Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Pandering to the Terrorist Menace

“Know your enemy and know yourself and in a hundred battles you will never be defeated” - Sun Tsu

Talk Politics cites this 2000 year old quotation from The Art of War in a weighty post which is definitely worth taking the time to read.

I just want to say a little bit about where I'm coming from before my little rant. Up until the start of the "war" on terror, I couldn't really have given a stuff about who was PM. I though Blair was just another politician, and if we had to have them, and it seems that we do, he appeared no worse than any other. I'm not affiliated to any political party. I vote Lib Dem, partly because I agree with many of their policies but mosty because I think two party systems tend to become, well, what we've got now. So not great then. A Fair Vote, that's what I want.

So, why am I constantly ranting about Blair? Why do I want him out on his pampered arse (via)? It's mostly for one simple reason. I understand a bit about counter-terrorism*. Blair, judging by every statement he's ever made on the "war" on terror, does not. On September 11th 2001, I, and every other decent human being, was shocked and horrified as I watched the images on TV. And I was scared, really scared. Not that it would happen to me (although H20 were staying in a hotel at the foot of the World Trade Center a year to the day before it happened). I was scared because times like these need courage, intelligence and integrity in our leaders. It takes a special kind of courage to defend us from such horrors, a kind of courage few possess. Courage to stand up and say that we will not change our way of life. Courage to resist the clamour for revenge which will almost certainly be counter-productive. Courage to confront the root causes, justified and unjustified, however ugly they may be, and to understand those causes.

Blair would like us to believe that the terrorists operate in a vacuum, that there is no outside context to to their actions. This is to misunderstand what terrorism is. Understanding the context must be the first priority in opposing terrorism, having a "war" with terrorism, or even just defining terrorism. This is the reason I'm so angry about the "war" on terror and our involvement in it. You cannot kill all the terrorists. The numbers game is meaningless if there's a steady stream of new recruits arriving from outside the vacuum. But Blair can't see beyond the vacuum so he doesn't get it. He's confused because he's killed so many of the buggers but there still seem an awful lot left. In fact, there seem to be more now than when we started killing them. He can't see what is becoming, due in part to his actions, a steady stream of new recruits. This idiocy is doomed to failure. The more we react in the way we have, the more the stream will grow, until it will eventually become a flood.

This vital understanding does not appear to have registered with our great leader. The important "battle" in the "war" on terror is not fought with the guns and bombs of the battlefield, but in the minds of the potential recruits. That's not to say it isn't important to chase down the ringleaders, and ideologists, it clearly is. We don't seem to be doing a great job of that either though.

But that is of secondary importance compared to the key battleground, the minds of potential recruits. Conventionally, terrorism is carried out by small groups of people who occupy an extreme position on a given issue. They use terrorism because their numbers are small. They hope to provoke a response from their "enemy" which will antagonise moderates in their own community to adopt a more extreme position and so boost their numbers. If this is successful, they carry out further attacks using their increased manpower, increasing the level of response, and so the circle continues. In the "war" on terror, Osama himself couldn't have planned our response better. The extremists are having a field day.

If you understand that you are fighting a battle inside people's heads, you wouldn't invade Iraq based on a claim later proved to be false. I think it's pretty appalling. Imagine how the potential recruit feels about it.

If you understand that you are fighting a battle inside people's heads, you wouldn't be party to US soldiers torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. I think that's shocking. Imagine how the potential recruit feels about it.

If you understand it, you wouldn't let our troops abuse prisoners in our custody. We are making it easy for the recruiters. There's probably a waiting list to join FFS.

I previously thought Blair was being frugal with the actuality (or what ever it was) but now I think he really doesn't understanding any of this. He genuinely doesn't seem to comprehend why the problem is worse now than it was three years ago. It's only going to get worse still unless we get a leader who understands where the important fight is taking place. Blair doesn't even acknowledge that he can see the battleground.

Just to demonstrate the complete lack of understanding Blair exhibits, have a look at this from an answer he gave in his monthly press conference.
When we actually have people going into the communities here in this country and elsewhere and saying I am sorry, we are not having any of this nonsense about it is to do with what the British are doing in Iraq or Afghanistan, or support for Israel, or support for America, or any of the rest of it. It is nonsense, and we have got to confront it as that. And when we confront it as that, then we will start to beat it.
In summary, I don't care what you think, your concerns are a nonsense. Here's what you're going to think from now on.

Is that going to help or hinder the battle for the mind of the potential recruit?
Just to be clear, I'm not talking about promising the return of the Caliphate here. What we need to do is isolate the extremists, whose number are still small, from their potential recruiting grounds. This takes far more courage than anything Blair has shown. It is not easy but it is the only way to win this "war". We do not help our cause when we invade Iraq, change our minds about why we did it after we'd done it, and then make a spectacularly bad job of the occupation. In this way, and others, we have lent credence to the extremists rhetoric and driven large numbers of new recruits into their open arms. Blair can never win this "war". He's fighting it in the wrong place.

*That's the strategies and politics of counter-terrorism, not the operational activities of the security services. An ex-girlfriend did say she thought I'd look good in a black balaclava though. We split up not long after actually, never did find out why...

No comments: