Monday, 15 September 2014

ISIS and the Ideologies of Military Intervention and Non-Intervention.

The ideology of non-interventionists in Iraq against ISIS has become increasingly marginal because the so-called 'anti-war left' in Britain was always as simplistic in its approach to the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars as was the equally ideological 'pro-liberation' left championing selfless wars of  'humanitarian intervention'.

The Stop the War Coalition is a failure. It was probably more influential in the period between 2001 to 2003 in shaping the reaction of Tony Blair and those demanding a break from the old realpolitik as regards Iraq and overthrowing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein to put right previous wrongs caused by Britain.

The fact that Saddam Hussein had been backed by the US and Britain in the 1970s and 1980s as bulwark against a potentially more menacing Iran, with pictures of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam, was flashed as proof that the US was now posing as offering the military solution to a problem it caused.

The Stop the War Coalition leadership consisted of the disgruntled dregs of the British Communist Party and Trotskyist sects that did not grasp that governments in a democracy are not always the same sorts of politicians always doing the same thing because they do not have much time for representative democracy.

As a consequence, the Second Gulf War tended to get support of intellectuals such as Christopher Hitchens who encapsulated the position of those for a war to liberate both Afghanistan and the Taliban when he argued Britain had a moral duty to do so precisely because of its previous failed foreign policies.

With ISIS now staging carefully choreographed executions of American and US hostages, the need to be seen to be doing something in Britain is conjuring up the memory of the way Bush and Blair used the 9/11 attacks back in 2001 to become a pretext for military intervention to be either backed or opposed.

As usual, there are those who point to the disaster of the last Iraq war and occupation as a reason both why ISIS was able to surge into Iraq and why it is not right to intervene militarily again and so the can phrase 'the liberation of Iraq has to be the work of the Iraqis themselves' is thrown out mechanically.

For those such as Richard Seymour, the concern is that this may well be putting people off the anti-war cause and so he has to concede that ISIS is evil in the sense of it being annoying and difficult to fit into a convenient formula that opposes any military intervention to prevent its exterminatory policies and beheadings
'Isis goes to your head and gets under your skin; it leaves you feeling infested. Back in the days when one didn’t know much about the jihadis carrying out beheadings, it was possible to think that they were just – as David Cameron has denounced them – “monsters”, savages, beasts. Or, if one were on the anti-war left, one could simply point out that there was, after all, a war on. A brutal occupation produces a brutal insurgency: case closed'.
The problem then, is not that ISIS is murdering people since Seymour believes that all wars are murder which are based on humanitarian intervention, as made clear in his The Liberal Defence of Murder. ISIS is, therefore, only a small time murderer compared to the US and Britain which are 'state terrorists'.

As a consequence, Seymour routinely downplays ISIS atrocities or rejects them as being the 'real reason' for intervention by the US and, potentially, by Britain in the near future. It was the Kurdish peshmerga which rolled back ISIS and not US airstrikes, though curiously the peshmerga leaders claimed they have helped.

None of that means Britain should involve itself with prsuing a strategy based on the belief that bombing ISIS positions is going to provide a teachological short cut to 'degrading and ultimately defeating' it. Then again, neither Obama nor Cameron have actually claimed that it would so Seymour's argument is a strawman one.

Clearly, Seymour is largely ignorant of the realities of the Middle East and his main aim is to manufacture the politically correct 'line' to be taken on the way the battle against IS is 'framed' for ideological purposes, albeit in more sophisticated way than the 'vulgar' propagandists of the StWC.

In Britain, the Stop the War Coalition and 'anti-war' groups are laregely dominated not by pacifists or by those who are against war on principle but by those who wish to seize upon discontent and unease at Britain's involvement in wars to propagate hatred and resentment against the British state.

Unfortunately, Seymour's interpretation is not much more nuanced than Lindsey German's "stance" that military intervention would only be a reaction to an insurgency wholly the product and 'caused' directly by British foreign policy and the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

Evidently, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a disastrous decision that helped create the quasi-failed state Iraq is outside Baghdad and the fortified oil producing zones guarded by the peshmerga in Kurdistan and Shi'ites in the south around Basra. Only the discredited and loathed Tony Blair clings to his 'belief' it was 'right'.

So, given that this is no longer hardly 'subversive' knowledge but generally a generally recognised fact, radical 'anti-imperialists' such as Seymour needs to 'stand out' by developing a 'new stance' which is more 'nuanced' but ends up being based purely on ideology fitting the facts to suit it.

For a start, Seymour claims 'Isis would be nowhere if it weren’t for the generalised rejection by Sunni Iraqis of the sectarian political authority in Baghdad.' This is wholly nonsensical because ISIS would, in fact, still be somewhere if they had not surged into Iraq: they would, obviously, be in Syria.

Islamic State has its base in Syria and was created by jihadist groups that splintered off and broke away from the control of the Free Syria Army and joined a group that had its origins as ISI during the Sunni insurgency against the Shi'ites in Iraq, a rivalry that long predates the invasion of Iraq.

The collapse of a functioning government in northern Syria and the support given to the most Sunni jihadists by Saudi Arabia and Qatar as part of their proxy war against Iran, which backs Assad, is an important reason why jihadi-Islamists gained ground in Syria and why Hizbollah joined in the war.

This clash is embarrassing for revolutionary leftists in Britain who regarded Hamas and Hizbollah as guerrilla resistance united against Israel and US imperialism, so clearly the line has to be that the US encouraged a 'viscious sectarianism' that would not have otherwise existed.
'..whereas the jihadi ultras of the “war on terror” era were an unpopular, marginalised minority within the Iraqi resistance, always fought and opposed by the mainstream of the Sunni Arab insurgency, Isis succeeds because of the support it enjoys within much of the population it seeks to rule.'
ISIS 'succeeds' because Sunni Arab militias and their tribal leaders took the decision to join forces with ISIS. Any such popularity as they get is tied in to the fact ISIS uses revenues from organised crime and sales of oil to provide jobs, to sponsor children's festivals and even medical clinics'

Iran's backing for the Maliki government only further alienated the Sunni Arab tribes and ex-Baathists, which comprised what Seymour extols as the 'Iraqi resistance' against Baghdad. It is these forces which have aligned with IS in 2014 as a means to increase their strength against the government.

Britain would like to believe it has decisive leverage over Qatar as the US believes it has in Saudi Arabia in trying to pressure both to clamp down on the funding given to fanatical jihadists. But it is not the case, partly as it was not tried back in 2012 or for most of 2013 until ISIS turned against the FSA.

Britain's foreign policy is not made by 'Westminster spear-carriers for American empire' but by those with a shared interest in preventing the collapse of Iraq and any threat to the global oil price caused by ISIS attacks. Over the longer term, Iraq is set to a major oil producer needed to keep oil prices stable.

Britain is one of many global powers with a developed economy that has an interest in that along with OPEC nations and East Asian countries such as Japan and China, even though the 'international core coalition' to defeat ISIS is, in the military sense, primarily a US western-led alliance.

ISIS has a base in Syria and Iraq but it is, like Al Qaida, becoming a franchise operation that is set to spread across the lands claimed as part of the caliphate because in such regions jihadi-Islamists are leading the disenfranchised poor in a war to seize oil or menace oil transit zones.

Throughout all these lands climate change, drought, crop failure , overpopulation, the strain on water supplies and resource struggles are combining in a lethal brew to spawn vicious pyschopathological jihadi-movements that have nothing to lose in trying to deal crippling blows to the world economy.

The 21st century is going to see the response through drone warfare to eliminate and precision zap savage groups in these regions and to protect strategic resources and pipeline routes by creating fortified protection zones out of which the drones would patrol so as keep the threat of sabotage at bay.

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