Monday, August 07, 2006

The Pro-Active Warriors

Before I say anything else, let me just stress that no-one really believes that Islamic extremism didn't exist before the start of the "war" on terror. It clearly did. That I've even felt the need to make this statement says something about the level of debate which exists around this "war". Anyway what I want to talk about is what's happened since it was launched.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the "war" on terror is its self-fulfilling nature. Actions which have been undertaken to "defeat this terrorism" are actually adding credibility to extremist claims that the West is indeed determined to wage war on Muslims. The British and American government's refusal to call a halt to the IDF's assault on Lebanese Muslims is the latest bloody example.

The growing perception that the West is waging a war on Muslims is causing increased hostility towards the US and UK government's and a corresponding increase in the number of people willing to participate in violent action which they perceive to be in defence of the Muslim world. As this wave of radicalisation becomes visible, it is then used as a further justification for the "war" on terror and so the circle of violence continues.

A new poll of Muslim opinion in the UK will further entrench support for the "war" on terror among its advocates. Their reaction to the poll and their increasingly hostile criticisms of Islam itself as the root cause of the problem, will then further entrench the perception that Islam is under attack. It's enough to make a person dizzy.

For many observers, me included, the self-fulfilling nature of the "war" on terror is so obvious that it raises questions concerning the real motives and goals of the leaders who advocate it. Are they in fact, in true Orwellian style, intentionally looking to perpetuate permanent conflict in order to maintain control over their populations?

Or, are they willing tools of the Military-Industrial Complex? (As usual, I'll point out that the first warning of the corrosive influence of the MIC was issued by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It is certainly not a leftist conspiracy theory.) After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the MIC desperately needed a new global enemy in order to sustain their bloated Cold War budgets. The "war" on drugs turned out to be something of a damp squib in that regard. Is the self-fulfilling "war" on terror a cynical means to create a replacement for the Soviets? Is it a policy specifically designed to manufacture a new bogeyman which can then be used to justify and maintain the grotesque sums of money transferred from the taxpayer to the merchants of the machinery of death?

In the case of the actual leaders of the US and the UK, I tend to believe that they are not so deliberately cynical. As John Kampfner puts it "I tried to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt, until I realised... how simplistic and impressionable he was" (link via this excellent Bloggerheads post). It seems to me that Bush and Blair are simplistic and impressionable to the point where they actually do believe in the rhetoric of the "war" on terror. This is frightening in a slightly different way but it's frightening all the same.

It is frightening because I believe they are being manipulated. They are being manipulated by the sort of people who created The Project for a New American Century. The sort of people who wrote this in 2000 (Pdf, marked page 50):
Creating Tomorrow's Dominant Force

To preserve American military preeminence in the coming decades, the Department of Defense must move more aggressively to experiment with new technologies and operational concepts, and seek to exploit the emerging revolution in military affairs.
How exactly would you "move more aggressively to experiment with new technologies and operational concepts" in the absence of any real threat to US national security? Well, you could do it by launching aggressive wars of choice and by seeking to provoke new enemies in order to further the scope for experimentation.

Of course, any talk of the PNAC means that the following, from the same document, must also be raised (it's in the "How to be a Leftist Traitor" handbook y'see):
[T]he process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.
Ah, you can almost taste the longing.

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding surrounding this infamous quotation. I blame Michael Moore. The opinion poll linked above suggests that nearly fifty percent of British Muslims believe that the 2001 attacks were "a conspiracy between the US and Israel". Given what has happened since, it is perhaps not altogether surprising that this should be the case but it is not a view I ascribe to at all. For the record, the above quotation in no way suggests to me that the US government was in any way complicit in the 9/11 attacks. Please step away from the tin foil hat...

What it does suggest is that influential figures in the US administration believed that a Pearl Harbour type attack on American interests could be used to manipulate US public opinion into supporting their policies and that it would be strategically beneficial to the US in the longer term. So when it came, it was like a birthday present. The neo-cons considered those attacks first and foremost as an opportunity to be exploited.

And exploiting the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in order to promote their own policy of perpetual, overwhelming, global US military dominance is what they've been doing ever since. To do that, they need an enemy. Bin Laden is not the only one who wants to provoke a clash of civilisations. Here are some others, all founding members of the PNAC:
Elliott Abrams, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Dan Quayle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz.
These people, theoretically, should only be able to influence US policy but Blair's decision to allow the Bush administration to run UK foreign policy means that they are manipulating him too. And their vision for 21st Century, a vision in which American military preeminence must be preserved at all costs, is not so very different from Oceania's society of perpetual war.

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Jherad said...

I've started to wonder if there might be more to our Middle East policy than I originally thought - though I don't believe it to be down to the MIC (well, not completely anyway - I'm sure they give things a big push!).

So many people question why we are headed down the road that we are - towards a seemingly inevitable escalation of conflict between Islamic states and the west. Could it be that this was obvious to more than just the lefties?

Putting my tin-foil hat ON for a moment - it seems that one tenet of neoconservatism, intervention in order to further democracy abroad, and therefore security at home, needs an excuse. Even Iraq, with the heinous Saddam Hussein dictator in power, needed an excuse to be invaded.

What better reason than hostility from pretty much every country in the middle east? Ok, perhaps they were goaded into hostility *slightly*, but let's not dwell on the past - we need to ensure our security now! Perhaps not a completely conscious decision, but I struggle to understand how politicians keep making decisions in the name of peace and security when the effects would so obviously be quite opposite to their goals.

Ok, tinfoil hat off again. I keep coming back to 'stupid vs conspiracy' (whether it be worldwide intervention, or the MIC). Hanlon's Razor says - 'Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity' - but are we talking about malice? Or 'good intentions?'

Mark said...

In just about every other field of endeavour, when you become too stupid to function, they sack you. Apparently that's just a starting point for politics.

If the plan is as you describe, and it very well could be, it has been a rousing polar opposite of success. Every bloody day the carnage in Lebanon drags on, the governments of regional neighbours are forced to be more accommodating of Hezbollah or be driven from office.

If that were to happen, the aim of deposing current leaders would be realised (stupid, since they are unlikely to find anyone more pro-Western than the House of Saud, for example), but the likelihood that the suceeding government would be a democratic friend of the West must be somewhere between zero and nil point zip.