UK Foreign Secretary Miliband: The War on Terror A "Mistake"

That the "war on terror" has been riddled with errors is self-evident but the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, is saying something far different. The Foreign Secretary is saying that the use of the "war on terror" as a western rallying cry since the September 11 attacks has been a mistake that may have caused "more harm than good". From the UK Guardian:

In an article in today's Guardian, five days before the Bush administration leaves the White House, Miliband delivers a comprehensive critique of its defining mission, saying the war on terror was misconceived and that the west cannot "kill its way" out of the threats it faces.

British officials quietly stopped using the phrase "war on terror" in 2006, but this is the first time it has been comprehensively discarded in the most outspoken remarks on US counterterrorism strategy to date by a British minister.

In remarks that will also be made in a speech today in Mumbai, in one of the hotels that was a target of terrorist attacks in November, the foreign secretary says the concept of a war on terror is "misleading and mistaken".

"Historians will judge whether it has done more harm than good," Miliband says, adding that, in his opinion, the whole strategy has been dangerously counterproductive, helping otherwise disparate groups find common cause against the west.

"The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common," Miliband argues, in a clear reference to the signature rhetoric of the Bush era. "We should expose their claim to a compelling and overarching explanation and narrative as the lie that it is."

"Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology," he says.

He argues that "the war on terror implied a belief that the correct response to the terrorist threat was primarily a military one - to track down and kill a hardcore of extremists". But he quotes an American commander, General David Petraeus, saying the western coalition in Iraq "could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife".

Instead of trying to build western solidarity against a shared enemy, Miliband argues it should be constructed instead on the "idea of who we are and the values we share".

He goes on to say that "democracies must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating. It is an argument he links directly with the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. "That is surely the lesson of Guantánamo and it is why we welcome president-elect Obama's clear commitment to close it."

The floor is yours for discussion but I'll note that the Foreign Secretary's statement dovetail nicely into Senator Clinton's comments yesterday on the use of "smart power." How do we proceed? Is the war on terror a failure or is it a mistake?

Tags: Bush Administration Failures, UK Foreign Secretary Miliband. War on Terror (all tags)


1 Comment

WOT was always a ridiculous notion

Waging war on terrorism is like engaging in sex to stop pregnancy -- it is a ridiculous notion.  Modern warfare generally leads to higher civilian casualties than military casualties. So modern warfare is a form of terrorism (and note that  "shock and awe" is explicitly terrorist in its formulation since its goal is to terrorize the opponent into submission). Torturing people is also a very direct form of terrorism.

But more broadly: the whole idea that you can stop terrorism by killing people is ridiculous. Terrorism is a tactic used by relatively powerless people against militarily powerful people/nations. The powerless people are usually motivated to use terrorism because they feel they are violently oppressed and terrorism is their only way to respond. Trying to suppress them using violence just makes more people feel that they are violently oppressed, causing more of them to turn to terrorist tactics. Military suppression encourages terrorism.

The solution to terrorism is the same as the solution for ending all forms of violence: justice and fairly applied law enforced by authorities in just and fair ways. The genius of the American constitution is that it set up a structure for ensuring justice and fair law (in contrast to law based on the whims of monarchs or the power of the elite). One of the biggest tragedies of the past 8 years has been the blatant undermining of justice and fair law in the name of "stopping terrorists". This has undermined the most critical ethical values of our society and diminished our country to the stature of just another bully with a powerful military force.

by RandomNonviolence 2009-01-14 04:55PM | 0 recs


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