In the wake of the new terrorist threat to air travel reported today, Martin Bell has drawn what to him is an obvious inference. British foreign policy is wrong, he says, and the people of this country are the targets of terrorism:
Our government has endangered us. It is time we connected the dots.He takes it for granted that there's a straightforward way of doing this, but actually it's a bit more complicated than Bell realizes - or lets on. Does he mean that British foreign policy should be changed because it is wrong, or because it invites terrorist acts from some of those who disagree with it, or both? The same question is highlighted, as it happens, in this piece by Timothy Garton Ash from today's Guardian. He's discussing the alienation of young British Muslims, and in that context he writes:
Blair's Britain has been the most prominent ally of Bush's America in the Washington-styled GWOT (global war on terror), seen by many young Muslims as a GWOI (global war on Islam)... There is now overwhelming evidence that Blair's foreign policy, and especially the role of British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, has contributed very significantly to the alienation of British Muslims in general, and younger, better-educated ones in particular. In the Channel 4 poll, nearly one third of young British Muslims agreed with the suggestion that "the July bombings were justified because of British support for the war on terror". That's truly shocking.Garton Ash is right: it is truly shocking that so many should see acts of random killing as legitimated by putatively unjust and mistaken foreign policies. But Garton Ash also leaves the dot-connecting question unanswered. If, as he thinks (along with a fair number of others), part of the foreign policy wasn't wrong but right, and yet it still angers those willing to blow people up for it, what then? A clarification of exactly how these dots are to be connected wouldn't come amiss.
This doesn't mean Blair's foreign policy has been all wrong. For example, I believe that the intervention in Afghanistan was entirely justified, because the al-Qaida terrorist network that demolished the twin towers was based in that failed state. The tragedy is that, instead of then devoting our resources to rebuilding Afghanistan, we rushed on to the neocons' war of choice in Iraq, thus creating two bloody failures instead of one possible success. But, whatever you think of the policies in detail, there is no question that they have angered young British Muslims.