Jihadists are Earth's White Walkers
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind-Hosea 8:7
The 6th season of GoT was chockfull of unforeseen plot twists, one of which was the first glimpse into how White Walkers came to be. White Walkers are humanoid ice creatures who are extremely difficult to kill and possess superhuman powers, the most important of which is being able to reanimate corpses known as Wights for use as mindless foot soldiers in their war. In episode five, we learn that White Walkers were created deliberately by the Children of the Forest. Mankind and its destructive ways forced the Children, in desperation, to turn towards something which proved to be even worse. As Leaf, one of the Children said, “We were at war. We were being slaughtered, our sacred trees cut down. We needed to defend ourselves.” This narrative is hauntingly similar to the narrative of modern day jihadists.
How Muslims and the West Shaped Jihad
Jihad means war or struggle, and, as a concept, is as old as Islam itself. Between 624 and 627, under the guardianship of the Prophet Mohammed, the newly born Muslim community was quite literally fighting for its life. For this reason, Mohammed instituted the concepts of jihad and martyrdom into Islam. Jihad as we know it today is rooted in the Salafi philosophy and Wahhabi method based on the idea that the Muslim community is again in mortal danger, but this time it is in large part due to disunity within the followers of Islam.
This feeling of desperation by radical Muslims who have spearheaded the global jihadist phenomenon can be traced back to the Soviet-Afghan War (1979-1989). The Soviet government attacked Islam within Afghanistan both because its Marxist Leninist ideology dictated an atheist society and because it could not tolerate a rival basis for power. As adamant anti-communists, the Carter Administration decided it was a better idea to aid the mujahedeen than have Soviet victory.
Thus began Operation Cyclone, the CIA program that provided the mujahedeen with the finances ($630 million per year in 1987) and armaments (namely Stinger missiles) to combat their commie foes. And it worked. On 15 February 1989, the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan. Trained and semi-trained fighters, imbued with radical Islamist ideology, were then available to be exported to the world’s other troubled spots, where a deep sense of oppression on the part of Muslims was the core issue.
Like the Children of the Forest, the US and the Muslim community, in defense of their way of life, fashioned an entity that would mutate beyond expectation. White Walkers are in the midst of preparing their mindless, cannibalistic soldiers for a killer winter (pun intended). The Afghan mujahedeen spawned into various fighting forces including the Taliban, al Qaeda, and now ISIS. This created a war for the hearts and minds of the Islamic world, where jihadist foot soldiers are the disenfranchised populations who join from fear or need of a cause and purpose – even though it is a cause of death and destruction.
So Do We Have to Build an Ice Wall?
To attempt to curb the damage, the Children and mankind partnered together to create the massive ice wall which separates the White Walkers to the North from the normal mortals South of the Wall. The wall, however, is a treatment to deal with the problem for a period of time and not a solution. Similarly, by denying safe havens, conducting air strikes, and installing democracies-in-name-only, the US is building its own ice wall to deter the jihadist phenomenon. And believe it or not, winter is coming. For Westerose, leaders are too busy playing a game of thrones to alter their strategy; hopefully for the US, it will maintain the wall for the short term but begin to cut away at the root of the jihadist problem, by countering its religious ideology while not subjecting Muslims to undue subjugation.
Just as the Children of the Forest did not realize that creating the White Walkers would create a rogue enemy to challenge its existence, the founders of US foreign policy in Afghanistan did not realize that in spawning Islamic militancy with the primary aim of defeating the Soviet Union that they were risking sowing the seeds of a phenomenon that was likely to acquire a life of its own.