We may have to live with terrorism for generations but there are things that can be done to try and avoid us getting into the vortex of violence that the Parisian madmen want us to descend into.
It is not in any way to give a scintilla of justification to what happened in Paris to suggest that the massacre has historic links to Britain and France’s colonial past. History is a rolling story with one event linked to another. In the 1920s our two countries carved up the Middle East with no regard to the local Arab interest. Britain promised a homeland for the Jews whilst promising to protect the interests of the Palestinian Arabs.
When the colonial era ended and the Arabs became responsible for governing the Middle East themselves we saw the setting up of military dictatorships and even more significantly the hoarding of the vast oil wealth of the region in the hands of a few. If that money had been fairly distributed across the region, it might now have been an area of prosperity. Instead unemployment and instability has created a sense of anger and hopelessness on which terrorism has fed.
The last chapter of the recent history of the Middle East saw the western powers returning to remove the military dictators who’s only virtue was to keep a lid on the festering divisions. Following the removal of Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein all hell has broken loose. I’m not a spokesman for the Stop The War coalition who issued a tweet (subsequently repudiated) saying we were reaping the whirlwind, however it is true. But “we” includes not just western countries who made bad choices in the Middle East, but greedy oil sheiks and religious fanatics who ought to know that the true basis of both Christianity and Islam is to love thy neighbour and do good.
So what is to be done now? In the short term ISIL’s territory has to be conquered by local troops backed up by western air support. But that won’t be the end of them, there a re plenty of failed states where they will emerge again unless fundamental issues are resolved in the region. The most important is better wealth distribution. Then comes some really controversial changes. The creation of Palestine and Kurdistan (the least they deserve for being the only effective troops fighting ISIS) as nation states and possible boundary changes to ease Sunni and Shia tensions.
At home a massive “not in my name” demonstration by our British Muslim colleagues would help ease the worrying rise of entirely unjustified Islamaphobia. The Chancellor next week should protect funds for community policing. It is the height of folly to damage that part of the police service which is often the first to detect extremists. And finally the Prime Minister needs to be careful to avoid gloating when we, sometimes necessarily, execute terrorists without trial. His demeanour in announcing the death of Jihaddi John was in marked contrast to the remarks of some of the people who’d actually had relatives beheaded by the ghastly murderer.
By language and deed we must not be goaded into the vortex of violence.