Opinion leaders in the West seem to take four positions on the fast-moving Middle East quagmire:
- Some favour more proactive military intervention against our purported enemies and welcome more refugees and economic migrants from the wartorn region allegedly to boost the economy. This group clearly believes not only in the concept of humanitarian wars, but also favour global governance over nation states. It's the classic Blairite position.
- Others seem quite gung-ho about bombing the Middle East to smithereens, but are not so keen on accepting refugees to appease popular opinion at home. This is a classic position of rightwing populists. They oppose para-state terrorism with superstate terrorism under the pretext of national security.
- Some are keen to welcome as many refugees and economic migrants as possible, but oppose more imperialist intervention. They are keen to do the right thing and blame any social and economic problems on the Western multinationals and US imperialism. However, this faction only ever seems to get its way on migration and despite years of antiwar demonstrations always loses when it comes to support for more military intervention. They claim to oppose destabilisation abroad, but welcome it at home often preferring outsiders to their own reactionary working classes.
- A fourth group, with surprisingly large support from pragmatic public opinion, opposes both more military intervention and more mass immigration. Some may characterise this as isolationist and you're certainly a hypocrite if you want to rely on cheap oil from the Middle East. Mind you, many small-c conservatives would also support protected markets, anathema to the largely globalist elites, whether left or right-branded.
Which position is least likely to harm more people and which position is most likely to prevent more terrroists outrages in European cities? Here's another secret: While political elites favour high-risk strategies, often billed as progressive, ordinary people on the ground tend to favour stability. Any policy that's likely to heighten tension, jeopardise job security or cause large population movements tends to meet with popular disapproval. The masses have to be persuaded to support either war or radical socio-environmental change.
If you believe much mainstream propaganda from CNN, Fox News and the BBC and are prepared to forget the details of recent military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, you may well believe only the enlightened West can save the Middle East from itself. You may be persuaded that this time our leaders support the good guys and will bring about peace and democracy. I think this would be an extremely naive position at odds with mountains of hard evidence, not least the collusion of US, UK and France in arming and funding rival Islamic fundamentalist groups and their massive arms and oil trade with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar and UAE.
However, beyond any shred of doubt the infamous Islamic State or Daesh (if you prefer) have committed unspeakable atrocities. We do not know if they are directly linked to the terrorists who killed over 130 innocent people in Paris on 13 November, but we do know large swathes of Europe's Muslim population have lost trust in Western enlightenment and a vast oversupply of cheap labour from migrant communities has exacerbated the deskilling of Europe's native working classes. More important just as the native birth rate has declined in much of Central and Southern Europe, the continent's Muslim population continues to grow both through greater fertility (or rather a greater cultural propensity to go forth and multiply) and through immigration. Whether this phenomenon is good, bad or neutral surely depends on the sustainability of the economic model that has driven such rapid growth worldwide and led so many to move to pastures anew. However, unless we can address the growing sense of helplessness of Europe's disparate parallel communities and keep growing the economy by extracting more resources (by outsourcing production to low wage regions and becoming more reliant on imports), any economic meltdown is bound to see a rise in tensions between rival groups.
In an ideal world we would not need to police borders or even lock our doors at night, but then in such a Shangri-La we would not steal resources from our neighbour's land or fund gang warfare to discredit our rivals. By pursuing a high-risk strategy of more military intervention in a volatile region, our ruling classes have failed in their primary duty to defend their electors. This strategy will only breed more distrust, limit everyone's personal freedom and lead more to escape the inevitable ensuing social mayhem. In a time of so much disinformation and emotive arguments, it takes courage to oppose a double dose of destabilisation.
Winning the War of Minds
Over the last 20 or more or years, one faction has usually won the day, proponents of military interventionism, open borders and global corporatism. Yet some armchair analysts may be forgiven for failing to notice how the media manipulate the traditional left/right divide to win favour with the electorate. Just before the 2003 US/UK occupation of Iraq, two million British people demonstrated against military actions, while public opinion remained steadfastly sceptical of the changing narrative of warmongers. Yet it hardly mattered, once a hardcore of activists had vented their frustration and parliament had staged a token debate with a few cabinet resignations, the then Labour government could rely on the Tory Party to offset any damaged caused by Labour rebels. The US would have gone ahead with or without UK support anyway. Yet within a week of the invasion of Iraq, UK public opinion supported the government again, for evil Saddam Hussein had been toppled. The mainstream left and right often play a game, taking it turn to advocate bold globalising policies and blaming their predecessors for any adverse effects of previous escapades. Thus the Tories blame NewLabour for running an unsustainable deficit and failing to make work pay by offering generous welfare handouts and encourage migrant labourers. Yet in power, the Tories seem just as happy as NewLabour to oversee the transformation of UK Labour market into an international jobs fair. Big business has long considered nation states with protective labour markets obstacles they have to overcome. They also need access to resources to drive economic growth, but are smart enough to appeal to universalism when they want to smash traditional nation state borders and to humanitarianism when they want to topple inconvenient governments in another part of the world.
Right now, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party doesn't stand a chance in hell of winning the next general election. The Tories rub their hands in glee as the Labour Leader espouses a combination of international welfarism, shortsighted neo-Keynsianism, naive open-borderism and conscientious objection to incessant warmongering. Traditional labour supporters may well support Corbyn on the latter point, but actually care about defending their nation and livelihoods. Cameron has the Tory press and decades of subtle BBC propaganda on his side. He can pose as a responsible defender of Western values, forced to take action against foreign terrorists and despotic regimes. Yet both the Labour Left and the Tory Right have failed to address the primary concerns of most ordinary people, security at home. Your average working class person doesn't care about the details of the Syrian conflcit or whether ISIS/Daesh are a bigger threat to us than Bashar Al-Assad. They care about their neighbourhoods and jobs. If you want to bring terrorism onto the streets of Britain, then a combination of more airstrikes and more open-door immigration could usher in a police state much more authoritarian than anything Augusto Pinochet or Erich Honnecker could have envisaged.