – has been raised. Neutral analysts have said such “collateral damage” is a contributory factor spurring the recruitment of more recruits to the ranks of extremists.

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I am no intelligence nor military analyst, so I have no easy solutions to offer. The movie, however, alludes to better on-the-ground intelligence to ensure no civilians are around in the drone strike that finally takes down the arms dealer towards the end of the movie.

‘Clash of civilisations’?

Yet, for me, the question as to the root cause of the violence now raging in the battles against religious extremists around the globe must be asked.

Is this really a clash of civilisations, pitting the progressive and Western-aligned concepts of democracies against extremist Islamic clerics with their version of Islam as depicted in incidents taking place in Isis-controlled areas such as stoning and women and girls sold into slavery?

If so, perhaps violence cannot be avoided. We live in an imperfect world. If we value democracy, then if that institution is under attack from an outside armed source, we must defend it even if violence has to be employed.

Yet, as I survey the current hot spots of violence – Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen in particular – the above contention does not seem to hold water. The US and its western allies seem to be siding one ideology of Islam against another.

Whither the clash of civilisations? It seems it is more a matter of ensuring that control of resources like oil in those states remains in the hands of local leaders aligned to Western countries.

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