Current And Former British Leaders Address Threat Of Islamic Radicalism
When British Prime Minister walked to the podium on Friday, his first goal was to inform his nation that the threat level was being raised to meet immediate national security concerns.
His second goal was to “set out the scale and nature of the threat we face and the comprehensive approach that we are taking to combat it.” That threat, of course, is radical Islam.
Cameron’s remarks were important because they cast aside the popular notion that the threat is new, that it is a manifestation of anger at the war in Iraq.
“The terrorist threat was not created by the Iraq war 10 years ago. It existed even before the horrific attacks on 9/11, themselves some time before the Iraq war,” he said.
“The root cause of this threat to our security is quite clear. It is a poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism that is condemned by all faiths and by all faith leaders. It believes in using the most brutal forms of terrorism to force people to accept a warped world view and to live in an almost medieval state. … And, of course, the exporting of terrorism abroad,” Cameron asserted.
And Cameron directly stated that the reality this war, as opposed to previous conflicts on the Continent, would be a generational war.
“This threat cannot be solved simply by dealing with the perceived grievances over Western foreign policy. Nor can it be dealt with by addressing poverty, dictatorship or instability in the region, as important as these things are,” said Cameron, who added that creating new policing powers was one plank in a comprehensive strategy to combating extremists.
Dealing with this threat, he said, “is about how we combat extremism in all its forms” and that “means challenging the thinking of extremist ideologues, identifying the groups in this country that push an extremist agenda, and countering them by empowering the overwhelming majority who believe in British values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for minorities.”
Cameron’s warnings echo those made by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been calling for a global response to extremism for several years.
Most recently, Blair delivered a speech in April in which he explained why the conflicts in the Middle East matter to countries outside the region.
Like Cameron, Blair said at the “root of the crisis lies a radicalised and politicised view of Islam, an ideology that distorts and warps Islam’s true message” and warned that “the threat of this radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world. It is de-stabilising communities and even nations. It is undermining the possibility of peaceful co-existence in an era of globalisation.”
It is a message he has delivered before.
Responding to the murder of a British soldier by an Islamic extremist, Blair said in a 2013 speech that “we are deluding ourselves if we believe that we can protect this country simply by what we do here. The ideology is out there. It isn’t diminishing.”
“But there is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it. Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open minded societies,” Blair frankly stated.
The boldness of Cameron and Blair is in stark contrast to President Barack Obama, who infamously admitted this week that he had no strategy for combating ISIS in Syria.
The editors of The Washington Post addressed why the absence of a strategy is not new and why it is so disconcerting.
“Throughout his presidency, he has excelled at explaining what the United States cannot do and cannot afford, and his remarks Thursday were no exception. “Ukraine is not a member of NATO,” he said. “We don’t have those treaty obligations with Ukraine.” If Iraq doesn’t form an acceptable government, it’s “unrealistic” to think the United States can defeat the Islamic State,” they write.
“Each demands a different policy response, with military action and deterrence only two tools in a basket that includes diplomatic and economic measures. It’s time Mr. Obama started emphasizing what the United States can do instead of what it cannot,” concludes the editorial.