Wednesday 23 October 2002

The war against Islamo-fascism

In a post eight months ago I said that I’d always regarded the Australian academic Robert Manne as “a warm-hearted, soft-headed idealist—perhaps Australia’s leading chatterati.” One or both of us must have changed because these days I find myself agreeing with him more often than not.

Robert Manne on the essential flaw in Bush’s recently announced pre-emptive strike doctrine:

At the centre of the doctrine, a huge conceptual hole appears. Does the US, as the world hegemon, alone possess the sovereign right to act unilaterally against a supposed threat to its security by prosecuting a preventive war, or does an identical right exist for other states?

If the right does not exist for others, the Bush doctrine amounts to an almost formal claim to US world hegemony. If, on the other hand, all states possess the same right, the Bush doctrine opens the way to the return of the jungle, where the powerful have the capacity to impose their will.

Robert Manne on why he supports the war against Islamo-fascist terrorism but opposes a war against Iraq:

At present the US is involved in a fundamental debate about the strategy by which the novel military threat of Islamo-fascism - a potential nuclear or chemical or biological weapons attack on the US - can be overcome. Two parallel strategies have been devised. One involves the creation of a worldwide counter-terrorist coalition aimed at destroying al-Qaeda and its associates. The second involves, in addition, US preventive wars against “rogue states”, like Iraq or North Korea, which are thought to be stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and which, it is feared, might ultimately either attack the US directly or pass weapons of mass destruction to an Islamo-fascist terrorist group.

I believe that the first aspect of this strategy must be supported and the second aspect opposed. The advocacy of preventive war is based on an implausible estimation of the likely behaviour of rogue states, whose leaders are brutal but by no means suicidal or mad. In defence of unilateralism and preventive war, the US is likely to destroy the unity of the counter-terrorist coalition and to undermine the most fundamental idea of international law.

Like Robert Manne, I believe that Islamo-fascism poses the greatest threat to secular-humanist democracy since Nazism: these people want to kill us all.

I was grateful, then, for Joe Duemer’s pointer to Max Sawicky’s Can Left and Right Unite?

There is substantial opposition to the Bush Administration’s posture vis-a-vis Iraq among persons with diverse political points of view. It happens that what are commonly referred to as the “ends of the political spectrum” contain more people with an activist bent, hence the salience of possible left-right cooperation against the pending invasion.

A statement embraced by both has the potential to win the support of many “in between.”

Max Sawicky’s set of principles breaks the false nexus between the war against Islamic-fundamentalist terrorism and a war against Iraq. I guess I’m also drawn to his goal of “possible left-right cooperation” because it matches my belief system, which I suspect many on the left and the right would regard as an improbable melange of radical and conservative views.

Perhaps that’s why I regard with some skepticism Burningbird’s statement that:

The Australian government has also said that it will depend on diplomacy to catch the Bali bombers. It will work with Indonesia rather than running in, guns blazing. By taking this action, by not letting the feelings of the moment carry it away, the Australian government has shown that it’s taking the long view to solving the problem, not the quick fix that only postpones the problems until another day.

In the story that Burningbird linked to, the Australian foreign minister said that we were relying on “counter-terrorism diplomacy” and that there were no plans to send the Australian Defence Force into South-East Asia to combat terrorism. I suspect this statement was designed for Indonesian consumption.

Sooner or later, however, the “police work and small-scale military operations” endorsed in Max Sawicky’s first principle will necessitate ADF engagement in South-East Asia. I can’t imagine that Australians will sit around in a daze waiting for someone else to track down and eliminate those responsible for the Bali bombing. In this context, as Mike Sanders pointed out: “Dreaming is only a virtue when you are sleeping.”



And I believe that we as a united people have to stop this threat, not as individual nations and states. We as a people have to unite in support of a basic creed that governs all human interation, and then we as a people have to enforce it. Not the Australians fighting this fight, tne US fighting that one, and no clear idea of why the fighting is occurring.

This type of terrorism and killing must stop -- but as the terror goes beyond the borders of any one nation, so MUST THE EFFORT TO STOP IT! No one nation is god or police or enforcer. We the people -- all the people must stop this killing and violence.

If this is dreaming, then I'll choose dreaming, and let you all make your own nightmares.

Posted by: Burningbird on 24 October 2002 at 02:13 AM

Good points, Shelley.

Yes ALL types of terrorism and killing must stop. Unfortunately, the US is a big proponent of terrorism and killing. It works for them (uh, us). Yeah, the world is getting more global all the time, and it seems a global peace and justice movement is needed. How that will happen..who knows, but I'm dreamin too....

I don't think militarism is the answer. Rather, police work that brings the criminals to justice, and "counter-terrorism diplomacy", what a stark contrast, a realistic response. Militarism, as its played out today, is just terrorism by another name, and vice versa. In other words, militaristic escalation, of the type Bush and Co. revel in, and profit from, equals doomed planet.

Posted by: George Partington on 24 October 2002 at 03:05 AM

Bb, my post makes it clear that -- like you -- I oppose unilateral action. George, I have no faith that "a global peace and justice movement" offers any protection against Islamic fundamentalism.

Posted by: Jonathon Delacour on 24 October 2002 at 07:40 AM

To my way of thinking, "peace" means "no war," as in showing the world that "war" in its various guises, such as terrorism, is not the answer.

No, neither do I expect the folks marching in the street as part of a global peace and justice movement to protect anybody from anything, only to be part of bringing about a world where international law is a basis for bringing criminals to justice on an international level -- through means other than war.

Posted by: George Partington on 24 October 2002 at 11:50 AM

Jonathon, I know we agree. What I don't understand is why too few others don't agree.

I'd kick something right now, but I already have a broken toe (as Loren knows).

Sorry, my friend. Didn't mean to come in dragging my flamey wings behind me.

Posted by: Burningbird on 24 October 2002 at 12:39 PM

I guess I replied to this in my blog today, Jonathon, but I certainly agree that we need to follow international law while eliminating these terrorists.

I hope that police forces, as opposed to military forces, will be able to accomplish it.

I think it's the word "war" that bothers me a bit because of its implications.

Posted by: Loren on 24 October 2002 at 02:16 PM

Always feel free to drop in and rest your weary wings, Bb, flamey or not.

Loren, I agree that it would preferable for police forces to accomplish the task though I fear that the war has already been declared.

Posted by: Jonathon Delacour on 24 October 2002 at 05:59 PM

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2002-2003 Jonathon Delacour