The war on terror, and the absence of evidence based strategy…

smart bomb

By the time you read this, we will probably be bombing Syria. The war rhetoric is almost impossible to counter, because it is not based on rational analysis of evidence, or even of recent history. It is significant that if any history is mentioned, we go back to just one date; 1939. We invoke the myth of appeasement and the wisdom of that old war monger, Winston Churchill.

In the face of violence and fear, something must be done. Preferably something that is clean and clinical, with all bloodshed exported and outsourced.

George Monbiot quoted from this study in the Guardian today, which makes some staggering points about just how ill considered our death dealing has become. Of the 11 military adventures the researchers analysed, they found that five had no discernible impacts on subsequent terrorism. Six were followed by more terrorism than there had been before. This means that if our main objective in making ‘war on terror’ is to reduce the risk of terror attacks, then we are fighting a losing battle.

In the wake of the attacks on the twin towers, following a side show attack in Afghanistan (on the basis of some justification, but again very little strategy or awareness of history) the arguments were stacking up for an invasion of Iraq. There was huge effort to convince the public of the reason they should be fearful of the totally fictitious weapons of mass destruction that were pointed at each and every one of us. However there was very little understanding of the likely consequences of military action waged by a hated superpower against those who already saw themselves as being victimised by ‘The great Satan’.

There were other voices of course. At the time they were often dismissed as left wing lunatics or (as Cameron would have it now) ‘Terrorist sympathisers’. Remember this from 1992? (Notice the man sitting over his shoulder on the back row.)

Benn warned before the invasion that it would end in hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths and an increase in terror attacks. No one believed him.

It is always worth remembering that if it were not for the invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent imprisonment of thousands of young militants in prison camps, there would be no ISIS. This article is worth reading as a description of just how important American run prisons were in the formation of the organisation and the motivation of members.

The question is, if these military interventions are not based on thoughtful engagement with fact, or understanding of history, why are so many convinced that they are necessary? What does motivate those who are seeking war? I am not a conspiracy theorist and so I am not prepared to suggest that the desire for war is entirely about control of oil resources, or a secret plot to distract us all from some dastardly political design.

Perhaps some feel that evil has to be confronted directly. If so we are very selective in our confrontations- yesterday’s hero soon becomes the villain of today- think the Mujaheddin of Afghanistan.

Perhaps others want to hit back at the perceived source of violence and  fear that assails them- after all, it has become normal to bomb these far off points- NOT to bomb almost seems neglectful of government responsibilities.

There is also a hang over from imperialist thinking that would suggest that Britain has to be in the fight, otherwise we will lose power, status, influence. Almost as if war is a measure of power.

Finally there is the fetishization of weapons and weaponry. How proudly we heard of the uniqueness of our war machines, in particular, our ‘Brimstone’ missiles that range down, god-like, to smite the evil below.

Cameron’s speech in the debate today was described as an ‘impassioned plea’ for air strikes. Corbyn was recorded as saying that Cameron had ‘failed to make the case’. Passion for war makes me shudder. Let us have some more reasoned humanity please…

2 thoughts on “The war on terror, and the absence of evidence based strategy…

  1. Chris
    I read your post with a heavy heart – I agree with everything you have said, and feel completely baffled by Hilary Benn’s performance in the House last night (I watched his whole speech on the BBC website this morning). I did have a lot of respect for him (and still do) but I am on his father’s side in terms of the arguments. I wonder if you would like to send this post of yours to Hilary Benn? What also pains me is Jeremy Corbyn’s speech – even though I am on his side, I am desperately disappointed by the absence of “liveliness” in his contribution…. The one (ex)leader that has impressed me is the Greens’ Caroline Lucas. Why hasn’t British democracy produced better leaders than what we have got….?

    • Hi Chin- I too watched Benn Junior’s spech, wondering all the time what on earth was fueling his evident passion. What principle was he defending? All those cheers from the other side of the house might yet come back to haunt him. And yet he may just have set himself on a rising trajectory. I have not listened to what Corbyn had to say, but I do not think his gift is revealed in his speech making.

      As for where are the other leaders- where indeed?! I suspect this has something to do with the evolution of a political class, raised up from tribal camps who go straight into politics from university, via a stint as a political advisor . Politics then becomes endlessly self referential and increasingly pointless.

      The reporting of it is interesting too however as all of this is being described as ‘Labour in chaos’, whereas it actually looks to me like democracy SHOULD look like rather than the stage managed spin doctored bile that we have become used to. Let us have disagreement and let it be right out in the open.

      Where we go from here though, does probably require political leadership and for this we can only wait in hope…

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