Monday, 27 May 2013

War on Terror: Time to surrender?

With the latent terror threat facing the country having been brought into sickeningly sharp focus this week by the murder of Lee Rigby, is it time to question our inclusion in any overseas campaigns capable of causing blood to be spilled on pavements back home?

Amid the groundswell of public support for our servicemen and women that perhaps epitomises the finer features of our national character, David Cameron was at pains to point out that the way to truly counter terrorism is to carry on regardless. After all, if the aim of terrorism is to engender fear, then the combative reaction would be to proudly portray that it’s just business as usual. This may indeed send the message that Britain will not bow to an extremist agenda, yet it smacks a little of rationalising inactivity, and was received as such by many twitterers, bloggers and chat-room cloggers.

Inaction may be an option the Coalition can ill afford. With voters veering away to UKIP and even murmurs of malcontent beneath the front benches, the real “swivel-eyed loons” may be those who fail to factor in the mood music beyond Westminster. And you certainly can’t hear it from Ibiza.

Amid the tributes, of course, fell the predictable backlash. The Faith Matters helpline have received over 160 reports of anti-Muslim incidents since Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered, according to the BBC, up from a normal daily average of just six. Whilst ignorant and indefensible, these attacks represent a potent but poorly articulated statement of frustration that is unlikely to be appeased by a Prime Minister sunning himself on a Spanish island. Yes, we have Blackberries and the internet, so he isn’t out of signal, but worse perhaps would be out of touch.

Speaking on Sky News, before packing his sandals and sunscreen, David Cameron said; “We will never give in to terror, or terrorism, in any of its forms." Robust rhetoric, but what is the point of a stiff upper lip, if you keep getting a bloody nose?

The chilling comments of Lee Rigby’s alleged assailant show the scale of a situation that might be better side-stepped than confronted. Explaining his actions to local Cub Scout leader Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, in the aftermath of the attack, Michael Adebolajo directly cited British foreign policy, specifically the killing of “Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

If the motivation for our meddling was preventing breeding grounds for terrorism, and so keeping our streets safe back home, then the death of Lee Rigby is a cruel reminder of its abject failure.

Overseas intervention in Iraq cost the UK over £8 billion, Afghanistan looks like nearer £20 billion. The so-called 'War on Terror' has been a truly cross-party cock-up. When Tony Blair stood ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with George Bush after 9/11, a great big target rubbed off onto all of us. Then David Cameron took office, announcing his foreign policy priorities as; “Afghanistan, Afghanistan, Afghanistan.” He has failed on all three.

Islamic extremism has been a ticking time-bomb for years. Instead of committing billions of pounds, and countless lives, in the fruitless pursuit of diffusing it, perhaps the most responsible line of defence from our leaders would be to remove the reasons we have become a target?  

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