Monday, July 30, 2007

Brown's new counter-terror strategy

In what appears to be a major shift in emphasis, Gordon Brown is promoting a new, wide-ranging strategy to counteract the menace of Islamist terrorism, based on the Cold War model of deterrence. His article in the Washington Post used studied ambiguity with respect to the use of war to combat terrorism.

The prime minister emphasized that terrorism is a crime and urged the full resources of diplomacy (number 1 on the list), intelligence, police and military forces (last on list) be deployed against extremists. The phrase "war on terror" did not pass his lips.

Brown said that though the world owes America a debt for its leadership in the counter-terror struggle since 9/11, it is now time for a new approach: A major commitment to deterrence along Cold War lines, coupled with a cultural and ideological war (he did not use that phrase) as was done to counter Soviet propaganda.

Without saying so explicitly, Brown seems to be distancing himself from the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war based on suspicion or perceived national interest. His remarks on the Iraq and Afghanistan operations are opaque. In responses to reporter questions today, Brown seemed to setting a tone of general agreement on ultimate goals without being very specific about differences. An AP reporter's claim that there was no daylight between Bush and Brown views had little to substantiate it.

At the news session, Brown's commitment to a continuing military presence in Iraq was muted, despite his desire to appear cooperative with Washington. Brown held his cards close, saying further decisions would depend on assessments of military commanders.

In what may be a veiled rebuke to both Bush and Blair, Brown said that Britain and America share the ideal that "government should be open and accountable." Bush is known for his penchant for secrecy and lack of accountability, and Blair's government was embroiled in efforts to control media coverage of embarrassing leaks.

Brown urged international boots on the ground in Dharfur to address the humanitarian crisis there. Colin Powell, when he was secretary of state, accused the Sudanese government of genocide in Dharfur. Since then, it has been disclosed that the White House and CIA have been quietly working with the murderous regime to counteract Islamic fundamentalists.

Also, Brown said globalization shouldn't be seen "simply as a threat" but did not spell out what he had in mind. Globalized free trade is a major concern of Islamists, who fear the undermining of traditional values from foreign influences.

An unfettered free market has the systemic problem of cartelism, whereby those with the deepest pockets use lowball pricing to corner a market and then enter into a phase of low competition. This tendency is certainly an issue in Brown's Labor Party.

Though Brown did not address the issue of subversive elements triggering 9/11, he surely realized that his use of Cold War imagery obliquely raises the possibility. After all, the penetration of British intelligence by Soviet moles is a well-known sore point.

And, by emphasizing that terrorism is a crime, he leaves the door ajar for the possibility that the attacks of 9/11 are unsolved crimes.

The use of Cold War allusions is quite interesting in light of the darkened relations between Britain and Russia over the radiation terrorism used against a Putin critic living in London. Vladimir Putin and his ex-KGB comrades are well-versed in the arts of terrorism and subversion. As is well-known, prior to its collapse the Soviet Union was a chief sponsor of Arab terrorism (though the CIA also had a major hand in fomenting jihadist fervor in Afghanistan and Pakistan).

So one wonders whether a full-scale intelligence effort against extremism might imply a covert struggle against a resurgent Russia and its brand of pseudo-communism.

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