In some people’s minds, the way things work are this. Terrorists must have a reason for attacking us. A “reason” is a bad thing we do that justifies those attacks. So terrorist attacks on us are the product or result of the bad things we do.
In other people’s minds, the way things work are this. We are the Bad Guys. Because we’re the Bad Guys, things we do that promote our values or enhance our power or interfere when others are doing things we, with our Bad Guy values, dislike, make the world a worse place. The best thing would be if we could change who and what we are. But, failing that, if we could just avoid doing anything, that would at least be a start.
Jeremy Corbyn and his entourage believe both these things. In his speech today, declaring UK foreign policy one of the “causes” of the Manchester attack, he says:
“The responsibility of government is to ensure… that our foreign policy reduces rather than increases the threat to this country… Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home…an informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people that fights rather than fuels terrorism.”
So-called “Islamic State” (IS), on the other hand, offer their own list of six reasons “Why we hate you and want to fight you”. Obviously we shouldn’t take things they say at face value, and their central command PR teams probably don’t speak for their diffuse individual cell-members. But it’s worth observing that the official IS line is that foreign policy isn’t an important reason for their hatred of us:
“What’s important to understand here is that although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary… The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam.”
Islamist violence towards the West long pre-dated our involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan. Indeed, the causality in those cases went in the opposite direction. It wasn’t that Islamists attacked us because we attacked Afghanistan. We attacked Afghanistan in specific response to Islamist terrorism!
The epic fact-free nonsense of blaming the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan for terrorist attacks on the West is exposed by noting that the World Trade Center bombing of 1993 was way before 2001 let alone 2003. Or that the bombing of the US embassy in Kenya in 1998 was way before 2001, let alone 2003.
The fatwa placed on Salman Rushdie and the Satanic Verses and the subsequent bookstore bombings in Berkeley, New York, Charing Cross, High Wycombe, Guildford, Nottingham and Peterborough, and the murder of the novel’s Japanese translator and stabbing of the Italian translator, the burning to death of 37 Turkish intellectuals, and the shooting of the novel’s Norwegian translator began in 1988 and thus was way before 2001 let alone 2003. Et alia ad nauseam.
Islamist attacks perpetrated by those that live in Western societies is about hatred of our culture and about the manipulation of vulnerable individuals whose frequently-broken lives and morally flawed past behaviours leave them open to the seductive lie that they can put it all right and be redeemed in a heroic and glorious moment of murderous mayhem.
But it probably is true, also, that part of this is that Islamists who hope their culture and political model will take over in some countries feel threatened by the political as well as the cultural West. They fear that if they take over in Iran, or Afghanistan, or Syria or Yemen or Somalia or – who knows in the future? – in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Indonesia, there were will be Western political and military intervention to oust them. They’re right.
And this is where Corbyn’s doctrines become most appalling, in my view. His team, deep down, thinks we should eschew interventions because we’re the Bad Guys, so we cannot make things better. I say we have no alternative but to intervene precisely because we are the Good Guys. We have to prevent Islamists, or others, from murdering the Jews, Yazidis, Maronite Christians, gays, feminists, cartoonists and so on because we are the Good Guys. We can’t stand idly by and leave them to terrorise folk in Israel/Iraq/Afghanistan et al because we are the Good Guys.
As the Good Guys we are not – except for where we have no option or where (as in, say, Rwanda) we have much-regretted moments of moral weakness – going to sit around watching evil flourish in the world without trying to do anything about it.
We are not going to accept that Israel has no right to exist. We are not going to accept that women are denied education, artists are imprisoned, political dissidents are tortured, homosexuals are castrated, Muslim apostates are executed without “interfering”.
We are never going to simply “mind our own business”. The business of the whole world is our business because we are strong and good and it is our duty and imperative to “interfere”.
We are not hated and attacked by terrorists because we interfere in other parts of the world. We are hated because we are the sort of good people with the sort of good values that mean we have no moral choice but to interfere. We are attacked because our virtue and flourishing makes us a threat to them.
Westerners blaming Western foreign policies for terrorist attacks upon us are like a battered wife who thinks the right answer is to agonise over “What did I do wrong to make him justified in beating me?”
He beats you because he’s an evil scumbag, who satisfies his own perverted cravings and sense of power and ethics of domination by beating you. The answer isn’t to change your behaviour in some way so as to make yourself more acceptable to him. It’s to have him punished.