‘In the struggle against terrorism, is our foreign policy an aggravating factor? Yes, in that anything we do aggravates them’

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The ventriloquism that occurs after terrorist incidents is always striking. Planes fly into towers, trains explode, gunmen run amok torturing and murdering Jews and whatever your particular grievance the terrorists all of sudden become your mouthpiece.

The travel-writer William Dalrymple used the pages of the Observer the Sunday after Mumbai to explain that the perpetrators of the attacks (still, then, unidentified) were “furious at the gross injustice they perceive being done to Muslims by Israel, the US, the UK and India in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir respectively”.

On CNN, within hours of the attacks, the Huffington Post‘s contributor Deepak Chopra said they were the result of the Iraq war and “our foreign policies”. Out to the extreme margins, the UK Muslim Public Affairs Committee declared: “Western (often Zionist lobby driven) foreign policy is the root cause of why these young men are taking up arms.”

For those of us who note that the terrorists of Mumbai went out of their way to target not only Americans and Brits but also a Jewish centre, the driving force behind these – and jihadi attacks stretching back decades – is perfectly clear. You’d have to be a Channel 4 newsreader or the New York Times to so repeatedly refuse to listen to the terrorists’ own reasons for doing what they do – to pretend they do not commit their acts of terror in order to satiate their infidel-hatred, imperial ambitions and caliphate-nostalgia.

Islamic fundamentalism has a propulsion quite of its own. Is our foreign policy a factor? An aggravating one, yes – in that anything we do aggravates them. But let’s go all the way. Let’s forget the indignity – not to mention long-term risk – of nation-states having their foreign policy dictated by whichever group is most violent. Let’s pretend it really is all about our foreign policy.

So what do we do?

First, America and her allies would have to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. In Afghanistan, this would lead, within months, to the overthrow of the democratically-elected Karzai government. Those who couldn’t flee would be dealt with in the traditional Afghan way. Though there would be no official handover (no foreign body would be willing to enter the country), Afghanistan would be unofficially handed back to the Taliban and warlords. The girls’ schools would finally be closed but the training camps could reopen.

In Iraq, the democratically-elected government, now in control of the majority of the provinces, would have to fight a renewed insurgency. Security would be sustained for a while. But once coalition troops withdrew from the most dangerous areas, there would be not just a new assertiveness from the Sunnis, but a counter power-grab from Iranian-sponsored forces in the south. The government would put up a considerable political and military fight, but as violence against the Sunni minority increased, their representatives would pull out. Unstopped by American and other coalition sacrifices, Iraq should be able to be back to a post-Samarrah situation by mid-2009 with a full-scale civil war following shortly. With the Shia finally getting an unfettered opportunity to end their Sunni problem, and Saudi and other forces poised nervously on the borders, the Armageddon scenario for Iraq could finally occur.

Having already withdrawn from the now-thriving Gaza, the Israeli government could attempt other successful retreats in the coming months. Once empty, the Shebaa farms could be fought over by Lebanon and Syria. A judenrein Palestinian state could be created in the West Bank. Mahmoud Abbas’s government would topple to a Hamas coup as swiftly and bloodily as Fatah was toppled in Gaza. Jordan would see its worst-scenario emerge, with a Hamas-controlled state ready to foment similar trouble inside the country.

Elsewhere, the referendum wishes of the people of East Timor could be overturned and the jihadists’ gripes be satiated by the return of the country to Indonesian control.

This could be a first wave. Perhaps then we could deal with the older grudges, beginning with a demand at the UN that Spain give up the lower part of the country it has occupied since 1492.

America, Britain and Israel would be blamed for the all the resulting fatalities, including the Muslim-on-Muslim violence. Given time, there would be the inevitable calls to intervene and stop real, rather than imagined, genocides. As with the Balkans in the 1990s, if we failed to stop such outrages we would be blamed for not stopping them. And would deserve to be attacked anew.

I hope I don’t have to continue this droll playlist. Those who use terrorists as mouthpieces for their own prejudices and give terrorists excuses they never asked for should be treated with contempt. Or at least they should be asked the follow-on question.

Let’s say it is about foreign policy. So what?