The Evolving, Never-Ending Ideological War
In 1992, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared that democracy was the winner of the passionate, long-lasting ideological debate over which political system the world should adopt. He claimed that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the almost universal adoption of democracy pointed to “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” If this proclamation was, indeed, the truth at the time, then that truth was shattered when an attack occurred a little less than a decade later that marked the beginning of the latest, modern societal conflict.
The Sept. 11 attacks brutally started the beginning of this new conflict. The fall of the Twin Towers graphically represented this new attack on globalization by a religious extremist group using a set of “fundamentalist values” as a guise for destruction and violence. Benjamin R. Barber, American political theorist and author, discussed in his 1995 novel Jihad vs. McWorld the modern struggle between differing cultures and the all-consuming force of globalization foreshadowed the horrible attacks.
The United States’ invasion of Iraq laid the foundation for the rise of the Islamic State, who capitalized on civil conflict to further escalate its cultural war, resulting in thousands of deaths across the world over the past decade. Whether posting graphic propaganda videos online, tirelessly battling the Iraqi army for land for its proposed state, or recruiting “lone wolves” to perform attacks in Western nations, ISIS continues to maintain its radical loyalty to extremist Islamic values.
While ISIS has lost its previously claimed land in Iraq and Syria, and its membership numbers have sharply declined in the last year, its “lethal ideology" continues to maintain its power and influence. The latest example of the terror group’s unwavering dedication to its cause is the Sri Lanka bombings that occurred on Easter Sunday. The series of bombings targeted luxury hotels and Christian holiday services, resulting in over 300 deaths and over 500 injuries, epitomizing ISIS’s attacks on Christianity, globalization, and other ideologies that do not conform with its narrow world view.
Just two months ago, President Donald Trump claimed that ISIS had been “100%” defeated by U.S.-backed forces in Syria, calling for all troops to return back to the U.S. While the U.S. planned to keep an “observer force” in Syria after ISIS’s defeat, it is evident that regardless of the successful military operations against the terrorist organization, neither the U.S. nor any of its allies have affected ISIS’s violent, global influence.
In the span of three decades, the world’s ideological conflicts shifted from a “Cold War” to a heated, aggressive one. Ironically, the rise of the internet and globalization have aided the proliferation of ISIS’s beliefs, making this a conflict that cannot be settled by war or negotiation. In the face of this new kind of conflict and dispute, mankind will again have to evolve to end the overwhelming violence and dampen the rapid rise of these extremist groups.