Saturday, 2 January 2016

Donald Trump and the Terrorist Threat.

'The footage of Trump appeared between two clips of militant leader Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, saying Muslims in the United States would face a choice between leaving for Islamic countries or staying at home to fight the West.'
Donald Trump's comments in the the Republican Presidential candidate race about stopping Muslims entering the US until the threat posed had been checked and 'understood' seem to have been seized upon by those who think that it makes for Somalia's jihadi al-Shabaab militants propaganda more effective.

What is strange about such claims is the assumption that it is Trump's uttered statements that apparently could lead Muslims within the US and the wider world towards anti-Western hatred. Yet it is unclear whether Trump's demagoguery stands out that much as something that could really radicalise.

After all, it is drone strikes are said to have played a role in recruiting for Al Qaida in Yemen as has the invasion and chaos created by the Saudi invasion and war with the HouthisContinually since 2001, politicians in the US and Britain have warned that military campaigns in Muslim lands are about 'keeping us safe here'.

What Trump has fastened on to is the idea that no matter what the US does abroad, Americans have not been safe from Islamist terrorism because 'we don't know who we are letting in'. Yet statistically most of the killing in US domestic 'terror' attacks have been committed by fanatics with guns who are not Islamists.
As the New York Times reported,
'Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.'
However, since 2001, the media image and presentation of terrorism as a threat has been something that emerges from out of 'the Muslim World' and which necessitates a military response. That was what 'the war on terror' was about, the all embracing pretext to commit to policies not strictly about anti-terrorism.

For the US is still in Afghanistan, but few seem to know why and 'public diplomacy' does not even invoke the terror threat any more. In fact the media has moved on to Syria and Iraq because of ISIS, the war on which is clearly about defeating a jihadi group that threatens and commits regional and global terrorism.

Yet to big up the case for military intervention, ISIS is termed an 'existential threat' to the West by politicians such as Cameron. When that sort of language is used, it is hardly surprising that when there evidence that ISIS operatives have been able to cross porous borders from Syria into the EU that there is alarm.

Obama himself, very sensibly, appears to have rejected the sort of language that Cameron was using as late as July 2015 about ISIL posing an 'existential threat'. Other repeated soudbites inherited from the George Bush and Tony Blair era that persist into the present include 'generational struggle'.

'Existential threat' was dropped by Obama in December 2015 because the threat level became so obvious in the course of that year.The need today is to play down the threat now that it has grown in order to avert a counter-productive level of fear that is manifesting itself across Europe and the US

While Trump is hardly helping America's image, he is not really so much worse than the other Republican candidates such as Ted Cruz who said "We will carpet bomb [ISIS] into oblivion. I don't know if sand can glow in the dark, but we're going to find out". Carpet bombing would of course mean mass civilian casualties.

Politicians in the West seem to put too much of an emphasis on 'public diplomacy'. Even if Republican rants hardly help and make a bad situation worse, the real driving force behind ISIS style jihadi-terrorism remains Saudi Arabian and Gulf State funding and the continued proxy war these allies have with Russia and Iran. 

There is no sign yet that the Western powers are prepared to cut a deal with Russia to impose a peace on Syria to end the proxy war and so create then a Syrian force capable of retaking the lands annexed by the Caliphate. These momentous decisions-or lack of them-are far more important than Trump's poses.

The more Syria continues to collapse into barbarity and complete chaos as consequence, the more the primarily Sunni migrants will head through Turkey towards the EU and, in conjunction with ISIS plans to exploit that, the greater the threat of terrorism being associated with weakly enforced borders will be.

It is that terror threat being realised in waves of jihadist terror atrocities, such as have been visited upon Iraq and Syria blowing back into the West, that could stimulate a far right reaction and the increased polarisation in European societies that ISIS is hungering to exploit as part of its apocalyptic war.

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