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Britain drops ‘war on terror’ label

July 7 2005 London subway bombing

The words “war on terror” will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public.

“The people who were murdered on July 7 [2005 subway bombing] were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers,” Macdonald said. “They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way.”

Well put. Anyone who slaughters innocents for whatever political or religious purpose is a criminal thug. Along with being morally abhorrent, doing so usually backfires as a tactic because it inflames the other side to respond in even harsher ways.

Also, calling it a war raises non-state entities to the level of the state, a stupid tactic, because it legitimizes them as a major player, equal to the state.

May other countries follow the lead of Britain, especially the U.S.

  • DJ

    “doing so usually backfires as a tactic because it inflames the other side to respond in even harsher ways.”

    That is precisely the goal, since the backlash rarely falls on the militants themselves, but more often on the constituency the militants seek to control. The cycle of violence is predictable, and is often used by extremists. By forcing “the enemy” to respond against their intended constituency, extremists succeed in driving a wedge between the constituency and “the enemy.” As such, the attacks have less to do with the enemy and more to do with gaining power within their own group.

    For example, it may be hard to find Al Queda in London– but I bet Muslims in general are having a much more difficult life at the hands of police, and thus some will become more prone to extrmism. Likewise, the LTTE in Sri Lanka could not have achieved the level of supremacy they now hold within the Tamil community if they had not baited the government into cracking down on Tamil civilians over the years.

  • > By forcing “the enemy” to respond against their intended constituency, extremists succeed in driving a wedge between the constituency and “the enemy.”

    That’s the theory, but I don’t think it’s a given that it works. It can just as easily backfire upon militants as be a success for them.

  • DJ

    While it doesn’t always work, it works often enough to make it predicatble. For example: LTTE, Al Queda, Indian Maoists and northwestern seperatists and northeastern seperatists, Chechens, and the list goes on.

    The sad part is not that the cycle of violence benefits militants– it is that “the enemy” almost invariably takes the bait. In the past, I have argued that there’s a reason for this: “the enemy” is led by its own extremists, who also benefit. It’s the civilians on both sides who suffer.

    As a result, both sides are typically led by amoral thugs with only their own interest at heart. Until this is understood, peace is impossible. Because if we approach the conflict thinking the leadership of both sides aren’t getting what they need, we miss the point: it’s not to correct their tactics, it’s to change their needs.

    There IS a place for mass action in the process– but it’s got to be the right process.