In a recent interview with BBC Radio 4, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Louise Richardson, agreed that the global War on Terror  is ‘doomed to fail’ because it is ultimately a “political not military issue”. This echoes CAGE’s standpoint that a securitised response to politically motivated violence does not work, and may lead to further violence.

During her BBC interview, Professor Louise Richardson raised a pertinent question: she asked what would constitute a victory over ‘terror’ when there are no terrorist attacks ever? “We’re never going to achieve that,” she said, “Not in a free society, so we can never declare ourselves to have won. So why cede that kind of initiative to our opponents?”

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Richardson does not disagree completely with the role of military operations in the War on Terror but believes engaging with these ideas and ensuring that communities are not alienated are matters of which western governments should be mindful. Previously, Richardson expressed concerns about the government’s PREVENT strategy. She stated that she was “concerned that whole groups of students may see themselves as being suspect”, in particular Muslim students.

The 15 years of the War on Terror with its securitised approach of dealing with the issue of politically motivated violence, has not made us any safer. Arguably, much of the proliferation of violence in the world today is  linked to western intervention that ought to have ‘defeated’ terror. Barack Obama, the President of the USA told Vice news that “ISIL is a direct outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq, that grew out of our invasion, which is an example of unintended consequences.”

CAGE has repeatedly called for greater openness and dialogue in dealing with these complex issues. Under the guise of the War on Terror, the government has succeeded in alienating the Muslim community and stifling dissent. Most recently, the Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill has attacked free speech. This is a consequence of the government’s failure to address the real grievances which countless academics have pointed towards as being at the root of the drive to politically motivated violence. The focus on ideology rather than the perception of an unethical foreign policy and domestic disenfranchisement have resulted in an array of wholly misguided laws and policies.

The climate of fear generated by the War on Terror has been exploited by certain ideologues who seek to create a more ‘closed society’. The fear of an external threat is used as an important tool in engineering a conforming and submissive society. Ultimately, there is nothing new about violence that is born of the politics of disenfranchisement and alienation. Similarly, there is nothing new with authoritarian responses to such threats. If we choose correctly, what can be new, is the way in which we break these cycles of fear and violence – by choosing dialogue and openness.

Professor Richardson said “If terrorism could have been solved militarily it would have been solved, it’s precisely because it’s ultimately a political issue rather than a military one.”

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(CC image courtesy of The U.S. Army on flickr)

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)