Author: Walid Phares
Source: The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
Date: April 17, 2007
“It is very troubling
to see that in the heart of Western democracies, a deep ignorance of historical
and ideological facts still exists, even among leaders charged with the global
defense of democracy.” So says
British Minister Fails the War of Ideas
In a speech on British policy on Terrorism, the international
development secretary of the
"By letting them feel part of something bigger, we give them strength." Hilary Benn
1. Mr. Benn said "the phrase gives a shared identity to small groups with widely differing aims." He added: "And because this isn't us against one organized enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives."
Mr. Benn should know better. When Jihadi cells grow and
2. Mr. Benn goes on to say: "What these groups want is to force their individual and narrow values on others, without dialogue, without debate, through violence. And by letting them feel part of something bigger, we give them strength."
These "groups" are not a collection of individuals engaged in
personal quest for glory or banditry. The Jihadists who massacred British
3. Mr. Benn attempts to replace the current definition of the War by stating that it is "the vast majority of the people in the world" against "a small number of loose, shifting and disparate groups who have relatively little in common."
While this equation should be the objective of international society, that is, to isolate the Jihadists worldwide and within the Arab Muslim world, it is nevertheless not yet reality. The Jihadists are converging onto one global objective, have many things in common and even after the vanishing of their leaders continue in the same direction. At the same time, their foes are of different backgrounds, left wing and right wing, liberal and conservatives, from various ethnicities and, ironically, not unified, not coordinating and lacking a universal vision of the struggle against Jihadism. M. Benn should have recognized reality first, "what is" before offering what all of us in the international community wish for, the "what should."
4. In his most strange statement, Minister Benn "urges world leaders to find common ground with potential enemies, rather than relying on "hard" military power. The fight for the kind of world that most people want can, in the end, only be won in a different battle - a battle of values and ideas."
As the author of the book The War of Ideas, I cannot agree more with the proposition that winning the conflict with Jihadism needs success in ideological and intellectual battles. It is certainly true that hard military power alone cannot solve this crisis. Hence, my criticism of those theories describing this war as a police operation only. So Mr. Benn and many who espouse his views must make a choice: either this war on Terror is essentially a War of ideas or it is a massive police effort against some small factions. One cannot go both ways. If this is a "battle of ideas," the public needs to know between which set of ideas? The same logic used by Mr. Benn, et al, to reject the concept of a war against "Terrorism" also rejects the idea that this conflict is simply against "bad guys." One cannot serve half the truth.
Yes, the Jihadists are bad guys because of their misdeeds, but they have a worldview and doctrines to which they refer in their indoctrination and recruitment. Mr. Benn cannot ignore this ideology. If he wishes to get rid of the concept of a "War on Terror," we have no problem with it, as long as he proposes something more intelligent and analytical. He criticizes President Bush for adopting the unclear idea of "Terror" but replaces it by an even more simplistic concept of "narrow values." And to completely fail the test, the British minister doesn't even identify these "narrow" matters.
5. Ironically, the Jihadist ideologues would find Mr. Benn's statements perfect. For the Terror leaders’ main objective is to see their foes learning less and less about their (Jihadists) ideology, strategies and plans. The enemies of liberal democracies and of the UK wish to see British (but also American) politicians moving away from the concept of War on Terror, and not seeing the Jihadists as Global and coordinated. That is exactly what the Terrorists want: If the British and their allies reduce their perception of the conflict to "police operations" or pretend their enemies are much smaller than reality, they would be fighting a war with obsolete weapons and almost no strategic vision. What better gift can Bin Laden and Ahmedinijad hope for?
6. Finally, Mr. Benn
says: "in the
Unlike some of his colleagues in the cabinet, and regardless
of the domestic debate in
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Dr. Walid Phares is a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington and the director of its Future Terrorism Project. He is author of the newly released “The War of Ideas: Jihadism Against Democracy”.
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