Thursday, January 15, 2009

Miliband on 'War on Terror'

David Miliband - UK Foreign Minister
Miliband described the "war on terror" approach as "misleading and mistaken".

"Historians will judge whether it has done more harm than good," he said, adding that, in his opinion, the whole strategy had been dangerously counterproductive, helping otherwise disparate groups find common cause against the west.

"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, and the more we magnify the sense of threat," Miliband argued, in a clear reference to the signature rhetoric of the Bush era. "We should expose their claim to a compelling and overarching explanation and narrative as the lie that it is."

The foreign secretary pointed to the statement on Gaza issued earlier this week by Osama bin Laden, which he portrayed as the al-Qaida leader's attempt to capitalise on the crisis, although he had not made much of the Palestinian issue when he began his terrorist career in the 1990s.

"Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology," Miliband said.
He argued that "the war on terror implied a belief that the correct response to the terrorist threat was primarily a military one: to track down and kill a hardcore of extremists". He quoted an American commander, General David Petraeus, who said that the western coalition in Iraq "could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife".

Miliband said that western solidarity "should not be based on who we are against but instead on the idea of who we are and the values we share".
To stay true to those values, "democracies must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it."

Miliband linked the argument with US detention policy. "That is surely the lesson of Guantánamo and it is why we welcome President-elect Obama's clear commitment to close it," he said, referring to the US detention camp in Cuba.

After the al-Qaida attacks of 11 September 2001, the Bush administration presented the threat of a global terrorist onslaught as justification for pre-emptive military action, long-term detention without trial and severe interrogation techniques widely denounced by human rights groups as torture.

A senior Bush administration official admitted this week for the first time that a Guantánamo detainee was tortured by the US military.

The incoming Obama administration is expected to avoid using the term "war on terror" and adopt a more multilateral and less military-focused approach to global threats.
British officials are signalling, in increasingly public ways, that they cannot wait for the new team to take office next Tuesday and wave goodbye to an eight-year administration with which they felt increasingly ill at ease, particularly following the departure of Tony Blair as prime minister in 2007.

Miliband said last night that the incoming administration's "instinctive multilateralism" and proposed use of "smart power" meshed with his arguments. "The new administration has a set of values that fit very well with the values and priorities I am talking about," he told the Guardian.

UK-US relations have been particular sour in recent days after Washington reneged on a pledge to back a largely British-drafted UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The White House overruled US diplomats after a demand from the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, reports have claimed.

Hear, hear...

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