Sunday, July 02, 2006

The War on Terror

Well, it is a bit like voting for motherhood and apple pie as Americans would say..

Or is it?

Firstly terror is a technique of warfare, quite legitimate when for example you try to cause terror in enemy soldiers. It is part of breaking morale.

Terrorism, (which is what we are talking about here) is also a technique. As long as it exists in anyone's consciousness it can't be said to have been defeated. Besides which it clearly has worked in the past though those who have used it successfully are now re classified as "freedom fighters".

So in principle the nature of the rhetoric has made the war so wide that it can't be won, leading to perpetual war.

What we are actually talking about here however is fighting some extremist former employees of the United States, One Osama Bin Laden and company.

The fact that Bin Laden's groups were supported by the US and that Afghan Mujahadin took part in the liberation of Kuwait should cause concern. What things you do to win wars in the short term affect the next war you have to fight. We really do need to watch out who we get into bed with for short term gain, as it has an unfortunate habit of coming back to haunt us.

Well, is Osama or Al Qaida a military threat? No. He has not got either the bodies or the weapons to take us on head on. Yet. The threat is political, and when the threat is political so is the solution. I emphasise that because turning up on the wrong battle field with the wrong weapons is a sure fire way of guaranteeing defeat.

What do they want to achieve? Well opinions vary. Some think they want to from a large Muslim Califate covering the whole Muslim world quite possibly in the Wahabi tradition as opposed to the more progressive and enlightened ones that have made Islam one of the great religions of the world. I can tell you that at the moment that would go down like a rattle snake in a lucky dip in most of the Islamic world. Others think that they just want an end to the persecution of Muslims. The truth is of course that they want the former which will have the effect of persecuting most Muslims, particularly Shia Muslims who were persecuted by the Taleban in Afghanistan.

However some of their message does resonate with the wider Muslim community, in particular the desire to see any persecution of Muslims cease. (Surely that's like voting for motherhood and apply pie? Umm..)


How are they trying to achieve this? Well varying forms of terrorist activity around the world.

The aim has to be to weaken their opponents and gather new recruits, which, given their current tactics are very desperately needed.

So what do we do? Well, keep our heads, don't panic and learn the lessons of history.

What is Tony Blair's response?

Well, you keep hearing things like "Tough times require tough measures".

We need tough measures...

The problem is that tough times do not require tough measures they require intelligent ones that deal with the war being fought. Being on the right battle field with the right weapons.

The British Empire has used a whole panoply of tough measures to fight terrorism, insurgency and the like over hundreds of years. We have been very nasty to the Irish. Repressive measures just make the problem worse.

We tried internment in Northern Ireland in the 1970's and not only did it not work it made matters worse. It was a recruiting sergeant for the IRA.

Surveys show that the Muslim community is feeling increasingly picked on and victimised. This can only drive them into the hands of the extremist.

Government claims it needs these measures and also claims to have been advised they are necessary. We are also told that we face the greatest threat in our history, which shows a complete lack of historical understanding.

We also here that if we don't agree with these measures we are being "soft on terrorism" which is such a childish position to adopt it is risible.

Even if you could lock people up without trial it is only going to prevent terror if you lock the right people up. Even then, if you have not gone through due process of law, you will create sympathisers who will go on to commit other acts of terrorism.

If you are going to find the right people to lock up, you are going to need to resource the intelligence to find them. Locking up random people in the hope of deterring people will really not help.

If you have the resource to find the people, it seems to me to follow that you can get the evidence to convict. We are told that many operations have been disrupted. We are also told of lots of intelligence that say it is a case of when not if we will have one sort of attack or another.

Well, the security services scaled down their assessment of the threat just before the July the 7th bombings. Clearly the intelligence is no where near good enough. Spending vasts amounts of money on parliament giving propaganda to the enemy is no help.

Preventing terrorist attacks all comes down to resource, not what laws are on the statute books. It is true that you may need to fiddle with and modify the law in certain areas such as allowing intercept evidence in court, and being able to charge someone with withholding a password for an encrypted file whilst still being able to question the suspect. Both of these suggestions were put forward by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

The problem with these repressive laws is that they are a propaganda gift to the enemy. Never mind the fact that no one has been held for 28 days without charge yet, it won't matter.

Gifting the enemy the propaganda ammunition he needs is not being tough on terrorism or sending a "clear message" it is still giving him ammunition.

Guantanamo bay is also the most horrendous propaganda cock up in the history of counter terrorism as it is such a propaganda gift as to be unreal.

In order to meet this threat we do need to understand the battle field and the rules of this war, failing to do so will cost lives. It is to fought on the political and propaganda battlefields more than anywhere else.

Thought for the day on Iraq.

Was it really such a good idea to make half a million armed men unemplyed in one go?

1 comment:

david kelly said...

er... look, the houston-riyadh axis is omnipresent. get over it.

UK has never walked the walk with the US until the arrival of Tone. But its democratic institutions - including the army, but not foreign intelligence - p├žss on his head for his recent actions.

Time to make Scarlett walk the plank.

Or even better, arrange a rendezvous on Whitehall outside the banqueting hall.