The Culture Warrior

Responsibility, Nationhood, Tolerance, Enterprise


Today is an important day in the 'War on Terror'. It is the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and the second day of General Petraeus' report to Congress. At this time, the War on Terror is obviously at the fore of our minds - though these days there are few instances in which it is not.

I welcome the General's report. I was a cautious supporter of the war; my view was that Iraq wasn't a key battlefront against al-Qaeda in 2003. It is now. Whether the war was right or not is yesterday's argument. We are there now, we've done the deed (or the damage, depending on your political view) and we have a responsibility to those people. What we cannot do is just abandon millions of pro-democracy Iraqis because we're getting bored of negative headlines. How would we have coped during WWII with the 24 hour media? I dread to think.

Few deny that the prosecution of the war has not been a mess. I think disbanding the army completely was unnecessary, we used too few troops, we didn't involve political figures (on our side, within Iraq, and from its neighbours) from the off set. They are the most common criticisms of the war, and I agree with them. However, we've all benefited from historical eye surgery, and we're all seeing 20:20 now. In any case, even if we'd stuck to the State Department's plans, even if we'd worked hard at the peace as well as the war, it's not as if these problems would not have occured. They may have been lessened, even minimised. But these ethno-sectarian tensions are centuries old, and can easily be whipped up by clever terrorist tactics. Remember that Iraq was no normal military dictatorship; it was, I believe, a true fascist one, with all the issues of race and genocide that come with that.

What we cannot do in Iraq is create a democratic culture or a civil society. Both are fundamental to a strong democracy. Both are, in ways, the reason Britain and America did not become overwhelmed by the same fascism that Germany and Italy did during the Great Depression. A democratic culture - an active participation in politics in which all people may speak openly and all views are allowed, if not agreed with - and a civil society - a network of institutions, families and individuals who socialise with eachother freely - are the greatest barriers to dictatorship. Conversely, under a dictatorship (but particularly a fascist one), these things cease to exist. Democratic culture needs no explanation; civil society because the nation, society, and state are merged into one and become hierarcherial and totalitarian. These cultural and social values evolve over time. It took Britain and America eight centuries (let's say we're starting at Magna Carta, though that's rather insufficient). Indeed, one could argue that Christianity, with its emphasis on the individual's relationship with and responsibility to God, set our individualist, and ultimately democratic, culture in motion, as Richard Koch and Chris Smith do very well in 'Suicide of the West'. Only Iraqis can create a new Iraq.

What we can do is stop terrorists trying to blow people up in the process. Most are foreign, but all have a vested interest in destabilising democracy. Why? Because democracy would crush their warped ideas and push them to the sidelines, where they belong. Indeed, it is so glaringly obvious, one wonders why people (particularly those with yellow rosettes) can't see it. Terrorism is a tool, a tactic. It is not the end in itself. Only through intimidation can terrorists keep people under their thumb. We can take them on, and if we do it properly, as Petraeus' report shows, we can win. Our main goal should not be to create democracy in Iraq - though the Iraqis themselves have gone a good way towards establishing the institutional framework necessary for that. It should be to train Iraqis to defend themselves. Laissez faire politics will not work; they will be overwhelmed and bullied by minority organisations that have the ferocity to do all it takes. We should help Iraqis to help themselves. In the short term, that means training the Iraqi security forces and leading the front line against al-Qaeda and others. In the medium term, that means handing most authority over to the Iraqis as they establish a free society and moving to overwatch. In the long term, that means withdrawing and giving support - rhetorical, financial and otherwise - to the newborn Iraqi democracy.

But this is a wider issue. Iraq is not a normal conflict with a normal country. We aren't at war with Iraq; we're there at the request of the Iraqi Government. We are doing battle with terrorist groups within a country, not the country itself. I sid that in 2003, Iraq was not the front line in the War on Terror. But our actions in Iraq, whether bad or good, have made it so. Leaving Iraq now, whilst it can't defend itself, would be wrong in itself, wrong for our short-term national interest, and even more wrong for the long-term.

We have to recognise that Islamism (a term I don't like...I prefer 'hirabic calphism', but I like words...) is an ideology, not a reaction. It is centuries old, and has bee resurrected in recent times as a criticism of Western civilisation. It uses current issues to garner support. Of course invading Iraq gave al-Qaeda and others a tactical weapon, a recruiting sergeant. Firstly, that doesn't mean the war was wrong, but secondly, and more importantly, we have to recognise that if not for Iraq, it would be Palestine, if not Palestine, Chechnya, if not Chechnya, Kashmir, if not Kashmir, Sudan, if not Sudan, Xinjiang. Islamists view Islam not just as a personal, religious philosophy, but as a social, political one. They exploit circumstances to encourage their cause, but they would not cease to believe in it if all the problems in the places I mentioned were solved. The greatest contributor to the rise of Islamism is in fact the democratic defecit in the Middle East.

I think it is a generational conflict. It is a battle between modernity and backwardness, freedom and totalitarianism, civilisation and barbarism. The battle lines are not drawn between Muslims and non-Muslims, they are drawn between those who believe in freedom and tolerance, and those who do not. Ronald Reagan once said, "We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb, by commiting an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now in slavery behind the Iron Curtain, 'Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skin, we are willing to make a deal with your slavemasters.'" The threat from Islamism is thankfully, for the time, nowhere near as great. But it is still a danger. Whilst suited politicians who know little of military strategy spend their time attacking generals and saying what they think the electorate want to hear, I would just implore you to take some time to think about Reagan's words and ask yourself: is it in our interest to allow Iraq to become a Taliban-style dictatorship? And could you say to the twelve million Iraqis who voted for the first time, 'Give up you dreams of freedom'?

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Published by The Culture Warrior on 11 Sep 2007 at 11:50. 0 Comments

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    The Sixties saw the rise of the New Left - Cultural Marxists who knew that their economic theories were dead, but understood that they could still disrupt culture and society by covertly infecting its institutions. Sadly, they succeeded, and the result is the Permissive Britain we see today. Conservatives must wage a culture war to bring back the values of respect, duty, nationhood and prudence that, when coupled with enterprise and freedom, are the surest conditions of progress and stability.

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