Islamism's existential threat, and Western chaos

With events in Iraq in mind, while it may be dawning on some of our leaders that we face an existential threat from Islamism one really wonders what it will take for them to get their act together. Do we have to wait for a bomb in the Channel Tunnel?

Who said: Bring on the clowns?
Robin Mitchinson
On 17 August 2014 06:15

It is just possible that our leaders recognise that there is now an existential threat to the West, both external and internal. What is happening in Iraq needs to be understood. ISIS is not a terrorist movement. It is an army that means to seize and  hold territory, create a new state that will roll back history to the 7th Century and enforce adherence to the most rigorous form of primitive Islam.

Its atrocities have been horrendous, but this is not just the barbaric behaviour of  savages; it is deliberately calculated to spread panic and terror amongst the opposition. This is why they have flooded the internet with pictures of horrors rarely seen since WW2.

Small wonder that Iraqi soldiers scarpered at the first whiff of powder and shot when they contemplated being summarily beheaded if caught. And western leaders must have pondered on what the media would make of pictures of decapitated US marines or RAF helicopter pilots.

The situation needs statesmanship. It is not getting it.

Prime Minister David Cameron has no clout due not least to his incomprehensible slashing of the defence budget whilst increasing foreign aid by a staggering 38 percent. In any event, Britain has no coherent foreign policy as is witnessed by Liberal Democrat leading light Vince Cable's mischief-making declaration that there could be an arms ban on Israel in direct contradiction of Britain’s long-standing support for the Jewish state and its right to defend itself.

President Obama has shown mostly indifference. His low-key actions are typical of his de minimis foreign policy. His weasel words say that US  troops have been sent to Iraq protect US citizens in the region, whom he could easily have recalled when the troubles began. He speaks of ‘US military advisors. Now, where have we heard that before?

He says the US intervention can be terminated because there are ‘only’ 5,000 people left on the mountain

German Chancellor Merckel’s preoccupations are with not unduly upsetting Putin over the current unpleasantness in Ukraine, and with her other economic problems such as the news that Germany’s growth is in the ‘recession’ category.

Francois Hollande? A man of straw who is the most unpopular French president ever. The less said about his preoccupations, the better

IS is well-led, has a comprehensible strategy, is disciplined and – most importantly – successful. Which encourages youth to flock to its colours. A possible short-term outcome is that it will smash Iraqi resistance and take over all Sunni territory.

Whether that will satisfy them we will have to wait and see. At this time it is fighting on three fronts. It is likely to win in Iraq; lose in Kurdistan, and take over a large chunk of Syria when that country collapses as it surely must.

It could then have ambitions to spread mayhem in other parts of the most unstable region the world has seen in modern times. Those countries at risk must recognise that they must not only defeat IS; they must destroy it completely with utter ruthlessness.

The ability of IS to put the West in harm’s way has the potential to be the greatest danger since 9/11. It is not Al Qaeda. It’s strategy is unlikely to be to cause the occasional atrocity for the sake of some inchoate Islamic Dawn.

We don’t much appreciate the vulnerability and fragility of the modern state. A single mortar bomb discharged from the back of a van into an operational area of Heathrow could bring it to a standstill for days. A bomb on a main water installation would be damaging to thousands. IED spaced along a motorway could cause extensive traffic chaos.

A 400 lb bomb carried in a cargo container under the Channel Tunnel would bring the roof down. Far-fetched? Scare-mongering? Well, we must hope so.

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world

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