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The Shadow of the Olive Tree

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08 October 2007 Blog Home : October 2007 : Permalink

Surrender Now And Win?

Reuters and the BBC (and presumably a host of others) are reporting that a Prof. Paul Rogers (Prof of "Peace Studies" at Bradford University) has released a report under the authority of the "Oxford Research Group" that says:

LONDON (Reuters) - Six years after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the "war on terror" is failing and instead fuelling an increase in support for extremist Islamist movements, a British think-tank said on Monday.

A report by the Oxford Research Group (ORG) said a "fundamental re-think is required" if the global terrorist network is to be rendered ineffective.

"If the al Qaeda movement is to be countered, then the roots of its support must be understood and systematically undercut," said Paul Rogers, the report's author and professor of global peace studies at Bradford University in northern England.

"Combined with conventional policing and security measures, al Qaeda can be contained and minimised but this will require a change in policy at every level."

He described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a "disastrous mistake" which had helped establish a "most valued jihadist combat training zone" for al Qaeda supporters.

From the quotes it is unclear precisely what Prof Rogers proposes other than "run away and hide under the bed clothes" and unfortunately the ORG aren't yet making the briefing available on line so I can't see what the man actually writes. However reading some of his other work at Open Democracy and his previous ORG document (PDF) it looks like the man is a classic tranzi with a hang up about "Christian Zionists" in the Bush Administration so my expectations of common sense are limited. Reuters does report a couple of his suggestions:

The report -- Alternatives to the War on Terror -- recommended the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq coupled with intensive diplomatic engagement in the region, including with Iran and Syria.

In Afghanistan, Rogers also called for an immediate scaling down of military activities, an injection of more civil aid and negotiations with militia groups aimed at bringing them into the political process.

[...]Rogers also warned of a drift toward conflict with Iran.

"Going to war with Iran", he said, "will make matters far worse, playing directly into the hands of extreme elements and adding greatly to the violence across the region. Whatever the problems with Iran, war should be avoided at all costs."

There are two or three things to note here. Firstly a majority of Iraqis (of all persuasions) seem fairly convinced that if the US pulls out the result will be civil war. Secondly the British tried negotiating with the Taliban in part of Helmand province and it was a bloody failure. Thirdly "violence across the region", where the region is the Middle East, is not necessarily bad for people who live outside the ME. After all if they are fighting in the Middle East they may be too distracted to carry out actions further afield. Finally in the earlier extract Rogers is quoted as saying Iraq has become a "most valued jihadist combat training zone". It seems to me that this works both ways. The US led coalition in Iraq has also learned a lot about how to fight jihadis and the Jihadi casualies in Iraq are estimated to be between 5 and 10 times US casualties, implying that the US forces have tended to survive the learning experience while their foes have mostly failed to survive. One could claim that the dead Jihadis in Iraq (and Afghanistan) are the more incompetant ones and that the survivors are the smart ones who will go on to spread the word elsewhere. This may be partially true but it doesn't seem to me that global jihad is doing terribly well elsewhere either. In SE Asia the jihadis have lost major sanctuaries in Indonesia and the Philipines and are not have notable success in turning terrorism into political gains in Thailand. In Kashmir the jihadis seem to be quieter than previously and in Pakistan the attempt to extend jihadi militancy to the capital via the red mosque appears to be been a failure.

I suspect that Prof Rogers would agree with me when I suggest that the only way to solve Islamic terrorism is to remove support for terrorism within the Middle East. Where we part company is on how to do this. Prof Rogers appears to think that meeting (most of) the grievences spouted by the terrorists would be the best way to go forward. In other words Israel returns to its 1948 borders, America NATO etc. leave Iraq, Afghanistan etc. It is unclear to me why Prof Rogers thinks this is going to lead to peace as this was, in most respects, what America worked towards during the 1990s with no effect at all except the emboldening of Al Qaeda and co because they thought the West, and the USA in particular, were decadent cowards.

One reason further why I am less impressed with Prof Rogers is that he appears to be arguing from afar without actually talking to any Iraqis let alone American troops or others on the ground. It is interesting to compare his analysis (as summarised) with the reports from VDH (part 1 and part 2) and Michael Totten who have actually been in Iraq. Indeed it is interesting to compare them with the ongoing "life in Syria" blog posts at Harry's Place.

One thing all these bloggers make clear is that the Middle East man in the street has been heavily influenced by propaganda that makes him resist "American Imperialism". However it would seem that Iraqis at least are learning that American Imperialists are rather less scary than those who try to resist the Imperialists. If this lesson holds and spreads, as it may well do if Iraq continues to see a significant decline in casualties, then the hoped for rejection of terrorism by Muslims may just start.