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12-09-06, 17:45
http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/in-search-of-one-enemy-for-the-west/2006/09/12/1157826938559.html

In search of one enemy for the West
Email Print Normal font Large font Scott Burchill
September 13, 2006

AdvertisementFIVE years after 9/11, the Howard Government is fully subscribed to "a global struggle against terrorism" that, according to Defence Minister Brendan Nelson, must be prosecuted around the world and will continue indefinitely.

The "war on terror" doesn't fit the normal pattern for global conflicts. It is not an existential threat to any state and cannot change the distribution of military power in the world. The West struggles to articulate clear criteria for victory in the war, while Islamists have no chance of achieving their aims and virtually no appeal in the West. Threats to civilians are likely to continue but, as events in Britain demonstrated recently, they are more likely to be thwarted by effective policing and intelligence than by invading armies.

So why does the Australian Government, following Washington's lead, present the past few years — and a never-ending future — as fronts in a "war on terror"?

States prefer to lead with their strongest suit, and in Washington's case it is unrivalled strategic power.

Military prowess, however, rarely translates into political success, but what else can you do with armed forces unsuited to fighting asymmetrical conflicts? After the mission was allegedly accomplished in Iraq, it became obvious that, despite a fetish for high technology, there are no military solutions to the political and social challenges the West faces in the Middle East and Central Asia. And yet still more soldiers are sent to Iraq.

The habit of imagining monolithic anti-Western conspiracies is apparently hard to break. By presenting a range of separate contemporary conflicts as aspects of a "global struggle against terrorism", Western governments have again misled their populations by deliberately conflating several unique and largely disconnected events.

The strategy isn't new. Immediately after the 2001 attacks, the Turks (against the Kurds), Israelis (the Palestinians), Russians (the Chechens), Colombians (rebels), and Chinese (the Uyghur) intensified their domestic conflicts on the retrospective pretext that they too were prosecuting the global war on terror. They weren't, but 9/11 gave them a licence to repress without uncomfortable questions being asked in the West.

Here is a brief sample of what is called the "war on terror", as if the West faces a common unified enemy:

In Palestine, the democratically elected Islamic Hamas Government resists Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and regular incursions into Gaza. Canberra and Washington condemn the means of resistance, including suicide bombings, but not the expanding Jewish settlements on Arab lands that prompt the resistance. The "road map" to peace has collapsed and Washington's credibility as an honest broker is in tatters. The wrong guys won the election.

In Iraq, the US-led occupation has turned the country into a locus of terrorism at a devastating cost to civilians. The much-anticipated sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites has begun, further immiserating a society we promised to liberate from tyranny. The incompetence of the occupiers has handed Iran a cost-free strategic victory of immeasurable value and the end of the war can't even be defined, let alone forecast

Despite the ugly rhetoric of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the West likes to cite, Iran has indicated broad support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. In June, the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, declared that "Iran shares a common view with Arab countries about the most important Islamic-Arabic issue, namely the issue of Palestine". That means that Iran accepts the Arab League position: normalisation of relations if Israel withdraws to the international border. Instead of exploring this opportunity, Washington is now trying to contain the nuclear proliferation it encouraged by branding Iran part of an "axis of evil" and invading Iraq.

Canberra and Washington's support for Israel's attack on Lebanon drove Sunni and Shiite Arabs together in a common anti-US and anti-Israel front, significantly boosting Hezbollah's appeal in Lebanon and across the Arab world. By backing Israel, the West undermined the newly democratic Government in Beirut it claimed to be supporting, and further unsettled pro-Western governments in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban is resurgent and more powerful than at any time since November 2001. Poppy production is back at record levels. Suicide bombing has begun. The cause is hopeless, the war has no end in sight, and the Western-backed Karzai Government can barely extend its influence beyond the suburbs of Kabul. Afghanistan was supposed to be the model for Iraq. In an unintended way, it now is.

Al-Qaeda is a methodology that inspires loosely affiliated but mostly autonomous imitators such as Jemaah Islamiah. To the extent that it ever was an organisation in a hierarchical sense, it is virtually finished.

Its appeal, however, is largely undiminished thanks to George Bush's reckless adventurism and Washington's abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Despite very different circumstances, motives, struggles and groups, we are told these events are all connected — part of a vast anti-Western plot that we must prosecute as a war. This is a grievous error that avoids the need to address each of these challenges separately using diplomacy, intelligence and law enforcement. The war against terror is a hoax.

Scott Burchill is senior lecturer in international relations at Deakin University.
In Iraq, the US-led occupation has turned the country into a locus of terrorism at a devastating cost to civilians. The much-anticipated sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites has begun, further immiserating a society we promised to liberate from tyranny. The incompetence of the occupiers has handed Iran a cost-free strategic victory of immeasurable value and the end of the war can't even be defined, let alone forecast

Despite the ugly rhetoric of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the West likes to cite, Iran has indicated broad support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. In June, the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, declared that "Iran shares a common view with Arab countries about the most important Islamic-Arabic issue, namely the issue of Palestine". That means that Iran accepts the Arab League position: normalisation of relations if Israel withdraws to the international border. Instead of exploring this opportunity, Washington is now trying to contain the nuclear proliferation it encouraged by branding Iran part of an "axis of evil" and invading Iraq.

Canberra and Washington's support for Israel's attack on Lebanon drove Sunni and Shiite Arabs together in a common anti-US and anti-Israel front, significantly boosting Hezbollah's appeal in Lebanon and across the Arab world. By backing Israel, the West undermined the newly democratic Government in Beirut it claimed to be supporting, and further unsettled pro-Western governments in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban is resurgent and more powerful than at any time since November 2001. Poppy production is back at record levels. Suicide bombing has begun. The cause is hopeless, the war has no end in sight, and the Western-backed Karzai Government can barely extend its influence beyond the suburbs of Kabul. Afghanistan was supposed to be the model for Iraq. In an unintended way, it now is.

Al-Qaeda is a methodology that inspires loosely affiliated but mostly autonomous imitators such as Jemaah Islamiah. To the extent that it ever was an organisation in a hierarchical sense, it is virtually finished.

Its appeal, however, is largely undiminished thanks to George Bush's reckless adventurism and Washington's abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Despite very different circumstances, motives, struggles and groups, we are told these events are all connected — part of a vast anti-Western plot that we must prosecute as a war. This is a grievous error that avoids the need to address each of these challenges separately using diplomacy, intelligence and law enforcement. The war against terror is a hoax.

Scott Burchill is senior lecturer in international relations at Deakin University.