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Anorak | War On Terror

War On Terror

by | 19th, July 2006

WE live in a world of borderless war. This war has been joined by those who feel uncomfortable with a world at peace. The threat of perpetual conflict spreading across the globe cannot be underestimated. On one side you have military alliances in search of a unifying cause; on the other side you have an angry rabble of dispossessed easily misled by power-hungry clerics and demagogues.

Extremism has become a useful political label in a world where nation states no longer clash on battlefields because such a scale of destruction is unacceptable in a democracy. Extremists present shadowy targets that call for full deployment of military force and a state of war over a wide area, but don’t necessarily involve high casualties and unacceptable costs. Extremism and militancy, broadly defined, offer states a tangible target for an affordable form of warfare.

Lest we forget the way in which security threats can be manipulated and amplified for the purpose of state policy, in Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Agent” the bungling anarchist Verloc is hired by an unnamed European power to blow up the Greenwich Observatory and force Britain to into supporting tougher limits on political freedom. This diabolical premise, though fictitious, more than faintly echoes the host of conspiracy theories that have swirled around the current War on Terror since the attacks on New York and Washington DC in September 2001. Certainly the extremist threat, real as it may be, has been used as an excuse to curb freedoms and withhold legal rights. In the Middle East, the extremist card is played to deny those under occupation the right to resist, whilst elected representatives are arrested with impunity.

All this suggests that extremism has its strategic uses.

On the other side of the equation there are angry, misguided people who are persuaded to throw away their lives to blow up a roomful of wedding guests, or tourists at a beach-side restaurant. In a recently uncovered transcript from a computer belonging to one of the Indonesians who master-minded the Bali beach bombings of October last year, it was revealed that the young Muslim men sent to their deaths were asked to find places with the least security where the most foreigners congregated. If possible, they were asked to avoid killing Muslims. In the end, the majority of those killed were Indonesian. What does this tell us about the state of society?

Here then is another conspiracy—a conspiracy to mislead young frustrated idealists from the dusty slums and refugee camps on the margins. The aim is to provoke hatred and accelerate social upheaval. The vision is of a divided world. The people behind this conspiracy hate the West; they and their supporters regard the United States government as extremist for punishing the Taliban in Afghanistan and incarcerating hundreds of suspects in a remote prison camp on the island of Cuba without recourse to justice. And yet they are virtually in collusion with those in the West who benefit from a perpetual state of war.

Somewhere in the middle of all this there are the genuinely dispossessed who are turning to violence as a last resort to win their freedom. What was once called liberation struggle is today labeled terrorism—even when the so-called terrorists attack military targets. These people are trapped between states interested in amplifying and exploiting the terrorist threat and the lunatics who believe that liberation struggles are a useful way of achieving dogmatic goals. There are no more freedom fighters; there are only extremists and terrorists.

These new dynamics of global conflict are leading us towards social and military catastrophe. Firstly because the global war on terror precludes any form of negotiation to end conflict and therefore raises the prospect of the perpetual state of war envisioned by George Orwell in the world of 1984. Secondly, this conflict is breeding deep resentment and divisions in plural societies across Europe and Asia and threatening a political upheaval that could undo the stability of the past sixty years.

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Posted: 19th, July 2006 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink