A twenty year war against terror

Mr Blair in his closing months seems to take a delight in telling us we are sentenced to a war against terrorists which will last a generation.

After the mess in Iraq, isn’t it time for a reappraisal of this war? What does he have in mind for the next twenty years? Is he suggesting we need to invade more countries that might be harbouring terrorists, just as he ordered the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? Does he still think that is the right way to tackle suicide bombers? Isn’t that what he is implying by his wish to have "a debate" on our armed forces, in support of his view that we need the capability to intervene overseas?

I helped and then belonged to a government that had to deal with a prolonged terrorist campaign by Irish terrorists.Many of them were from the Republic of Ireland or assisted by people living in??the Republic. No-one dealing with that problem in the Conservative government??imagined that bombing Dublin or invading Ireland would be the way to tackle those difficulties. Two different approaches were tried.

The first was to try to arrest all the leading figures responsible for the illegal acts and prosecute them. Whenever normal judicial process was?? modified or suspended to make that task easier there were more problems as it gave the terrorists cause a boost.

The second was to negotiate with all parties, including those using violence, to see if a political solution could be found.

Mr Blair has followed the same course with Northern Ireland, relying mainly on negotiation.

If he is to sustain his view that we need to fight a 20 year war against terror, he needs to tell us more about who he thinks the enemy is, where they are fighting, and what they might do next. He then needs to explain how he intends to prosecute his war against them. Does he still believe regime change in the Middle East is the main answer?

What??is this government going to do about policing our borders, to make it more difficult for potential terrorists to enter the country?

What is he going to do about foreign visitors to this country found guilty of terrorist offences? Will they be deported after a time in prison? Could they in some cases be deported instead of being put in prison?

What is he doing to monitor and control seminaries for terrorism at home and abroad?

Does the government now agree that Guantanamo Bay was a bad idea, suspending judicial process when suspected terrorists should have been prosecuted?

If a Prime Minister wishes to lead a country into a twenty years war, he needs to tell us who the enemy is, why it matters to defeat them, and how we can defeat them. We can all see the need to prevent future terrorist attacks here int he UK, but many of us cannot see that Mr Blair yet has a winning policy for dealing with it.

Maybe Mr Brown takes a different view on this. It would be useful to hear from him on whether he wishes to spend his time as Prime Minister prosecuting the "war on terror" which has become Mr Blair’s main preoccuaption. We certainly need to know what the objectives of the war are, and what typre of battles we will have to fight to bring it to a successful conclusion. Why will it take 20 years, and how do we know we will win after such a long war?

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2 Comments

  1. Posted January 14, 2007 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    It’s no wonder the middle eastern states think it is about oil, or that having The Bomb will make a difference. The USA (and Mr. Blair) appear to have no compunction in contemplating regime change in Iran, and destabilising a country with a population of 68 million (even if only 0.1 percent are fanatical about supporting the regime, that means 68,000 potential terrorists). Yet what is happening in North Korea, how much do we want regime change there, and what are we doing about it? (notwithstanding China’s influence). Am I being too simplistic? Appearance and perception are, after all, everything.

  2. Posted January 14, 2007 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Opposition brings with it the luxury of being able to be critical without offering alternatives. What is your assessment of the problem of Islamism and its declared war against us? How would you answer your own questions?

    In passing, the comparison with Ireland is inexact. Dublin did not, as a government, directly facilitate action against our troops, in fact there was always some degree of cross-border cooperation. Not so on either front with Iran and Syria.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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