All the Lost Wars
The first of our series of ebooks, War is Coming launches at the Voodoo Rooms next week. Book your tickets here. The book charts the failure of British Foreign Policy over the past thirty years, how we have destabilised the world and endangered ourselves, and how ‘the UK has no effective military policy’ today.
All The Lost Wars
When I left the Labour Party for the SNP in 2002 because of the coming disaster of Iraq I never imagined it would become as bad as this. We in the SNP did what we could to stop us going to war, but we can do nothing to stop the war coming to us.
There is a substantial jihadi infrastructure across Europe, rising inter-communal tension and a refugee crisis which is only going to grow as the war spreads. Europe cannot stay out of a general war along its eastern and southern borders.
The UK has no effective military policy. Its foreign policy is in tatters, it has no reliable allies and no definition of victory – only endless supplies of confidence in its abilities.
These small wars, wars of choice for the the UK, have already hastened to history the Soviet Union, Iraq, Syria and probably Libya – states we will never see again as cohesive political unions. We are on the cusp of a great war, a war that is coming to us, a war not by choice. While the clock ticks Westminster remains bedazzled and bewitched by a small war of choice, the sideshow of Syria. The Saudis will certainly join the list of former states, as will the UK.
A great war is coming.
Taking Stock – Towards The End Of The Beginning
It is ridiculous to even think of how the war-that-is-coming is going to end. We don’t fully understand its contours, we don’t know whose side we will be on. Western Europeans are fighting alongside Iran in Iraq but against Iran in Syria and Yemen . We oppose Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan but support Saudi Arabia – the major backer of Al-Qaeda in Syria .
Simultaneously we are in a long-standing military alliance with Turkey – the sworn foes of our ‘latest best-friends-forever-soon-to-be-shafted-again’ the Syrian pro-PKK Kurds.
The Long Road To Peace
The broad contours of the road to peace are clear. The core Al-Qaeda strategy, which has been remarkably successful, was to achieve a political objective . Their aim was to find disaffected paramilitary Islamic organisations engaged in the ‘near struggle’ and bond them together into the ‘far struggle’. ISIS raised the game with the refounding of the Islamic caliphate.
They got the confidence to adopt this bold strategy because they had defeated the Soviet Union . The very real defeat of Afghanistan was just a pretext for the collapse of the USSR, a collapse which had been prefigured in 1953, 1956 and 1968, and not the mark of divine will it was taken as.
The 11th September 2001 attack on United States was a core part of this strategy , and it worked. Instead of addressing the small war of Afghanistan the US, and its main ally the UK, engaged on an absurd war in Iraq (which it lost) driven by lunacy and the consequences flowed. The relatively cohesive multi-ethnic Iraqi state splintered, it balkanised. Around a quarter of the Iraqi population was displaced, the Christian and minority communities decimated. When the Syrian Civil War began around one in ten of the nation’s population were refugees from Iraq.
The road to peace is to reverse that narrative – to stop the behaviours that have driven metastasis of violence and disorder. Not responding to the Bataclan massacre in Paris as we did to the fall of the Manhattan’s Twin Towers is critical.
The end-of-the-beginning is a strategy to return the Middle East to a series of disconnected civil wars and close those wars down.
The Current Military Position
The dark heart of this war lies in the lands of eastern Syria and western Iraq at least from the perspective of Western Europe.
Neither Iraq nor Syria exist now and they are not coming back anytime soon. The British- and French-drawn straight lines on the map of the Levant have become meaningless. The Christian and minority communities have gone the way of the greatest ever Jewish city, the illustrious Jewish city of Baghdad, which melted under the British-imposed administration of Nuri al-Said in the late 1940s.
The frontage is large , greater than the Western Front in the First World War. However, the armies are remarkably small with around 30,000 on each side.
This is a war of blitzkreig and position. The Muslim world lacks the industrial capacity of China and the West to construct tanks, armoured cars or plain old motor cars. The infrastructure of the old Iraq has collapsed and Syria’s infrastructure is decaying rapidly. The panzer of this war is the SUV (made in the US, EU or Japan) and the flow of new panzers and spares for them can be stopped at source.
In the early 1970s the IRA was able to unleash wave after wave of car bombs because the core ingredient, ammonium nitrate, was available in 1lb bags at garden centres. Restrictions of its sale to quantities of 1 ton or more and strict registers of supply dried up that source. The Provisional IRA were never able to mount 20 car bomb offensives like Bloody Friday in 1972 again.
These regulations still stand as the British jihadis who cheerfully ordered 1 ton to be delivered to a lock-up found out. By the time it arrived the garage had been wired up the ying-yang by the spooks, and they all got 30 years in the pokey.
Strict regulation on the sale and resale of four-wheel drive vehicles and their spare parts can be easily imposed, if the political will is there.
There is also no indigenous arms industry in these nations. This is a war supported by external weapon supplies. Weapons buy-back stations should be established around the region (Turkey, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, etc.) paying above market rates and with no-questions-asked for automatic rifles. 1,000 Kalashnikovs is enough to equip a battalion . If we paid $1,000 for each weapon this is cheap at twice the price. The entire economy of the battlefield is smuggler-driven and the porous nature of the front makes this endeavour entirely possible.
This war is a war of theft; Syrian government munitions, stolen Libyan munitions and American-supplied FSA munitions in the hands of Al-Qaeda operatives. None of these weapons come from local industries. The region is awash with weapons, dry it up.
The core mechanism driving the spread of this war is the western addiction to drone killings.
Ask yourself this question: would we in the UK be more or less at risk of homegrown Jihadis carrying out a Paris style attack if the banlieues of Paris were the target of drone strikes? The intelligence criteria for a ‘signature strike’ would clearly be met if applied to Parisian muslims. To ask the question is to answer it.
How can drone strikes in Yemen, or worse, Pakistan, not make our security more precarious?
The Middle East is many pools of fire, which ISIS is fanning, spreading and trying to join up. How is it in our interest to help them?
The great attraction of drones for our political classes, in their opéra bouffe reverie, is that they generate good news stories. Jihadi John, the Cardiff
Clown and the Aberdeen Arsehole make great front pages – although their deaths are military irrelevant.
But it is worth looking back at our history. There were two brothers: Hugh and Eddie McAteer, Coatbridge-born, but lately of Derry.
Hugh was a physical force republican, Chief of Staff of the IRA during the 2nd World War – his predecessor having died of a ruptured appendix in a Nazi submarine being ferried back to start an uprising – he ended up an elder statesman of the Provisionals.
By contrast Eddie was a constitutional nationalist, leader of the Nationalist Party, the last Redmondite, and an elected MP at Stormont – rising to be Leader of the Opposition. They were close despite it, not estranged, part of a living family.
If, anachronistically, drones had existed in the early 1960s then surely Hugh would have been a prime target. You can work out the scenarios. From Hugh killed on a lonely walk with only 2 feet still in the shoes and an ear in the coffin, and sandbags for heft – to the wider family gathering for a first holy communion calling down a signature strike to all their doom.
Search as I might, I cannot see any circumstances would push the start of the modern Troubles out to 1972, 1982 or beyond, and a million ways it would have brought the north to the boil earlier.
Drones have brought nuclear armed Pakistan to the brink and driven Yemen to collapse. God knows who the French have been killing in North and West Africa and who they will kill now.
Stopping the spread of collapsed countries is a priority and needs to be addressed immediately.
Stabilising North Africa
The Egyptian jihadis attacked Luxor in 1997 and the backlash from the locals was ferocious as their livelihood was destroyed. But as the tourist dependant Egyptian economy has declined so support for the murder gangs has increased. The massacre of Russian tourists from the Sinai, and the Tunisian beach attack, again stir local outrage short term: but in the long term will increase support for violence.
Around 10% of the economy of Tunisia is tourism related, Turkey likewise. The EU should step up and guarantee no tourist-based businesses across the Mediterranean will be impacted by fighting and offer one-for-one financial support for lost revenue.
Refugees were 10% of the Syrian population when war broke out , this level is enormously destructive to social cohesion . It is even more painful for poorer economies. The EU needs to offer a Marshall Plan for the region – backed by tax increases at home – to provide economic stability.
The proposal to bring a paltry few thousand refugees to the UK is as nought as the situation in Lebanon – a country the size of Cornwall with 2 million refugees.
The flow of refugees is not going to stop or indeed slow, with continued death and fire in the lands which they flee from, their arrival is putting, and will continue to put, the EU under considerable strain.
But the EU model of internal institutional reform for tangible economic benefits is a compelling one – it worked extraordinarily well for Eastern bloc countries – and it will work in North Africa . As long as racism doesn’t get in the way.
The New Labour fantasy that you can have war without sacrifice, without deaths (of our own of course, we didn’t count Iraqi or Afghan corpses), without tax increases is as dead as the dodo. War without war-footing is the trademark cry of the virtue-signalling huckster.
We need to bite the bullet about the war that is coming, and its cost and consequences. The arrival of refugees from our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are and will be swamped by ones from Syria and other countries as this war spreads, as it will. We need to shift onto a war footing now, even if we are not sending troops out – this crisis has hit Europe, our European home, and will hit us come hell or high water.