With all the senseless killing going on in Palestine at the moment and Western governments' continuing attempt to make terrorism "go away" by the use of military force, it was refreshing to open the Guardian newspaper online this morning (15th January) and read some sensible words on the subject from the British Foreign Secretary. Five days before the Bush Administration, the chief proponents of the "war on terror" leaves office, David Miliband, tipped by many to be a future Prime Minister, denounced the whole strategy as misconceived and a failure. The West cannot "kill its way" out of the problem it faces, he is quoted as saying.
According to the Guardian article, Miliband argues, "The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common," an obvious reference to the signature drumbeat of the Bush era. "We should expose their claim to a compelling and overarching explanation and narrative as the lie that it is,' he continues,"Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology." To back his argument, Miliband quotes American military commander, General David Petraeus, as saying the western coalition in Iraq "could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife". Miliband reasons that instead of building a military coalition to fight terrorism we should instead be unifying around shared values and the rule of law. Breaking the law to fight terrorism (ie. illegal torture and extradition) puts us in the same camp as the terrorists we are are facing. Miliband is due to repeat his remarks today in Mumbai, scene of the recent terrorist attacks, and a city I passed through just a few days ago.
For many years, I worked as a news analyst for Age of Enlightenment News Service, where my job was to scan the world's media outlets for signs that events were changing in a more positive direction. We paid particular attention to the words of elected officials, the logic being that they reflect the collective mood of the people they represent and so are good indicators of shifts in national consciousness. For this reason, Miliband's words are particularly encouraging.
We are just five days away from having a new president in American, who, from all indications seems to be more pragmatist than idealist. I've written previously that one thing I liked about Obama was his desire to encourage people too see themselves in others. We've had too many years of the politics of hate and over-simplistic ideology that has alienated many people around the world. It's time we started looking for common ground not differences; it's time we stopped seeing the world in such black and white tones and demonizing those who don't agree with us; and it's time we started to understand rather than be afraid of the unfamiliar. If the potential future leader of the United Kingdom is also ready to reject the crusader mentality of Bush and Blair, then this is good news.
Mahatma Ghandi once observed that "and eye for an eye" eventually leads to the whole world being blind. We cannot kill or punish our way to peace. In the long run we end up hurting ourselves, and only people to benefit are the ones who make the weapons of destruction. Perhaps our leaders are finally starting to see some sense and that means the collective psyche of the world is beginning to change for the good.