The events of last Friday in Paris have shocked the western world, and led to demands that something be done. So is the UK in a position to fight a war on terror, or have the evil doings of the Tory party left us unable to cope with such a threat?
Why did ISIS attack Paris?
ISIS have long worked on recruiting supporters by demonizing the West. It was an easy picture to paint – the US and UK roll in to Afghanistan and Iraq, bomb and shoot a load of people and then go home. But the Syrian crisis actually turned that around. The world saw Europe welcome refugees with open arms, and they began to realize that not all westerners are bad. Recruiting numbers were right down, and that was a problem for ISIS. The UK was a notable exception to this, with David Cameron refusing to take our share of refugees, and doing nothing at all to cut ISIS recruitment.
Earlier this month, ISIS bombed a Russian plane headed from Egypt to Russia. As a result, Putin increased his bombing in Syria. World leaders quite rightly condemned this, with David Cameron saying that Russia’s actions would lead to further radicalisation and terrorism. And he’s right – the Pentagon’s Defence Science Board have stated that bombing only makes things worse, and “Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States.”. Yet David Cameron is pushing for us to bomb Syria, thus increasing ISIS recruiting and terrorist attacks. This is arguably exactly what ISIS were trying to achieve.
How do we stop terrorists?
The government say that we need increased surveillance to stop terrorists. There is no doubt that if we could see what everyone is doing all of the time, and had the resources to monitor it all, it would be harder for terrorists. But the government’s proposals to spy on web traffic is not going to achieve that. France already has laws like the ones Theresa May proposes, and it didn’t stop the attacks in Paris. There are rumours that the attacks in Paris were coordinated over video game chats, which are not part of the surveillance bill, so the terrorists are already ahead of the proposals. Mrs. May wants to accelerate the bill in light of the Paris attacks, but in reality it will only help the government to spy on us, not on terrorists.
More plausible is an increase in manpower to actually track, monitor and stop terrorists. That manpower needs to come in three forms – the secret services, the border agency, and the police.
David Cameron has just promised to increase the number of spies at at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ by 2,000 (a 15% increase). That’s a good start, but it barely offsets the numbers cut by Orborne’s war on spending over the past 6 years.
The border agency are tasked with making sure that only the right people and things come into this country. Yes Osborne has slashed their budgets too. It is claimed that the border agency is struggling to keep up with basic tasks like checking passports at airports, and no longer has the manpower to effectively tackle smuggling, either of people, drugs, arms or anything else.
The police are key to stopping terrorism at home too. They are the first line of defence against suspicious activity, and they are the first responders when something is reported. However, deep spending cuts to the police are so bad that 7 PCCs (5 of whom are Tories) have taken the government to court, claiming that the latest round of cuts leaves them unable to do their jobs.
The armed forces
Whilst bombing indiscriminately is not a good idea, there is plenty that the armed forces can do to stop terrorism. For example, enforcing a no fly zone over Syria can help the local government stabilize and sort it’s own problems out. Troops on the ground offering humanitarian aid gives a very positive image that reduces radicalization. But the number of army personnel has been cut by 20% since 2010 (you could fit every soldier in Wembley with room to spare), RAF flights are down 40%, and the Royal Navy has just 19 warships left.
Instead of spending on people, we are pinning our defence hopes on the £167bn trident replacement. But the enemy that we face today can’t be beaten or deterred with a nuclear bomb.
Unfortunately the harsh budget cuts over the past 6 years have left the country in a position where it is unable to defend itself, unwilling to take humanitarian actions that have been proven to reduce terrorism and our preferred response (bombing people) is akin to poking a hornets’ nest with a stick. Mwhahaha.