Immediately following the terrorist attacks in Paris world leaders (sic) met in Turkey and issued a joint statement. Although I have not so far obtained the full text, it is evident from extracts in this attachment that the basic problem was not addressed. In one sense that is not surprising: the G20 has a poor record in addressing fundamentals and has tended to use meaningless general phrases. And its membership includes countries whose populations accept religions which to varying extents derive from the Koran and which were the religions of the suicide bombers in Paris and those who planned the attack, reportedly in Syria.
In the “old days” the US could be relied on to lead the response to actual or potential threats from other countries which if achieved would endanger western values and freedom. Since Obama became President that comfort has disappeared and that has again been the case in handling these terrorist attacks. Hence we see little that is meaningful from world leaders:
“We are resolved to address this threat by enhancing our cooperation and developing relevant measures to prevent and tackle this phenomenon, including operational information-sharing, border management to detect travel, preventive measures and appropriate criminal justice response.”
In fact, one report suggests there was a backward step to which our own PM subscribes viz “The leaders stressed, however, that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality or ethnic group”. Turnbull’s “Final Statement” actually made no reference to the Paris attacks but is reported as agreeing with Obama that there should be no addition to troops on the ground – presumably not a captains pick?
There are, however, some sensible assessments of the dire situation and what should be done in response. Hirshi Ali, whose partner is political scientist Dr Niall Ferguson and who has experienced Islamic extremism first hand, has an analysis published in today’s Australian which should be treated as a guideline to Australian policy. She rightly advises that a war footing should be adopted and that it is not simply a question of eliminating the Islamic State because there are other groups with a similar attitude ( in fact Al Quaeda regards itself as in competition with IS and is regarded as that by IS). She also draws attention to the counter terrorist structure in Israel which has so far succeeded in limiting terrorist attacks and suggests that other countries should seek advice from Israel.
An analysis by a French writer and philosopher is also pertinent. He argues that in addition to a military response “We change nothing of our habits; we live as if terrorism did not exist, going about our jobs with the usual nonchalance. We counter the assassins with the disdain of the civilized. Domestically, we suspend the constitutional rights of imprisoned jihadists, and gather them in internment camps, as has been proposed. We subject all individuals flagged as terrorism suspects to preventative incarceration and take away the freedom of the 3,000 individuals within our borders listed as potentially dangerous islamists. We neutralize the militants who have returned from Syria, unceremoniously expel questionable imams and preachers of hatred, and close Salafist mosques”.
Such measures are not dissimilar to those that would be adopted in wartime. But as Premier Hollande has stated we are at war. The problem is that world leaders, including our own, do not recognise the danger, a danger that will increase unless it is attacked at both a military and political/religious level.
PS In writing on this subject since the beginning of the century I have taken the view that the threat from Islamic terrorism is the most serious problem facing the western world. I had particularly in mind the possibility that extremists would eventually acquire nuclear weapons. The technical ability of the Paris terrorists to plan their attack without being detected suggests this time may not be far away.