I heard Tony Blair on the Today Programme this morning, talking about the world after 9/11 and the War on Terror. His central argument seemed to be that Islamic terrorism stems from a flawed ideology and we cannot stop terrorism until we defeat that ideology. He said this could take a generation.
Contrast this with Liberty’s Shami Chakrabarti who argues that terrorism is a crime and should be treated as such. Reflecting on 10 years at the head of the organisation, she writes that the phrase ‘War on Terror’ simply encourages terrorists to consider themselves soldiers and allows governments to infringe civil liberties in the name of national security.
Whilst I broadly agree with her position, the compelling counter-argument is that the criminal law cannot provide effective mechanisms for stopping terrorism. This argument is stronger for international terrorism rather than the home grown kind. For example, it would have been impossible for the Americans to ask the Pakistani police to knock on Osama Bin Laden’s door and ask him a few searching questions about what he knew about 9/11.
However, if we do accept that the fight against terror is a war, it is not irresistible that we have to subscribe to Tony Blair’s argument that the enemy is a flawed ideology rather than a bunch of angry men. You can hate terror without telling those who might become terrorists that everything they believe in is a lie. My prediction is that we will be at war with the terrorists for as long as people like Tony Blair profess to understand the Koran and the concept of jihad better than they do.
Undergraduate Law Student, The Open University