UK turns away from ‘War on Terror’ doctrine

[TamilNet, Friday, 16 January 2009, 19:30 GMT]
Britain’s Foreign Secretary this week slammed the US-led ‘War on Terror’ as a “misleading and mistaken” doctrine that had effacing the nuances of various conflicts while uniting extremists opposed to the West. Speaking in Mumbai, David Miliband said Thursday the concept had invited “invidious comparisons” between organisations as diverse as the Tamil Tigers, fighting for independence of the Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based faction that Indian and British officials believe was behind the Mumbai atrocities. “Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology,” he was quoted by The Times as saying.

The phrase also suggested that terror had to be tackled primarily by military means, Mr Miliband said, but history showed that American and British forces “could not kill [their] way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife” in Iraq.

Mr. Miliband said that the idea of a ‘war on terror’ gave a false notion “of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and the organisation of al-Qaeda”.

He suggested that the phrase had “inadvertently sustained al-Qaeda’s propaganda” and risked magnifying the threats faced. “The more we lump terrorist groups together, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common,” he added.

The speech, which was given at the Taj Mahal Palace, one of two hotels struck in November’s terrorist attack, ranked among the British Government’s harshest critiques of Mr Bush’s foreign policy, The Times newspaper opinioned.

Notably, Mr. Miliband’s comments this week echo those of Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State in the incoming Obama Administration.

During her campaign to be the candidate of the Democratic party, last October she also called for more nuanced approach to foreign armed organizations and their political causes. She also singled out the LTTE.

“The bottom line is, you can't lump all terrorists together. And I think we've got to do a much better job of clarifying what are the motivations, the raisons d'être of terrorists” she told The Guardian newspaper.

“I mean, what the Tamil Tigers are fighting for in Sri Lanka, or the Basque separatists in Spain, or the insurgents in al-Anbar province may only be connected by tactics. They may not share all that much in terms of what is the philosophical or ideological underpinning.”

“And I think one of our mistakes has been painting with such a broad brush, which has not been particularly helpful in understanding what it is we were up against when it comes to those who pursue terrorism for whichever ends they're seeking.”

The term War on Terror was first used by President Bush in an address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.

Reducing the complexity of internal conflicts to armed groups attacking states, the doctrine has guided US Foreign Policy in many countries, including Sri Lanka, especially throughout during the 2002-2006 Norwegian-led peace process.

 

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