How we react to terrorist attacks 3/3 (*1)
The Governments reaction and Paris
“A government is the system by which a state or community is controlled. In the Commonwealth of Nations, the word government is also used more narrowly to refer to the collective group of people that exercises executive authority in a state.”
“We underestimated profoundly, the forces that were at work, in the region…” – Tony Blair
The horrific attacks in Paris on November 13th 2015 presented a straightforward question to the governments of Europe – how will those in authority react? The later attacks in Belgium reinforced this fundamental questioning. Many looked for ways to fight back, as France declared a state of emergency.
For the first time since Iraq – War was on the agenda.
In the U.K a debate was held on whether or not to join France and the U.S in airstrikes (bombings) in Syria and Iraq – where the perpetrators of the attack, ISIS, held ground.
During the long debate many were given time to stand, speak and declare their beliefs.
After first stating how he would have voted against the Iraq war and thus gaining the justness to say “I do not stand here today as a war monger”. He went on to reveal that “90% of mine (his constituents) who have emailed are opposed” to airstrikes.
However, Mr. Simon Hoare continued (in between a slight bit of banter with the speaker) and read a quote from a member of parliament dating back to 1774 – “as true today as it was then…”
He read “your representative owes you not his industry only but his judgement, and betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion”
Mr Simon Hoare, here, arguably leaving the aggregation of arrogance in a similar state. The self-awareness of such, publicised in his earlier retort to the speaker.
He finished by telling of his intention to vote in favour of bombing in Syria. Going against the public trend of opinion. Yet, with the majority in the house of commons; winning the result to authorise bombing.
In the wake of over a decade of examples of the effects of military intervention in the Middle East the beleaguered British public were now subject to further perpetration of violence in the Middle East in their (our) name.
Yet, there were those who stood and stated their stance against bombings.
The Labour MP for Tottenham, Mr David Lammy, began by saying that “terrorism needs to be defeated” he expressed “The deep concern of…so many Muslim men that may be seduced by extremism” and raised the point that “…In dealing with Al Qaeda – we gave way to ISIS” Mr. Lammy likened the Paris attacks to “bait” from Isis to engage in holy war and that the airstrikes would create the circumstances for a new generation of extremists.
The SNP Minister Dr Philippa Whitford, (Central Ayrshire) spoke of her first-hand experience with bomb victims in the Middle East and the old terrorist threat from Northern Ireland – wondering what the outcome would have been if the government had tried to solve that scenario with bombings.
In a debate that was short of any expert opinions or discussion it was refreshing to at least find that some MP’s were asking the right questions before passing habitual judgement on a threat, the origin of which, was overlooked.
As Dr Whitford stated herself – “we have had a complex, and fairly tragic, incoherent approach to the Middle East for decades”
The Syria Vote was a debate on the effects of this incoherent approach – it must now be time to offer non-military solutions to the Middle East. Away from the disregarded maxim that bombs create more bombs. And violence begets violence.
Perhaps the hardest thing for people and politicians alike to understand is that the traditional governmental reactions to terrorist attacks do not work in tackling the true origins of the threat. Military interventions do not work, but when faced with failing its people the scared ones in power seek to be seen to be doing something.
The erosion of Civil liberties, the taking away of freedoms, is another worrying outcome of terrorist attacks – In France today a state of emergency, put in place after the terrorist attacks, persists, as workers strike in reaction to the governments Labour reforms. While security issues are used to take away the accountability of the authorities’ actions.
While the UK prime minister at the time, Tony Blair, failed a generation with solutions akin to the one above, his remedial work has given him the privileged position of being able to lecture himself on the understanding of the Middle East.
But the importance of the Arab spring must not be overlooked. The yearning for democratic inclusive and peaceful societies within the Middle East is evident. But what role the west chooses to play in helping this come to fruition is arguably the most important action governments can take.
The origins of the problems within Middle Eastern societies are from a didactic attempt by men such as Tony Blair to promote nationalistic western democracy in the Middle East through military intervention. Copy and paste versions do not work.
While allies of the West such as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia crush revolutions in Egypt by supporting military coups, and whip bloggers – The governments of the west must decide what kind of an example they wish to represent to the youth that yearn for democracy within Middle Eastern nations.
Do we offer them an example of the politics of fear, or the politics of hope?
As the MP for North Dorset closed – “Je suis Parisien has to be far more than just a twitter tag. It is now time for action”
Bad things happen when good people do nothing, in the case of the government of (Great) Britain, it has always been best placed to offer examples to the rest of the world. To be the first into the breach of the unknown to uncover the very best ways to promote peace and prosperity.
Perhaps it is time to begin again.