Unless we become as single-minded as the fanatics, we are all hostages now
Published in: Daily Mail
The immediate response to the Sahara atrocity must be revulsion, and deep sorrow for the families of those British and other hostages who were murdered in cold blood or killed in the rescue attempt.
Condemnation of the Algerian authorities for the loss of those hostages’ lives, in what has been termed a ‘bungled’ operation against the Islamist terrorists who stormed the Algerian gas complex, is nevertheless inappropriate.
The Prime Minister yesterday struck a more supportive note than his earlier reported fury that the Algerians had gone in with all guns blazing without even informing the UK government.
A measure of common sense thus seems belatedly to have broken through the panic in Whitehall.
For it is not just that the Algerians’ response in that hideously complex situation cannot be judged without understanding precisely what they thought the hostage-takers were about to do. It is also that the ruthless Algerian approach acknowledges a reality on the ground that the West seems incapable of grasping.
The Algerians refuse to negotiate because they know that the Islamists’ position is simply non-negotiable.
Unlike other hostage-takers, they usually have no interest in getting out alive; they intend to die as ‘martyrs’, and of course have no compunction about killing their captives.
Moreover, the purpose of taking hostages is either to kill ‘infidels’ or to extract ransom money for them — which will merely finance more kidnappings and terrorist atrocities.
Such terrorists thus regard with contempt all negotiation as a sign of weakness. And in the world of Islamic fundamentalism, weakness is an incentive to further violence.
Only a display of uncompromising strength — including, most importantly, strength of resolve — has any chance of being a deterrent.
The Algerians understand this very well. The West does not — instead assuming that everyone on the planet thinks like it does and is thus similarly governed by self-interest.
But in dealing with Islamist fanatics who regard themselves as the army of God, and for whom death is the highest calling, this is a catastrophic mistake.
The most devastating consequence has been the West’s refusal to acknowledge that it is not fighting a series of brush fires based on local political grievances, but a war of religion being conducted against the free world in order to destroy it.
This fundamental misjudgment has meant not merely that Western governments failed to grasp the threat that would be posed by the dispersed al Qaeda franchise in the Sahel region of west and north-central Africa.
It has also caused them to make a series of dreadful errors which have led Islamic extremists to conclude that victory is within their grasp.
Failing to deal firmly with terrorist regimes such as Syria, Iran or North Korea, which pose a mortal threat to peace and freedom, Western governments instead helped remove admitted tyrants in the Muslim world who were nevertheless allies (however fragile) of the West.
Blundering about with their asinine belief that elections are the antidote to holy war, they have merely produced chaos in which Islamic fanatics and terrorists have been the main beneficiaries.
In a bitter irony, advanced Libyan weaponry that fell into terrorist hands after Colonel Gaddafi was ousted — courtesy of the UK, France and the U.S. — has been used against the French in Mali.
In Egypt, where the U.S. and UK helped lever out President Mubarak, his replacement, Mohamed Morsi, is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood which increasingly appears committed to holy war against the West.
In similar vein, Western governments have soft-pedalled Iran through fruitless negotiations and slow-burning sanctions, thus giving it time to build its nuclear bomb with which it hopes to finish off the West.
Worse still, those governments have themselves shown a lack of stomach for a fight. This has been demonstrated by the ignominious way they scuttled from Iraq, and fought a war in Afghanistan which — despite the unquestioned courage of the soldiers fighting it — often appeared so half-hearted it all but guaranteed what historians will surely regard as defeat.
By contrast, Islamist fanatics play the longest game in town. With their heads still stuck fast in the seventh century, they think nothing of fighting at least until the end of the 21st.
What inspires them to further violence is their perception that the West is wide open for the taking — because it simply doesn’t have the will to fight for what it believes in.
This is demonstrated not just in the military sphere, but in the way in which it has allowed the radical Islamist agenda to make inroads into its own societies, courtesy of the perversities of human rights culture and the craven willingness to silence all such concerns on the grounds that they are ‘Islamophobic’.
This lack of will is on show in the U.S. no less than in Britain. Indeed, one of the most devastating blows to the defence of the West is that President Obama, having helped the Muslim Brotherhood to power in the Middle East, has in effect pulled up the drawbridge by declaring that his interests now lie across the Pacific instead.
America may be committing a few drones to the fight in Mali or the badlands on the border of Pakistan. But with its strategic shift and planned defence reductions, the Obama administration is signalling that the U.S. is no longer willing to lead the defence of the West against its most deadly enemy.
And that should terrify us, because without America we are lost.
The belief that Britain should similarly sit on the sidelines in glorious isolationism is misguided. The jihadists in Africa directly threaten us, not least through the two-way traffic between UK-based Somalis, Sudanese, Algerians and so on and al Qaeda in the Sahara.
While we must certainly be discriminating in our use of military force abroad, we have to alter the deadly perception of confusion and weakness which will encourage further atrocities.
The modest help the UK gave the French in Mali was proportionate, but Mr Cameron is right to suggest we may provide more to fight al Qaeda in Africa. It will finally be defeated there only through a concerted effort of international will and commitment to the long haul.
But that’s not all. There is a seamless connection between jihadi movements abroad, the blind eyes turned to polygamy or the oppression of Muslim women in the UK, and debacles such as the failure to extradite Abu Qatada.
To win this great civilisational battle of our time and protect all our citizens —including Britain’s many moderate Muslims — Britain must abandon its current incoherence.
That means holding the line against Sharia law in Britain, and tearing up human rights law in order to deal properly with the human wrongs of Islamic terrorists.
It means treating the Muslim Brotherhood as a deadly threat to freedom everywhere, rather than embracing them within Whitehall as helpful to the West.
It means a steely resolve to act against the whole continuum of extremism that links British boys in Tower Hamlets or Sheffield to al-Qaeda in the Sahara.
And it means no soft-pedalling or negotiation with those threatening violence against us or our interests abroad.
Only if we display such moral clarity and unwavering resolve will this menace ever be defeated, both at home and abroad. Otherwise, we are all hostages now.