Cabinet minister Hilary Benn has declared that Britain will no longer use George Bush’s phrase “war on terror”.
Calling the war we’re in the “war on terror” has always been a bit clumsy and imprecise. But after 5 years of it, everyone knows what it means. Or, not.
“By letting them feel part of something bigger, we give them strength,” he said. He argued that it gave Islamic extremists — especially smaller fringe groups — a sense of “shared identity” that contradicted the reality of their disparate campaigns.
The terrorists’ disparate campaigns do have a common goal: Jihad. Jihad against the infidels is the motivation that drives the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, Fatah, the Taliban, etc. It’s the ideological basis of Iran’s Islamic Revolution and also fuels Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. So in that sense, “war on terror” is accurate. Or it would be, if we were actually taking all of those groups on. Which we’re not.
Still, if the British insist on dropping the “war on terror,” they could at least have picked a better setting to announce it:
In an advance text of a speech he is giving in New York, he confirmed for the first time that ministers and UK civil servants have decided to stop using the term.
It’s revolting and not the behavoir of an ally to make that announcement in New York. They ought to rethink both the decision and the venue. Or, in the case of Mr. Benn, he just ought to think. He misunderstands the war, whatever phrase you want to use to describe it.
“In the UK, we do not use the phrase ‘War on Terror’ because we can’t win by military means alone, and because this isn’t us against one organised enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives,” Mr Benn will say.
“It is the vast majority of the people in the world — of all nationalities and faiths — against a small number of loose, shifting and disparate groups who have relatively little in common apart from their identification with others who share their distorted view of the world and their idea of being part of something bigger.”
Riiight. It matters not that the jihad that stretches back to Mohammad and whose current round began with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, founder of Fatah and uncle of Yasser Arafat, went right through the latter and spread throughout the Middle East, allied itself with first the Nazis and then the Communists and now the mainstream left–whichever was the most convenient and useful ally at the time–is united by a shared set of strategies and goals. Or if it does matter, the politicians will pretend that it doesn’t as they halfheartedly fight the war that now has no name.
Next, they’ll tell us that it’s not even really a war.
Mr. Benn finishes with a joke:
Mr Benn will say more focus is needed on winning the battle of ideas rather than military force.
If you haven’t bothered to understand the ideas that unite the enemy, how can you hope to win the war of ideas? You’re fighting blind and unarmed.