Friday, 25 April 2014

Blair, Islamism and Planetary Plots

Seumas Milne is right that there is a lot of mendacious propaganda flying about in an age when 'public diplomacy' consists of 'framing devices' put forth by the political class. The aim of Blair's speech was to shape perceptions about both his policy towards the Middle East and the course of foreign policy.

It could not have gone amiss that Blair gave the speech at Bloomberg's London HQ. For those fearful that the future could involve Britain being involved in endless conflicts and interventions, with the looming threat of terror hanging over its cities and town, this speech was a propaganda template for that.

So Blair's speech is important because a significant part of the political and media class In London value Blair's ability to stake out a position that can be used by politicians in need of an alarmist way in which to connect Britain's foreign policy with the need for domestic protection.

So it is odd that Milne opines that the reason why Blair's views are taken so seriously 'isn't immediately obvious'.On the contrary, it is immediately evident that Blair did not set out any real policy but was concerned with drawing up the correct battle lines, the propaganda framework for some cosmic struggle.

The substance of Blair's speech was less signification than the way language was used. When Blair referred to 'extremist Islamism' he meant the sort that threatens Britain's interests and so conflated the Muslim Briotherhood In Egypt with malign and openly terroristic forces such as Al Qaida.

However, Milne, himself no stranger to propaganda riffs, then claims,
'..he ( Blair ) also demanded military intervention against Syria – backed by Russia – along with more "active measures" to help the armed opposition, which is dominated by Islamists and jihadists. It's a crazy combination with an openly anti-democratic core'.
The 'Opposition' ( Blair's term for the anti-Assad insurgents ) may be dominated by Islamists and jihadists but the official line of the Coalition government until late 2013 was that the 'rebels' in the Free Syrian Army were mostly democrats fighting against Assad's tyranny and that he 'must go'.

However, if it is clear that the many of the insurgents in Syria are not democrats but many affiliated to Al Nustra and Al Qaida, it raises the question of whether Milne agrees with Blair that the Muslim Brotherhood should be supported or not ( or, at least, in word if not deed ).

After all, it's deeply contradictory of Milne to complain that Blair is demanding 'active support' be given to 'Islamists and jihadists' in Syria while supporting their being crushed in Egypt, unless the supposed purpose of that foreign policy is made plain.

After all, it could be argued that the opponents of the interventionist foreign policy in Britain such as Milne often use doublethink in lauding Islamists when they are being oppressed and condemning them as tools of imperialism when the same Muslim Brotherhood members are against a government Britain dislikes.

British foreign policy does have blatant double standards and has demonstrated a weird Orwellian schizophrenia, supporting the anti-Assad insurgents when it was clear they were dominated by bloodthirsty fanatics who elsewhere would have been portrayed as the existential enemy at home and abroad.

However, it is curious that 'anti-war' activists often demonstrate the same double standards without the even the excuse of being in government. They have the luxury of having things both ways, that when Britain accepts Egypt's coup against Islamists it's evil and when it supports them in Syria it's evil too.

Evidently, the best foreign policy would be one where Britain would not interfere or meddle in the internal affairs of Middle Eastern states, in which case the policy of realpolitik would be preferable (but that's condemned as well ). It which case no attempt should be made to have a foreign policy at all.

When it comes down to it, Western states are embroiled in the affairs of the Middle East because of geopolitical concerns and the fact it contains huge supplies of oil and gas. Until energy independence is aimed at, the region is going to be the site of intense geopolitical and Great Power rivalries.

There are certain 'anti-war' journalists, such as Milne, who prefer the Cold War period and who praise the Soviet Union in retrospect as a check on Western power in the Middle East and its support for the secular dictator Assad. But its not clear why they have the pretence of being concerned with democracy.

The "Islamist Plot" in Britain-The Domestic Impact of Foreign Policy.

It's possible fanatical ideologues such as Education secretary Michael Gove have tried to exploit the existence of a plan to push school academies towards 'Islamisation' for political gain and to try to steal votes from Ukip and co-opt support for an interventionist British foreign policy against 'extreme Islamism'.

But it does not follow that Milne is corrrect in this,
'In Britain, the campaign against Islamist "extremism" is once again in full flow. In fact, it is open season on the Muslim community. For the past few weeks reports have multiplied about an alleged "Islamic plot", code-named Operation Trojan Horse, to take control of 25 state schools in Birmingham and run them on strict religious principles'.
Even if the the Operation Trojan Horse statement comes from a shadowy anonymous source, the evidence of the DfE Report does seem to prove there is a serious basis to the allegations that cannot be routinely dismissed as part of an 'Islamphobic' propaganda campaign.

Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph writes,
'A separate report, by inspectors from the DfE, has substantiated many of the allegations. The report, disclosed in The Telegraph on Friday, accused Park View, Nansen and Golden Hillock of illegally segregating pupils, discriminating against non-Muslim students and “restricting” the GCSE syllabus to “comply with conservative Islamic teaching”.The report said girls at Park View and Golden Hillock were made to sit at the back of the class; some Christian pupils at Golden Hillock were left to “teach themselves” and at Park View a supporter of al-Qaeda was invited to speak at assembly. Aspects of the GCSE curriculum were ignored as un-Islamic, even though needed by pupils for exams..'
More than that radical Islamists such as Salma Yaqoob , formerly of George Galloway's Respect Party, has tried to use the language of the Iraq War in calling the Operation Trojan Horse statement a 'dodgy dossier' and part of a campaign of 'McCarthyism”

So it is not only Gove that is trying to score political propaganda points by linking plan to 'Islamise' schools to foreign policy and a global threat. Yaqoob is simply doing the same but spinning the narrative the other way; that this is part of a plot to 'demonise' Muslims and so justify interfering in Muslim lands.

That claim is handy is if the political agenda is to compare the Ofsted inspectors 'interference' with Brimingham schools with an interventionist foreign policy and so put forth propaganda about a plan to order Muslims about and so create a siege mentality and swell supporters for Islamist organisations.

The claims in the Ofsted Report are either true or they are not true and trying to put a spin on them one way or another cannot change that, unless it is supposed that the report itself was part of a 'political witch-hunt' and ordered to find out what they wanted to to back up the allegations of an Islamist plot.

The danger with this foolish shadow boxing between politicians in government and Islamists is that it could indeed polarise British society. In that sense ideologues such as Milne, who backs any movement or force so long as its anti-Western, and Yaqoob are part of the problem no less than Gove.

After all, Gove in his appalling Celsius 7/7 writes of Islamism as 'one seamless totalitarian threat', one that extends from Afghanistan and the Middle East into Europe and Britain, a vast planetary struggle between Good and Evil that actually sounds quite as paranoid as the ideology of radical Islamists.

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