The tragic crash of the Russian airliner in Egypt, and the awful loss of life, has featured around the world on every TV news bulletin and newspaper headline. Over the past two days, it has become clear that the plane was destroyed by a bomb, probably placed inside the luggage compartment. The motive is obvious. Russia has become involved in the war in Syria, bombing insurgent targets, and if western sources are to be believed, other internal enemies of Assad. Much has been made of lax security at Sharm-el-Sheikh, which is a relatively small airport, used primarily for the tourist trade to and from the Red Sea resort. Claims and counter-claims by different terrorist groups have clouded the issue further, but whoever was responsible, it was undoubtedly easy enough to arrange, and for their purposes, it worked in a spectacular fashion.
At the same time, various allied air forces, army advisers, and domestic combat troops, continued their fight against ISIS in Syria. ‘Precision’ bombing proved to be anything but precise. Children were killed, hospitals destroyed, and parts of the large cities in that country reduced to rubble. The Russians had joined in with this campaign, choosing their own targets, and also claiming success against militant groups. The truth is that we will never really know whether or not any of the actions, by any country concerned, has had any positive effect. Looking at the evidence we can actually confirm, ISIS continues its activities, seemingly untroubled by the bombings, or ground action. Claims to have killed prominent leaders are pointless, as leaders are easily replaced. As well as the cost in lives, the financial costs of this war are staggering. And we can now add the long-term cost of supporting the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the region, hoping to escape the war by settling in the west.
Contrast this with the action involved in destroying the Russian aircraft. A small group, perhaps three or four determined people, using cheap or readily-available explosives. They place them in some baggage, and the plane departs for Russia, happy holidaymakers returning home to the start of a Russian winter. A short time later, the explosion kills 224 people, including the crew, and many small children. For any normal person, that in itself is horrifying enough. But there are other agendas involved, and far wider repercussions. This event was just a tactic, and though a terrible tactic, it was ingenious, though we don’t like to admit it. All the western and Russian efforts over the past weeks have probably killed less insurgents than the number of people who died on that aircraft. It has probably cost billions of dollars, alienated many neutral countries, and brought into question what is going on in Syria. And we can only imagine Russia’s revenge to come.
The bombers in Egypt have achieved more in one morning, than all the resources of the western nations and Russia combined. In attacking the tourist industry in Egypt, they not only sent a message to Russia about their involvement, they also damaged the economy of a country that relies on tourism for most of its wealth. They affected western tour companies, hotel chains, and everything associated with the leisure economy in many countries, not just Egypt. If they succeed in eventually undermining the stability of Egypt, that country might be ripe for inclusion in the tide of Muslim fundamentalism that is sweeping parts of the world. The uncomfortable truth, is that the ‘terrorists’ or ‘freedom fighters’, and whatever other groups are called, or call themselves actually know what they are doing. The countries facing them rely on remotely-operated drones, hugely expensive missiles and aircraft, and supporting local armed forces that have shown themselves to be unwilling or incapable of success against ISIS, and similar organisations.
Years of war, sides changing, friends becoming enemies, untold billions of dollars, and countless lives lost. Technology used to fight an ancient war, and a reluctance to commit the lives of soldiers on the ground. Compare that with a few committed individuals, one bomb in a suitcase, and the subsequent effect.
I think we can conclude who is going to win.