UK Foreign Secretary Miliband: The War on Terror A "Mistake"
by Charles Lemos, Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 04:22:00 PM EST
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?