Watching Cameron's response to global events as they unfold is instructive. There can be no doubting his good intentions, nor the strength of his commitment to do the right thing. His motivation is unimpeachable. However, it's like watching an eighteenth-century physician trying to cure Ebola; having diagnosed an excess of black bile and an imbalance in the humours, he prescribes the killing of a mouse, to be used in a poultice along with half an ounce of dragon's blood and a little Mummia, to draw the flux. His piece in the Telegraph today is typical.
I can't help but feel that the main thrust of Foreign Office policy in regard to ISIS is to get the UN and the rest of the world to call it Isil. So dominant is Oxford in government and the mandarinate that one feels this is their true priority; they can take the beheadings, the barbarism, the geopolitical threats, but polluting the name of that sacred stream is step too far. Cameron uses 'Isil' seven times in this short piece. But it's the naivete of the assumptions that is uppermost.
We should be clear: this is not the
“War on Terror”, nor is it a war of religions. It is a struggle for decency,
tolerance and moderation in our modern world. It is a battle against a
poisonous ideology that is condemned by all faiths and by all faith leaders,
whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim.
No-one has ever gone into battle screaming "Decency! Tolerence! Moderation!". We are at war. What we are at war against is an expansionist Islamic world bursting with young men, enjoying the economic benefits of globalisation, connected, and above all resentful of the three-hundred year domination of the Christian West in wealth, thought, technology and leadership. Even moderate, decent and tolerant Muslims in the UK support a re-balancing of the globe to give a more prominent place to the nations of Islam.
Cameron also makes clear he believes we are right to fight to preserve the national boundaries in the middle east invented by Europe in the 1920s, boundaries drawn not between Sunni and Shia or on ethnic, cultural or linguistic lines but between British and French interests.Boundaries that have simply ceased to be relevant.
Of course there is conflict between Shias and Sunnis, but that is the wrong
way to see what is really happening. What we are witnessing is actually a
battle between Islam on the one hand and extremists who want to abuse Islam
on the other.
No. The Islamic civil war is at the heart of all this. And the 'extremism' he identifies as exceptional is inherent in all Muslim philosophy - even that of decent, moderate and tolerant Muslims - that of the primacy of Islamic religious authority and of Sharia over democracy and secularism.
Cameron is clearly struggling to understand concepts and tectonic shifts that are challenging his comprehension, but trying hard to do the right thing. In part, this is driven by political short-termism; he's looking at what can be done during his term(s) in office, not what needs doing to defend our Island and our privileges a hundred years hence. In 2114 Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel, Jordan and the rest will be quaint footnotes in a history text, as alien as Montenegro, Ruthenia, the Sanjak of Novi Pazar or Wallachia are to us. If nothing else, Poland should teach us the lesson that you cannot permanently overwrite natural boundaries of cultures and peoples; Poland was wiped from the maps of Europe between the end of the eighteenth century and 1918, and yet there it is - whole and complete.
And I make one prediction for the near future - that Turkey will become a critically important pivot point. All hopes of becoming part of the EU have been abandoned, and Turkey is now ploughing its own furrow. Secularism is on the wane and the Imams on the rise. Direct Western support for the Kurds will inflame Turkish territorial amour propre. The heat is building.