Skip to main content

Fools Rush In

The attacks against the innocent in Paris of course spur a deep compassion for those who have suffered and a righteous anger against those who planned this disgusting act of reckless violence.

However, the inevitable call for immediate and violent retribution is giving me some pause. The fact is that with clear hindsight, the response to the attacks of September 11th 2001 was not necessarily the right one, in that the goal of eliminating terrorism was not in fact achieved, indeed the threat of terror has grown, even as the war on terror reaches new heights of violence. It is not that the West should do nothing in response to this outrage, but given the escalation of violence against ISIS is so predictable in the wake of these attacks, we should beware of being manipulated by the ruthless and reckless men behind this Islamic death cult.

More to the point, there may be a yet greater conspiracy. There is a clear connection between the Chechens and the emergence of ISIS, and Chechens hold some of the most senior positions in the organisation. The fact is that Western analysts are still disputing precisely what ISIS is and what the exact nature of the threat is.

That there is a threat is obvious. The barbaric, irrational thuggery unleashed on Iraq and Syria is intolerable to anyone who holds the Western values of rational, sceptical tolerance. This death cult- a bizarre mixture of suicide and murder- offers no room for compromise, the snake must be de-fanged or the poison will challenge every aspect of our open societies.

The military defeat of ISIS, as with the Taliban in Afghanistan, is probably a necessary condition to end the threat, but it is not the only precondition and possibly not even the most important. The challenge is not merely to defeat this particular manifestation of religious bigotry, but to establish a social environment where there is simply no attraction in the nihilism dressed as religious fulfilment that it represents. 

The Islamic world is convulsed with injustice and poverty. Despotic governments disguise their weakness with repression and the convenient scapegoating of their political enemies, whether liberals or religious fascists. For as long as this remains the case the attraction of rebellion, even of the vile barbarism of ISIS, will remain.

Neither will opening Europe's borders to refugees from the Middle East work- and may irrevocably change both European and Arab societies in a way that currently seems outrageous. In any event those who have fled would surely have preferred to stay peacefully in their homes- if they could.

Air strikes- a relatively safe way to inflict damage at a distance- will not, I predict, be sufficient to defeat ISIS. It will require -as in Afghanistan- boots on the ground. However, as we know such operations carry great risks and may not achieve their principal objectives. Neither is a long-term neo-colonialism likely to be too popular either in the West or in the Arab world. Yet realistically it is easy to see how we could be sucked into such a bitter quagmire. It may even be the least worst policy.

So, as the burning calls for revenge and an escalation of the violence echo across the front pages, it seems to me that the leaders of the West must now do a lot more hard thinking as to how to defeat this death cult. The West must establish clear, long term strategic goals and stop the short term reactive think that has characterized the response to the crisis in the Arab and Islamic world so far.

Otherwise the bitter lessons of GW Bush's failed "War on terror" will need to be relearned. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Post Truth and Justice

The past decade has seen the rise of so-called "post truth" politics.  Instead of mere misrepresentation of facts to serve an argument, political figures began to put forward arguments which denied easily provable facts, and then blustered and browbeat those who pointed out the lie.  The political class was able to get away with "post truth" positions because the infrastructure that reported their activity has been suborned directly into the process. In short, the media abandoned long-cherished traditions of objectivity and began a slow slide into undeclared bias and partisanship.  The "fourth estate" was always a key piece of how democratic societies worked, since the press, and later the broadcast media could shape opinion by the way they reported on the political process. As a result there has never been a golden age of objective media, but nevertheless individual reporters acquired better or worse reputations for the quality of their reporting and

We need to talk about UK corruption

After a long hiatus, mostly to do with indolence and partly to do with the general election campaign, I feel compelled to take up the metaphorical pen and make a few comments on where I see the situation of the UK in the aftermath of the "Brexit election". OK, so we lost.  We can blame many reasons, though fundamentally the Conservatives refused to make the mistakes of 2017 and Labour and especially the Liberal Democrats made every mistake that could be made.  Indeed the biggest mistake of all was allowing Johnson to hold the election at all, when another six months would probably have eaten the Conservative Party alive.  It was Jo Swinson's first, but perhaps most critical, mistake to make, and from it came all the others.  The flow of defectors and money persuaded the Liberal Democrat bunker that an election could only be better for the Lib Dems, and as far as votes were concerned, the party did indeed increase its vote by 1.3 million.   BUT, and it really is the bi

Breaking the Brexit logjam

The fundamental problem of Brexit has not been that the UK voted to leave the European Union. The problem has been the fact that the vote was hijacked by ignorant, grandstanding fools who interpreted the vote as a will to sever all and every link between the UK and the European Union. That was then and is now a catastrophic policy. To default to WTO rules, when any member of the WTO could stop that policy was a recipe for the UK to be held hostage by any state with an act to grind against us. A crash out from the EU, without any structure to cope, was an act of recklessness that should disqualify anyone advocating it from any position of power whatsoever. That is now the most likely option because the Conservative leadership, abetted by the cowardly extremism of Corbyn, neither understood the scale of the crisis, now had any vision of how to tackle it. Theresa May is a weak and hapless Prime Minster, and her problems started when she failed to realize that there was a compromise that