Tuesday, July 12, 2005

You reckon so? 

A must read of the day, the latest column by David Aaronovitch in the London "Times": "'If we don't provoke them, maybe they will leave us alone.' You reckon so?"

Aaronovitch goes on a gentle rampage trashing one leftie canard after another, starting with the hypocrisy of people who today claim that involvement in Iraq has distracted us from hunting terrorists in Afghanistan, but who three years ago were against invasion of Afghanistan in the first place, because it would inflame Muslim opinion.

He them reminds us how long and wide-ranging the latest jihad has been, and how little of it has had to do with Iraq or Afghanistan. "If they aren't blowing us up, then they'll be blowing up someone else," writes Aaronovitch. "And you don't get to choose who. Secondly, who or what they blow up is largely a matter of what's available. Jews anywhere, Americans after that, Shia next and Brits probably a distant fourth. Africans for fun."

Then onto "the war on Iraq as a recruiter for terror" meme: "On Sunday night's Panorama it was reported that new jihadis all over Europe are being turned on by snuff videos shot in Iraq. It was suggested that this was evidence for the contention that Iraq was inflaming would-be bombers. But back in 2001, I recall, they were being similarly aroused by material shot in Algeria and during the war against the Russians in Afghanistan. You have to ask about what kind of person sees a film of a hostage being beheaded, and wants to do the same thing. The explanation may be psychological, psychosexual, ideological even, but it doesn't seem to me to be political. If someone is getting their jollies from fantasising about cutting throats, I don't think geopolitics is the problem."

Before finally addressing the argument from the title of his piece, using Bosnia as an example of the "head in the sand/let's not get involved in other people's quarrels"” mentality in action. Guess what, Muslim radical have used the West's initial inaction as another pretext for their hatred. With some people you just can't win - which I guess is the proposition that so many critics of war can't seem to understand.

Aaronovitch is a former communist youth leader, apparently a point of great interest to people like Justin Raimondo. I don't know whether Aaronovitch considers himself a neo-con, as Raimondo tags him (or "Blairite neocon", to be exact) - personally I doubt it - but all the name calling serves a good didactic point: I think it is precisely because so many of the neo-cons have started off their political involvement on the extreme left that they have a very firm understanding of totalitarian mentality and totalitarian politics and can therefore see very clearly who the Islamofascist enemy is and what he is up to (as Australian literary legend Peter Coleman wrote recently about Christopher Hitchens, "he remains, not Trotskyite but Trotskisant: he is still a fighter for the permanent revolution, but now it is the democratic one"), while other learned commentators only blabber on that if only we would withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan "they" will leave us alone.

Take Tariq Ali - unlike Aaronovitch, an unreconstructed commie - who writes "The real solution lies in immediately ending the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine." Fair enough, deep down most people in the West probably don't care if Iraq suffers under Baathists and Afghanistan under the Taliban, the condition that Ali was quite happy to see perpetuated; hell, many people probably couldn't care about the Jews either, but are we really happy to sacrifice Israel to appease the jihadis? Because make no mistake, Al Qaeda - to the extent it really cares about the Isreali/Palestinian conflict - is not after a two-state solution but the second Holocaust. So are we going to let them do it, because as long as we support Israel's right to existence we will be a terrorist target?

Al Qaeda is not a national liberation movement. IRA wanted united Ireland, ETA an independent Basque state; PLO wanted a Palestinian state (not in addition to the Jewish state but instead of the Jewish state, but still, however untenable, its demands were limited in a political sense). Al Qaeda wants to remove all the Western influence from the Muslim world so it can rebuild the Caliphate and eventually launch the final war global against the infidels.

Thus, its aims are open-ended and unlimited. Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are excuses, propaganda tools and tactical objectives. And the point is that the list in unlimited because the West is such a dominant geo-political entity that whatever it does or doesn't do will always be used against it. Today it's Iraq and Afghanistan, yesterday it was US troops in Saudi Arabia and sanctions against Iraq, the day before peacekeeping in Somalia and Beirut or inaction in the Balkans. Or East Timor, or Spain, or the Crusades. Or something else.

So does the American presence in Iraq inflame some Muslims? I'm sure it does, but if it wasn't Iraq it would be something else. If you are susceptible to the logic of a perpetual conflict between Dar Al Islam and Dar Al Harb, which happens to be Al Qaeda's guiding philosophy, you will always find some excuse to go out and blow yourself up. Yes, there might be some Islamic single-issue radicals who would give up the war if the Coalition pulled out of Iraq or if the Palestinians got their own state, but the critics simply won't accept that there are plenty more who will still hate us, as the cliche goes, not for what we do but for who we are - because we're infidels.

Seventy years ago there were also many who thought that Hitler had limited aims. It was all about reclaiming the Ruhr. Then about Austria. And Sudentenland. Then the rest of Czechoslovakia. Then Danzig. And the Polish corridor. We didn't get to find out how many more strategic and limited objectives Hitler had had that we could have compromised on because at that point inconveniently the war happened and most people eventually realized that Hitler really meant what he said – Europe first, then the world.

Inability to conceptualized the continuing existence in the world today of totalitarian philosophies - with their total, non-negotiable aims - is the greatest failing of the critics of war on terror, both on the left and the right.


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