Double standards on terror

Leader article

The Editor
The Daily Telegraph
26 Sep 2001 E-Mail this page to a friend

This was one of the first articles I added to the site back in 2001. It is still interesting to read how the press reacted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. I've now added the functionality to rate this article as well as to comment on it. Please feel free to do so. No registration is required.

TONY BLAIR is playing the role of a lifetime. He is a perpetual motion machine - crossing continents, forging coalitions, exhorting soldiers and policemen, and recalling Parliament for a second time.

... glaring contradiction between the Government's response to Islamist terrorism in America and its indulgence of Irish terrorism at home...

Yesterday, he indicated that military action is now imminent. He has done well in preparing people for the struggle ahead. Yet for all the action, something is missing. "Your face is so strong," says the Prussian premier to the great actor in Klaus Mann's novel, Mephisto. "But your hand is so weak." The Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, expressed a similar thought in this newspaper on Monday.

He spoke for many Britons when he identified the glaring contradiction between the Government's robust response to Islamist terrorism in America and its indulgence of Irish republican terrorism at home. The Prime Minister is strong when acting as part of an international coalition, but less convincing in an arena where British heads of government find themselves bearing the ultimate responsibility.

But are Mr Trimble and others right to discern so sharp a disjunction between the Government's two apparently differing approaches? At a military level, the idea holds true, but, at the political level, it looks increasingly unsustainable.

...Sinn Fein/IRA succeeded in wringing out huge concessions...

The common thread between the Government's approach to Northern Ireland and the Middle East is its willingness to accord terrorists and terrorist states substantial measures of recognition before they have forsworn their murderous methods. Sinn Fein/IRA were allowed into the Northern Ireland Executive even as they declined to decommission their arsenal and continued to pursue a recalibrated version of the "Armalite and ballot box" strategy.

They were supposed to act as a bulwark against "dissident" republicans. But in the process, Sinn Fein/IRA succeeded in wringing huge concessions out of the Government at the expense of Ulster's democratic majority. Likewise, the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has indulged Iran in the hope that it will be an ally in the anti-Taliban coalition. But he has done so without a reciprocal guarantee of an end to its sponsorship of terrorism. Indeed, other terrorist states, such as Syria, are being pursued no less ardently behind the scenes, very possibly at the expense of the only democracy in the region, Israel.

The question now is what price will be extracted by the barbarians...

But there is another connecting theme between the Government's approach to the Middle East and Northern Ireland. It has echoes of the best known of the Blairite mantras - "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" - and is perhaps the sole surviving residue of New Leftism in the Government's ideology. This is the notion that unjust political and socio-economic dispensations are breeding grounds of terrorism (which is true) and that the terrorists' analysis of the injustice is fundamentally correct (which is usually untrue). Thus, on Monday, Mr Straw pinned part of the blame for terrorism on "events in Palestine" (sic) and Peter Mandelson has spoken of the need to address the underlying causes of the Arab-Israeli dispute.

Similarly, a Foreign Office minister, Peter Hain, told an audience in India on November 20 last year that "the [Protestant] majority in the North [sic] ruled oppressively and denied the Catholic minority basic human rights which it felt could therefore be achieved only by reunification with the independent Irish state in the south, an objective which some nationalists pursued by terrorism". Mr Hain's analysis of the Ulster question differs little from that of the Prime Minister, as enunciated in his Stranmillis speech of June 14, 1999. In all these examples, ministers are extending understanding to campaigns of armed struggle. Their solution is a mixture of security measures combined with political concessions to make it worthwhile for "moderates" - a term that is increasingly generously defined - to play, in some measure, by the rulebook.

The Government's hope is that it will be able, after the fashion of the ancient Chinese, to use "erstwhile" barbarians to control other, very much current, barbarians. The question now is what price will be extracted by the barbarians.

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Previous Visitor Comments

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In order to subvert the Constitution and form a soicsliat country, the people had to be scared enough to agree. Global warming was a convenient tool to do this. Interesting though that with ten years of global cooling, they are still trying. Correction: it was real (although only in the northern hemisphere). The Earth has been generally warming since the Little Ice Age of the 1700s but the cycle has now ended. Terrorism is see by them as a reaction to the capitalist USA so they believe it will go away once the USA becomes soicsliat (despite all the terrorist attacks in Europe).

NOAlthough you don’t expect an eniaaxltpon, the NO is not a perfect NO.As far as Pakistan supported terrorists (may be pakistan supported, or home grown, externally funded) it is not a significant issue. Although this threat exists throughout India, the presence of the word significant made me answer with a no.Naxal threat, first of all I don’t like to call it terrorism but rather choose the phrase social issue . Its one of the very significant issues which should be looked in more depth and whoever comes to power should have a proper policy defined towards the issue. I grew up in Shimoga district and I’ve seen how the social system works in malnad region (although I was not competent enough at that time to know it in detail). Today if there are people who enter the forests to group themselves and plan an armed attack, then definitely its matter of significant concern. These people are not motivated by religious radical thoughts but its the struggle to live and a rebellion against the system which could not bring social justice.

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Iíve now added the comment and voting functionality to this old page as well. So, please feel free to join the debate - the issue is as relevant today as it had been a decade ago. Probably now even more so!

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