Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Long War

Last week I decided to stop having a go at Harry's Place for a while. I'm not by nature a confrontational person and have no desire to be a troll. Nevertheless, I feel that this is worth challenging in a friendly fashion
The more I think about it, the more I believe the most devastating possible blow to Islamic extremism worldwide would be the overthrow of ruling regime in Iran by the people of Iran.
I think not. I've attempted to explain why in the comments to the post. Unity is equally unconvinced.

I've been reading some stuff about the Cold War this week. The US administration likes to draw parallels between the "war" on terror and the Cold War; they've recently started refering to to the current situation as the long war. (Yet another occassion when I can't help but say "1984 IS NOT an instruction manual, you scary people!")

As I've mentioned a number of times before, the Soviet Union was a nuclear armed superpower with the ability to basically destroy civilisation as we know it in an afternoon. Comparing that situation with the current one is a gross exaggeration which empowers terrorists by over-emphasising the threat they pose. Making people more scared of terrorists is one of the key goals of terrorists and our government's should not be trying to give them a hand. It is, in short, stupid and counter-productive.

One of the central themes which does tie the two situations together is the idea of a battle of ideologies. The Bush administration loves that. Going back to the Cold War, US governments consistently believed in the idea of a global communist plan to rule the world. Any communist uprising anywhere in the world was seen in this context above all others. The idea that any movement towards communism was essentially indigenous and related to the local situation was just not considered a significant factor. In fact, of course, it is now well known that there was no global communist conspiracy in the sense the US government believed at the time. Communists from different countries had their own views, their own beliefs, their own agendas, and it was often only the confrontational attitude of the West which held the communist alliances together.

This, I fear, is happening again today. Gene's assertion that the fall of the Iranian government would be a devastating blow to Islamic extremists worldwide misses the complexity of the situation. They're not all working together to promote a shared ideology as Bush and Blair like to claim. The idea that Chechen rebels, for example, are part of a global plot which seeks to impose a worldwide Ummah is just simplistic nonsense. The Chechens have specific local goals. They may well ally with other Islamic groups, but they do so first and foremost in order to further their own narrow agenda.

Misunderstanding this situation is a serious problem. First of all, it means that policy decisions are based on false assumptions and are, therefore, likely to be ineffective. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it is, in the long term, likely to become a self fulfilling prophesy; the various disparate groups which are wrongly considered to be part of a global alliance are much more likely to actually form that alliance if they're faced with a strong enemy who is determined to confront them based on accusations that they already are.

One of our key policies should be an attempt to make sure that the various extremist Islamic groups don't form a global alliance. We should not be forcing them into each others arms.

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