Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Straw Theory

Tonight, Jack Straw made an extended appearance on a Newsnight special in order to defend the government's position with regard to Iraq. He's got to be one of the least convincing politicians ever to have occupied a position of power. This appearance was poor, even by his standards and I'm sort of wondering whether he's realised that his political career is basically over. Perhaps this was the last hurray? Fingers crossed on that one.

Anyway, he had many wobbly straw moments but one of particular note came when he attempted to address the issue of whether invading Iraq has increased the threat of terrorist attacks in the UK.
Wibble. Not been advised, er actually I'm not discussing wibble. Those terrorists who organised what happened on July 7th, were organising that kind of terrorism well before we took military action in Iraq... Wibble.
[39mins in, sentence in bold is accurately transcribed]
Really? Is there any evidence of that? If so, it seems far less excusable that they were not caught before they carried out their murderous attacks. Of course it's not actually likely that Straw has anything to substantiate that claim. It's just one more stupid, misleading unsubstantiated statement in a long series of stupid misleading unsubstantiated statements.

The thing with this is that people take extreme views in both directions on this and neither extreme seems justified to me. Some people seem to believe that all recent Islamic extremism has been caused by the invasion and that's clearly a nonsense. Islamic extremism has deep and complex roots going back many years. And I can't say with any certainty whether the invasion of Iraq motivated the London bombers. I doubt anyone else can either.

On the other hand, some people would have us believe that the invasion cannot possibly have provoked an increase in terrorist activities. Well, that is obviously equally absurd (Aaronovitch, are you listening, you buffoon?). No arguments are ever presented to support this except "this terrorism existed before the invasion, it was already there, so we couldn't have made it worse". Right. It's like a nine fingered man with an axe, a pile of wood to be chopped and a bottle of whisky. He's already lost one finger therefore the axe cannot possibly be dangerous. Chop away my oddly digited drunken friend, it is entirely safe... oh, I'll go fetch some frozen peas. I don't know the technical term for this particular piece of flawed reasoning so I'll call it a neo-sequitur. It is, patently, just silly. Unfortunately, it is fatally so.

As I've said before, it's the apparent lack of understanding of terrorism underpinning these claims which really worries me. It seems that many people in the US and UK governments believe that defeating terrorism is about killing or capturing a finite number of "extremists" and that once we've got them all we'll be high and dry. In reality, you can't fight terrorists as if they were a normal military force. The "war" will always be about potential terrorist sympathisers and recruits. A "successful" terrorist group will always attempt to use any counter-terrorist measures deployed against it to recruit others to the cause. If these counter-terrorist measures are perceived as being heavy handed, indiscriminate, and unjustified then the extremists will be cooking with gas.

In some ways the current policy is akin to shooting every person who climbs out of one of those limos in a low budget slapstick comedy:
Hey, more ammo, I need more ammo over here. You know, I just don't get it. We keep killing them but they just keep on coming. How many of them are there in that thing...

Yeah, the thing is, new people are constantly climbing in from the other side, you dangerous morons!

Btw, about 2 mins in:
I happen to believe, however, that the judgements we made in Febuary and March 2003 were correct...
WTF? I almost can't believe he said that. There is no spoon.

No comments: