Friday, August 25, 2006

Fight them over...where?

Blair's foreign policy is now a threat to national security. So says a former adviser to the British Foreign Office. His central message, that Britain is not safer from the Iraq war. Instead, British foreign policy, particularly the Iraq war, has radicalized many Muslims in Britain, a phenomenon now increasingly on the rise. It's possible that it's happening here in Canada as well, as demonstrated by the Toronto group arrested this summer.

The "fight 'em over there so we don't have to fight 'em over here" rationale is challenged in this op-ed:
The standard riposte is to point out that al-Qaida's terrorist campaign against the west predated the military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, so cannot be blamed on them. That is obviously true, but it ignores the essential point. Potent though it was, before 9/11 al-Qaida drew its support from a fairly narrow base - mainly in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The effect of our foreign-policy miscalculations has been to expand that base to places where it was previously weak or almost nonexistent: not just Iraq and Pakistan, but also Britain, where an alarming number of young Muslims have come to view their country of birth as an enemy of their faith.

Britain was certainly a centre of Islamist extremism before 9/11 and the Iraq war. The presence of foreign clerics preaching violent jihad is something that could, and should, have been stamped out much earlier. But apart from the solitary case of the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, there is nothing to substantiate the idea that al-Qaida had established a meaningful presence among British Muslims. John Reid recently claimed that the first al-Qaida plot in the UK was identified in 2000. If so, it was not considered significant enough to feature prominently in the regular joint intelligence committee assessments of what was then called UBL (Usama Bin Laden).

Whatever the government may want us to believe, evidence suggests that the phenomenon of British-born Muslims willing to carry out suicide attacks at home postdates the Iraq war and has been inspired by it. As the intelligence and security committee noted this year: "The judgments of the JIC in 2002 suggest attacks against the UK were felt more likely ... to be conducted by terrorists entering from abroad than by British nationals resident in the UK. By early 2004 perceptions of the threat, and the threat itself, had changed."
The rallying cry used by Bush and Blair, "fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" is quickly becoming a quaint little notion of a time long passed, like, say, 2003 when the U.S. and Britain first launched the Iraq war. A more appropriate and updated version of the rallying cry: "now we have to fight them everywhere."

Something is clearly wrong with this strategy.