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Saturday 30 August 2014

Rotherham: The Tip Of A Multicultural Iceberg?

In some ways I am so glad to be in my mid-fifties and without any children, because quite honestly Britain is fast becoming an ultra-liberal multicultural hell-hole that no decent person,  in their right mind, would want to live in, assuming of course that they had any choice in the matter in the first place.
Nobody but nobody could have been anything but totally appalled by the shocking revelations regarding the recently announced child exploitation allegations coming out of Rotherham, where for a period of 16 years, between 1997 and 2013, an estimated 1400 young girls were reported to have been systematically exploited and sexually abused by groups of local men, many of whom were from the local Anglo Pakistani community.
The fact that these young girls were targeted, groomed and then sexually exploited by these men in the first place is bad enough, but bearing in mind that both the local childcare services and law enforcement agencies were not only aware of the issue, but then chose to ignore it, just helps to make the entire situation even more troubling and far more serious. One can only speculate as to what actions would have been taken by the authorities, had the case actually involved young Asian girls being sexually exploited and abused by gangs of white men, although one can only imagine that the response would have been entirely different and far more robust, than seems to have been the case thus far.
It is beyond comprehension that the authorities in Rotherham seem to have taken the view that the physical and moral safety of these young girls was obviously deemed to be far less important than the promotion and pretence of racial cohesion, or multiculturalism in the town, with the result that hundreds of young girls were sexually abused, raped, trafficked and physically threatened, whilst the perpetrators themselves were allowed to avoid responsibility, ostensibly because they happened to be of Asian heritage. Towards that end, it has even been suggested that the local police went to the trouble of actively trying to disprove the various allegations being made by some of the young victims, presumably in an effort to not only justify their own inaction and lack of detailed investigations, but also to ensure that the town's multicultural balance wasn't in any way disturbed by what was an unpalatable truth.
Such an intolerable situation begs the question, just what sort of country have we become that we allow some of our youngest and our most vulnerable children to be brutalised, terrorised and exploited, whilst at the same allowing their attackers to escape identification and legal retribution, all for the sake of an ill-thought-out political concept that has brought our country nothing but harm?
For most of us multiculturalism has added little significant benefit to our country, save possibly for the addition of colour, smell and flavour to our own rich and historic culture. Although there is no doubt that a minority of the immigrant community who have settled in our country over the course of the past 50 or 60 years have added significantly to the UK's economic performance, financial standing and cultural diversity, such perceived benefits must be seen in the round. For each of the individual benefits that might be attached to the arrival of some of the most well educated, well resourced and thoroughly integrationist migrants, one could just as easily identify many more less well educated, less well resourced and thoroughly divisive incomers having been allowed to set up home in the UK.
It is this second group of non-indigenous settlers who pose the greatest risk to our country, because rather than wishing to integrate and become one with the native British community, they simply want to exist here, outside of our customs, our culture, our laws, our social norms, living within their own isolated ethnic communities, but always within the safety of our national borders. Some, not all, are not even content to settle for type of isolated, insulated existence though; and expect, or in some cases even demand, that the majority white population, the 80-odd% of Britain's peoples, should not only accept their presence, but also elements of their own often backward way of thinking. As a result, we have a wholly unrepresentative 10% of the British population, mostly consisting of immigrant groups, demanding or expecting that the remaining 80-90% of the UK population should live by or simply accept their rules, their laws, their culture; that we should adapt for them, rather than the other way round. Is it any wonder then that foreign born extremism, isolationism and fundamentalism have become everyday features of our society, when in fact they have no real place here at all.
One suspects that one of the main causes of our country's many problems is the fact that we are far too tolerant for our own good; and that it is this underlying tolerance that encourages many of these same foreign born and foreign inspired perpetrators to break our longstanding laws, customs and conventions in the first place. Not only are they content to commit some of the most heinous acts imaginable, but they often do so in the full knowledge that our ultra tolerant and highly liberal society will fail to punish them in any sort of punitively meaningful way. How else can one explain instances like Rotherham, or the public slaughter of drummer Lee Rigby, or the Underground Train Bombings, or the attempted attacks on our airports and airliners, or the abuse of our soldiers, or even the disparaging of our War dead. In committing such criminal actions, not only are they breaking the law, but they're also displaying the sheer and utter contempt they feel for our indigenous population, our traditions, our customs, our history and our society as a whole. Even they, through their own revolting criminal actions are showing their own rejection of and opposition to this fabled idea of British multiculturalism that has been foisted on our society by current and previous generations of ultra liberal thinkers, who generally haven't had to live with the effects of their great social experiment.
There is of course a simple answer to the problem of our society reconciling a mixed variety of foreign customs, traditions, religions and social norms, which is for them to adapt to the larger pre-existing native culture of Britain and its peoples, purportedly the reason that most foreign migrants came to our country in the first place? Instead of us adapting for them, perhaps we should begin to insist, in a far less tolerant manner, that they adapt for us, or else they should find some other country to live their lives in. If migrants want to arrange marriages for their daughters, or restrict who they can or can't marry, if they want Imams to legislate over legal issues, if they want to slaughter live animals without pre-stunning, if they want to wear religious attire that instinctively separates them from wider society, if they want to mutilate the genitalia of their children, if they want to blow people up, chop off their enemies heads, or in fact carry out any such barbaric and medieval practices, then perhaps they should go and live in a country that condones or actively pursues such activities, but not here in Britain.
Although statisticians will undoubtedly show that the vast majority of children who are abused and exploited in this country every year are victims of indigenous white men, rather than Asians, or any other foreigner in general, that rather misses the point perhaps. We know after all that the UK is predominantly a country of white men, so common sense and logic would therefore assert that this particular group might be responsible for a greater number of such abusive outrages, as statistically they would be. It is also probably true to say that a smaller, but nonetheless regular number of Asian children suffer an equally abhorrent fate on a regular basis, mainly at the hands of adults within their own ethnic communities.
All that having been said however, what makes the Rotherham scandal all the worse is the sheer scale and brutality of the attacks visited on many of these young girls, to the extent that words such as "industrialised" have been used to describe the situation. Not only were large numbers of youngsters exploited by what appears to be a significant number of Asian men, but it has become obvious that the trade in these young girls went well beyond the limits of Rotherham, but also to towns and cities like Derby and Sheffield, suggesting that the problem is not just a localised issue, but possibly a regional, or even a national one. If we accept that Rotherham is possibly just the tip of a very large iceberg, then exactly how many British towns and cities have similar foreign sex gangs; and how many young children are regularly being brutalised, terrorised and exploited in such a way; and will we ever find out for sure, if other police forces and child protection services are as lazy, or as incompetent as those in Rotherham?

Saturday 23 August 2014

Syria, Islamic State & British Jihadists:

IT'S FUNNY, BUT I DON'T SEEM TO REMEMBER anyone in the UK government telling the French or the American administrations that they couldn't or shouldn't attack Syria over the chemical weapons strike that was launched against sections of the Syrian population just a year or so ago, leaving hundreds of innocent Syrian civilians dead. So the idea that French President Francoise Hollande has any sort of grounds to now rebuke our  current ruling coalition for their failure to launch a missile assault against Syrian forces, especially in the face of widespread British public opposition to any such attack, not only makes President Hollande's implied criticism of the UK's inaction completely unjustified, but also palpably hypocritical. Britain has never tried to be, or for that matter has never been widely recognised as, the international community's moral conscience, so quite why the French President should now attempt to blame the UK for the seemingly meteoric rise of the Islamic State movement in Syria and Iraq is quite frankly, incomprehensible.
From an entirely outside point of view, it would appear to be the case that the Islamic State, or ISIS, is just as much a product of Al Qaeda's own internal divisions, as it is about this new fundamentalist movement being encouraged and then subsequently used by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, to actively confront his own internal mainstream enemies, such as the Free Syrian Army and those other traditional opposition groups who have spent years trying to oust his autocratic regime. By deliberately ceding territory, by sacrificing large numbers of his own troops, as well as his own civilian population; and also by  preserving many of his own core military assets, whilst at the same time encouraging the Islamic State to viciously attack and degrade most of the other mainstream opposition parties, President Assad has virtually ensured that the final battles of the currently bitter and bloody Syrian civil war would almost certainly be fought between Assad's own regular armed forces and the fundamentalist fighters of the Islamic State. Or at least that might have been the Assad plan?
Had the Islamic State movement remained within Syria's own national borders, the likelihood is that both the fundamentalists and President Assad would, over time, have continued to consolidate their respective positions, by fighting and annihilating the various opposition factions facing each of them, until such time that only President Assad and the Islamic State movement were left to fight over control of the country. Had that scenario remained the case, then it seems probable that ISIS would have eventually been defeated by the much more modern, well equipped and well trained regular Syrian Army, with its highly effective air force and its stocks of high-tech weaponry.
Unfortunately for Bashar Al Assad, the Islamic State's subsequent expansion into the territory of neighbouring Iraq and their sudden acquisition of numerous high-tech weapons and vehicles, including battlefield armour, has fundamentally changed the dynamics of any future military engagement between the two competing sides. With millions of dollars in stolen funds, as well as having gained control of certain Iraqi oil supplies and having amassed a large arsenal of modern up-to-date American weapons, ISIS is now widely regarded as one of the wealthiest and best equipped insurgency movements that has ever existed; and from a Syrian point of view is now a completely different and far more dangerous form of military opponent than President Assad and his advisers could have ever expected to confront when they first laid out their plans.
With the Islamic State now having bolstered its ranks with hundreds, if not thousands of new Sunni recruits from Iraq, some of whom are highly experienced jihadists; and having underpinned their own movement's fearsome reputation for committing the most barbarous of acts against their enemies, through the shooting, beheading and crucifixion of their opponents, ISIS fighters are undoubtedly much more feared now than at any point in the past. Even the Kurdish peshmerga, some of the most capable and formidable fighters in the region are thought to respect the commitment of the Islamic State's fundamentalist militias when it comes to a straightforward fire-fight, suggesting that the ISIS fighters would be more than a match militarily for President Assad's regular army forces, should the two sides ever go head to head in any sort of definitive battle.
The growing reputation and the increased firepower of the Islamic State being what they are, this might begin to explain why certain sources within Syria and the wider Middle East are beginning to hint at the possibility of greater security co-operation between the Assad regime and the western powers, based around the logic of "my enemy's enemy is therefore my friend" and the argument that the Islamic State represents a common threat to everyone. However, given that the western powers were seriously considering launching air-strikes and missile attacks against the Assad regime a little more than a year or so ago, it would seem fanciful for anyone to suggest that Britain, France or the USA would willingly overlook the Syrian regimes decision to use chemical weapons against sections of their own civilian population; and now join President Assad's forces in a joint strike against the Islamic State.
Even though there is little doubt that ISIS represents the gravest threat to the stability of the Middle East in decades, it is probably just as important that world leaders do not overstate or overestimate the risk that the movement poses to the region generally. Granted that Iraq and Syria are both in turmoil; and that ISIS have been instrumental in stirring up much of those particular troubles, but it's also worth remembering that there are any number of other influential Middle East states that still remain calm and have the military resources to confront any fundamentalist Islamic threat should it come knocking on their doors, including the likes of Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and Iran. Syria's woes are almost entirely the result of longstanding grievances against the despotic rule of the Assad family; and had Bashar Al Assad been a little more inclined to introduce real reforms to his country, then perhaps the rebellion that has been raised against him might never have occurred and would have prevented ISIS from gaining a foothold in Syria in the first place.
For its part, Iraq's internal problems are the result of equally longstanding issues and can undoubtedly be traced back well over ten years, when Saddam Hussein initially fell foul of the international community, after he carried out a series of ill-thought-out actions, including the gassing of the Kurds, going to war with neighbouring Iran, invading Kuwait and thumbing his nose at the international community over the subject of the existence of his purported weapons of mass destruction.
The allied invasion of Iraq which resulted from Saddam Hussein's personal vanity, along with his aggressive foreign and domestic policies simply allowed the internal rivalries within the country free rein, so that without the suppressive influence of his tyrannical regime and the security apparatus that he had built to control all of the various ethnic, religious and tribal rivalries, in a sense removed the cap from a seething volcano of national discontent that has been wracking the country ever since. It was also thought to be as a result of Saddam's deposition and subsequent death that the Sunni Muslim community has found itself isolated from mainstream government and separated from control over their country, to the extent that many of them have become resentful and rebellious, a perfect recruiting ground for the Sunni fundamentalism of the Islamic State movement, which has its roots in the neighbouring Syrian conflict.
The renewed Islamic Caliphate recently announced by the ISIS leadership, whilst the movement was enjoying its initial military successes against the hapless Iraqi national army and hopelessly under-resourced Kurdish forces, is in reality little more than an ideological construct, based on territories seized by ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, but not a fixed physical entity, simply because it seems unlikely that the Islamic State will be able to hold all of those territories indefinitely. If that indeed turns out to be the case, western leaders who are contemplating assisting the new Iraqi government with military aid and perhaps more importantly, temporary air cover, must decide just where they should draw the line on territorial possessions, as well as their future approach to the whole Islamic State question. Only today, American military leaders were suggesting that in order to defeat ISIS completely, then there would doubtless be a need to attack the movement and its supporters in Syria, which is after all its heartland. But then that in itself raises the issue of collaborating with President Assad of Syria, the same individual whose forces the Americans were proposing to bomb less than 12 months ago?
Of course logic and common sense would seem to dictate that the only real obligation that western powers have towards Iraq, is to re-establish its external borders with its neighbours and help create a safe and stable internal environment for all of Iraq's various ethnic groups, which would inevitably involve eradicating or ejecting any foreign influence from the country, including those ISIS fighters who still hold significant Iraqi territory. Beyond that, it is hard to imagine that the allied powers have any further moral or legal obligation to Iraq or its people.
Better that the western powers use their advanced military air power to first consolidate and then expand the new Iraqi governments areas of influence within their own country, rather than worry about those ISIS forces currently lying outside of Iraq's national borders. Because even though the Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi special forces, in alliance with the American air force, have managed to stall the Islamic State military advance in some parts of the country, towns and cities like Mosul and Amerli are still either controlled or besieged by ISIS, leaving their tens of thousands of inhabitants at risk from the fundamentalists. As a highly mobile and heavily armed militia, the Islamic State's fighters are perfectly able to travel throughout Iraq at a relatively fast pace, striking at vulnerable strategic targets, then either consolidating their positions, or simply mounting more hit-and-run raids, whilst all the time being preceded by their fearsome reputation for religious intolerance and barbaric reprisals.
With the Kurdish peshmerga generally unable to keep up with each ISIS attack and with much of the Iraqi regular army thought to be holed up in major population centres like Baghdad, essentially much of the hinterland of Iraq has been surrendered to the forces of the Islamic State, a state of affairs than could only be remedied by the fast and far-reaching military assets of the western allies in the shape of their frontline strike aircraft and unmanned drones. Only by conducting a full-scale and continuous air campaign against the Islamic States fighters and their vehicles would it be possible to isolate the individual militia groups, by denying them unfettered access to other associated groups and other parts of the country. If they themselves could be besieged in the various towns and cities that they currently hold, it might then be possible for the Iraqi government to bring regular and Kurdish troops into the various areas of occupation to confront them directly and hopefully eliminate them, thereby reducing the threat to the country overall. No-one would doubt that such operations might prove to be costly in terms of military and civilian losses, although the alternative strategy of simply chasing ISIS fighters from one Iraqi town or city to another and allowing them to slaughter as they go, would undoubtedly be just as costly in terms of innocent Iraqi lives, if not more so; and possibly extend the length of the bloody insurgency in the long run. 
As for the ISIS problem in Syria? It seems to be the case that President Assad and his regime are more than capable of dealing with the Islamic State movement, as and when they choose to do so. According to most reports, Assad is being assisted by the Shia backed Hezbollah movement, which is itself sponsored by the Iranian government, so it is not as if the Syrian government is without friends and allies in the region. Also, as a favoured client of the Russian Federation, they can no doubt rely on the support of the Kremlin in the event that they required additional material help to help defeat the Islamic State in Syria.
But from the West's point of view, only the future of Iraq and its indigenous people are really that important. By re-establishing the Iraq-Syria border and securing those routes, both in and out of the country, then that in itself should almost certainly help minimise the chances of ISIS using Iraq's territory as either a bolt hole to escape from their Syrian opponents, or as a source for new recruits to help fight their religious wars.
The great fear for most western leaders of course, is that the Islamic State will attempt to spread its poisonous and barbaric ideology well beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria, not only into other neighbouring Middle Eastern nations, but also to those western countries that already have sizeable Muslim communities of their own. Perhaps surprisingly, Belgium is said to be one of the main exporters of foreign fighters to the ISIS cause, with an estimated 200 of their citizens having volunteered to fight for the Islamic State in either Syria or Iraq, whilst for its part the UK is thought to have seen around 500 British citizens volunteer for jihad in the same region.
As if to prove the popular expression "stupid is as stupid does", these estimated 500 Muslim jihadi volunteers from the UK, cannot be regarded as being in anyway representative of the British Islamic community as a whole, but are rather as the Conservative MEP, Daniel Hannan, described them in his recent excellent Daily Telegraph article, those of a "type", typically individuals with some sort of personal axe to grind against the world in general, those who are almost predisposed to take an opposite view on just about everything and anything, or those who have an almost psychopathic personality disorder and welcome the idea of wholesale death, destruction and disorder. Quite how one deals with people such as this, in order to ensure that they don't visit their crazed ideological thinking on the rest of our society is open to public debate, but clearly there is an argument to suggest that they should probably be treated in exactly the same way as we might treat a rabid and incurable animal, with their total destruction being the only humane and sensible course of action open to us. 
At the very least, where an individual has made a conscious choice to abandon their country, its prevailing rules of law and its generally accepted standards of civilised behaviour then there should be no place for them within that society, now or in the future. In the event that any British jihadist decides to return to the UK, having made the deliberate and personal decision to fight for the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, or any other terrorist organisation then they should automatically and instantly be returned to either Syria or Iraq, or wherever else they took up their "struggle", in order to face justice in that particular country, rather than being allowed to escape true retribution through the use of the British judicial system.
In the event that any of these British jihadists are subsequently found guilty by a Syrian, Iraqi or any other foreign court then they should face whatever appropriate sentence is handed down by that court, even if that might include a death sentence. These "stupid is as stupid does" individuals need to recognise that their own personal actions and decisions can often have serious repercussions and if they choose to willingly participate in the murdering, looting, raping of a nation, then they should fully expect to face an equally violent and merciless response from that state.

Thursday 14 August 2014

On Iraq, Once Bitten Twice Shy Is Not An Excuse!

It is hardly a surprise that so many people in the UK, around 30%, are fundamentally opposed to any sort of direct British military action in Iraq, save for vital humanitarian aid, when one considers the absolute disaster we seem to have left behind the last time we chose to involve ourselves in that troubled country.
That having been said however, it is also reported that approximately 40% of those people who were asked the question, would actually support the idea of Britain using its military airpower to attack and degrade the heavy equipment and weaponry now at the disposal of the Islamic State, which currently presents such a terrifying risk to virtually all of the non-Sunni peoples of both Syria, Iraq, as well much of the wider Middle East region. Were Iraq and then Syria both eventually succumb to the rabid fundamentalism of the Islamic State movement, then one could only begin to speculate as to which neighbouring country would be next on their list of possible conquests. Would it be Iran? Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar? the UAE? Lebanon? Turkey? or even Israel?
It may seem fanciful to suggest that a rag-tag army of radical Islamic fundamentalists could possibly threaten some of the Middle East's principal military players, but when one considers that Iraq's own national army was thought to be one of the best equipped and highly trained in the region, yet simply vanished when confronted by the Islamic State's highly committed and often seasoned fighters, none of the countries mentioned should simply assume that they are safe from the current IS threat.
Not only are the Islamic State reported to be one of the wealthiest terrorist organisations that the world has ever seen, ostensibly as a result of stolen bank deposits and hijacked oil revenues, but now thanks largely to the inherent weakness of the new Iraqi army, IS have become one of the best armed and best equipped field armies in the entire Middle East. What weaponry deficits they might have, can easily be filled by purchasing the necessary arms and equipment on the world's markets using their vast stolen wealth, although there will almost always be certain specialist personnel and equipment that are not available to them, by virtue of the fact that such items and skills are generally held under the various state's immediate control.
In addition to being well equipped and well financed, this new Islamist force is thought to have some of the most experienced and committed fighters in the Middle East, many of whom have gained extensive military experience in Saddam Hussein's former national army, or when battling the western coalition forces following the allied invasion of Iraq in 2003, opposing the army of Bashar Al Assad in the towns and cities of Syria and helping to rout the new Iraqi army over the course of the past few months. By repute, many of these Islamist fighters are thought to be highly committed religious zealots who put their personal faith before their own physical safety, making them extremely dangerous adversaries for those Iraqis who might be willing to oppose them. Quite whether their growing ranks of impressed fighters are as willing to fight and die for the cause of Islam, as are its voluntary recruits, remains to be seen, but by most conservative estimates the Islamic State movement is said to be able to field a force of up to 10,000 fighters to wage its battles, a not inconsequential number of people, especially if they are extremely well armed, well motivated and highly mobile.
Although some military experts believe that an entirely air mounted military campaign against the IS insurgents would bring only limited benefit to the embattled Kurdish and Iraqi forces who are having to face the fundamentalist fighters of ISIS, the fact that they are having to oppose insurgents that are armed with the latest American weaponry, courtesy of a retreating Iraqi regular army, is also a vital consideration.
In the comparatively short lived Libyan air campaign, waged principally by Britain and France, the allies were said to have specifically targeted the heavy weapons of Colonel Gadaffi's forces, in order to ensure that those artillery pieces, tanks and missiles couldn't be used against the civilian population who were rebelling against Gadaffi's autocratic regime. By dominating the skies over Libya, Britain and France were able to suppress and degrade the military advantage that Colonel Gadaffi enjoyed over his opponents, but without the allies having to commit any ground troops to the actual campaign, save for a handful of military advisers and specialists who were liasing with the rebel forces.  
In Iraq most Kurdish commanders on the ground have all pointed to the fact that their Islamic enemies are being so successful against them, ostensibly because the Islamic State fighters that they're facing now have better weaponry than the Kurdish peshmerga, who are regularly having to make do with extremely limited and often obsolete Soviet era military equipment. If all that the allied air forces were to do, was to destroy or degrade the Islamic State's burgeoning weapons cache, the battle tanks, the armoured personnel carriers, the field artillery, the mortars, the rocket and missile batteries, which were stolen from the Iraqi regular army, then that action alone would doubtless level the northern battlefield and allow the peshmerga defenders to compete with Islamic State on a more equal footing. 
Time and again both the Kurdish and Iraqi leaderships have publicly stated that there is absolutely no need for allied troops to join the fight against ISIS directly, to put boots on the ground as it were, simply because the Iraqi army and the peshmerga are content to fulfil that role for themselves, without the need for any large scale foreign intervention. In fact the only thing that the Iraqis and the Kurds seem to want and need from the western powers are those specialised military forces and services that they cannot provide for themselves, such as ground attack aircraft, military spotters, trainers, intelligence units, communications specialists, transport facilities and most importantly, modern weapons. Mimicking the old Churchill mantra, most Kurds and Iraqis are simply telling western leaders, "just give us the tools and we'll finish the job", without any need for a single British or American military life to be risked or indeed lost.
Of course sitting behind Britain's currently pitiful response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Northern Iraq is David Cameron's own utter failure to make the case for a military intervention in Syria, which resulted in a parliamentary defeat for the Prime Minister; and the fact that a British general election is due to take place in less than twelve months time. With the country divided over what action to take over the Iraq crisis, it seems that Mr Cameron has chosen to adopt a highly cautious approach when it comes to possible British responses, with the result that he is now generally seen to be indecisive, distant and even unconcerned about the human catastrophe that is currently taking place in the Middle East.
Coming back from his family holiday a whole day early, the Prime Minister's response to the crisis is to try and concentrate people's minds entirely on the humanitarian aspect of the unfolding disaster, in an attempt to avoid any serious decision making on the much thornier issue of any possible British military action against the Islamic insurgents who are currently blighting large parts of Iraq. 
Mr Cameron's own woeful personal performance on Iraq aside, as well his reluctance to confront Russia over its involvement in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, the really disappointing aspect of all three crises, is not simply the Prime Minister's own leanings towards inaction and even appeasement, but that of almost the entire British political class. Having sufficiently well trained, well armed and robust armed forces is all very well, but if there is an underlying political reluctance to employ those forces in pursuit of the nation's best interests, including the upholding of international law, then what use are they, or what purpose do they really serve?
That is not to endorse the sort of wilful and ill thought out military adventurism that we saw under the Blair administration with Iraq and Afghanistan, or the current Coalition with Libya, but then neither should we refuse to employ those military forces to the full when international law and acceptable human norms are being so maliciously overlooked or deliberately disregarded. As a nation that prides itself on its strict adherence to the rule of law, human rights and freedom from tyranny, torture and religious persecution, shouldn't we always stand ready to defend our basic principles, even if that means that the young men and women of our armed forces have to be placed in harms way to do so?
If nothing else, British military involvement in Iraq, Libya and quite possibly Afghanistan have taught us that having a well thought out strategy beforehand, an end game, is probably far more important than anything else we plan for. Both American and British political leaders found to their cost that simply having a single basic objective of removing a national leader, finding weapons of mass destruction, or even taking sides in a civil war, often comes a poor second to the much more important issue of, but what happens afterwards? In Iraq, in Libya and potentially in Afghanistan, the most important question should have been what is the long-term objective of the allies actions and how is that best achieved? And that simple question should undoubtedly have been asked before a single boot hit the ground, before a single bullet was fired, or before a single Tomahawk missile was launched.
As it is, in Iraq, in Libya and possibly to a lesser extent in Afghanistan, there were few long term goals, almost no planning for what to do or what would happen after the fighting was over; and as a consequence both Iraq and Libya have largely degenerated into a patchwork of historically divisive ethnic, tribal and religious factions that are inadvertently tearing their country apart, such is their historic intolerance and hatred of one another. In Syria, although the western allies have played no direct part in the vicious civil war that has been raging there over the past few years, western support for the Free Syrian Army, has almost certainly aided the rise of ISIS, the Islamic State terrorist movement, which now threatens to engulf significant parts of Syria and Iraq, bringing with it the sheer human brutality of the Middle Ages, masquerading as modern Islamic justice.
David Cameron's Conservative/Liberal Coalition government are just as culpable for the spread of the ISIS terror, as is Barak Obama and his administration, if only by providing the means that has allowed ISIS to grow and to thrive. By Tony Blair, George W Bush, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Barak Obama removing or diminishing the apex predators in the Middle East, in the persons of Saddam Hussein and Bashar Al Assad, they have inadvertently released a far greater threat to the region as a whole, in the form of the Islamic State.
It seems to be beyond belief that the British and American intelligence services would have been unaware of this development as the bloody Syrian civil war dragged on, or as the Iraqi government of Mr Maliki continued to falter and fail; and yet it seems that no affirmative action was taken by any of the western allies to eliminate the growing threat from ISIS, until of course it started to threaten almost the whole of Iraq and the many minority religious communities that have existed there for centuries.
Only time will tell just how many Shias, Yazidis, Christians, etc. have fallen victim to the ISIS terror; and only once the Islamist group have been fully defeated by the peoples of Iraq and Kurdistan. Having already publicly displayed their utter brutality and disregard for common humanity through their fighter's explicit postings on the various social networks, it seems likely that many hundreds, if not thousands of more victims will have been slaughtered without their deaths being recorded in such a diabolical way. As seems to be the case nowadays, in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda, in Libya, in Iraq, time inevitably tends to uncover the numerous mass graves of those who have often been murdered in the most appalling way, with their bodies hidden in a crude attempt to hide evidence of the crime and the identities of the perpetrators.
As has been said before on this blog, whether we like it or not Britain shares a degree of national responsibility for the catastrophic situation that now exists in Iraq; and as such must try and make amends for that by trying to right some of the wrongs that have been carried out in our name. Although ultimately it is the likes of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron who take the decisions to commit our armed forces to action, in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria and in Afghanistan, it is us, the electorate, who hand them the executive authority to act in our name. Our earlier adventure into Iraq cost Britain nearly 200 lives and for most of us, it wasn't worth a single loss for what little was ultimately gained, or for any of the perceived benefits it was said to have brought to the people of Iraq. Afghanistan has cost this country many hundreds of more young service personnel's lives, not a single one of which can have been said to have been worth the highly questionable gains that the venture is said to have brought to our country. All that having been said however, the fact that we have already been bitten in Iraq, suffering the losses we did for pretty much no real gains, should not prevent us from trying to do the right thing this time, but for all the right reasons.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Iraq: We're Duty Bound To Clean Up Our Mess

Iraq Prime Minister Maliki
I suppose that if you ever wanted to see an example of the widely held theory that religion and politics don't mix, then you probably need look no further than the entire Middle East region, where both history and current events continue to prove beyond doubt that a belief in a single, intangible, divine "God" to help regulate people's lives, or for that matter to run a country, is often a very poor substitute for a modern, secular and inclusive democratic government.
Of course, most countries in the world have already realised that running a entire country along purely religious lines, using holy scriptures that are possibly thousands of years old and therefore completely unsuitable for the modern age, is an absurdity in itself. Those few that do, or at least come closest to being a fully fledged religious state are almost always Islamic, autocratic and some of the least successful countries when it comes to basic issues like health, education, industry, international trade and most of the other common measures that are used to judge a nation's comparative success in the 21st century.
The likes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait the UAE and other oil rich Arab states appear to have escaped the worst of the religious upheavals in the Middle East simply because of their oil wealth and their ability to use those natural riches to both insulate themselves from and regularly suppress incidents of religious fundamentalism within their own borders. The fact that the likes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE are not modern democracies, but little more than feudal kingdoms, with a strict adherence to Islamic teachings, has also helped to ensure their survival, as has their willingness to use their wealth and influence to ensure that the various religious wars are fought well away from their own population centres.
Although clearly not an expert on the intricacies of Islamic history, it seems fairly obvious to me that some followers of Islam are still fighting wars over religious arguments that first began hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, much the same as Catholics and Protestants did in Europe five centuries ago, with the same very bloody, but rather pointless outcomes. Despite the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands who died in Europe's religious conflicts over the centuries, Catholics still hold on to their faith, Protestants to theirs, Jew to theirs, Muslims to theirs. In other words, not a single death has made one iota of difference in the overall scheme of things, other than to help create decades, or centuries of hatred, intolerance and division that no single religion ever gained one single benefit from.
What is more disturbing about the current conflicts in the Middle East is the attempt by a relatively small group of religious fundamentalists to use the underlying and historic religious tensions, those that exist between Sunni and Shia Muslims, to somehow justify the wholesale extermination of other minor faith groups in the region. Whether it's the Yazidi, Christians, Shia's or other non-compliant Sunni Muslims there can surely be no justification for the genocidal campaign that's currently being launched against them by the fighters from the Sunni inspired Islamic Caliphate movement.
ISIS Militia
But of course that pre-supposes that these religious fighters are what they purport to be, Islamic warriors, waging some sort of holy war against the unbelievers, as opposed to just being a band of brigands who loot, rape, murder, torture and ransack, not for any higher purpose, but purely because they can, the usual forces of law and order having withdrawn before them. If the definition of a terrorist is simply someone who terrorises his fellow citizens, putting them in fear of their lives, then the entire Islamic State movement is little more than an out-of-control terrorist organisation, or how else would one explain the purpose of their photographs and videos depicting their victims being crucified, shot or beheaded? What religious army rapes young girls and women, robs people of their money or possessions, or tortures their prisoners? It doesn't sound very spiritual to hack someone's head off in public, especially when they're bound hand and foot, unable to offer any sort of defence. No, try as they might to justify their base and brutal actions by draping them in the flag of the Islamic religion, to even call them animals would be to insult the lowliest of creatures, the IS fighters are much, much worse than that.
Our leaders in the West though must take their fair share of responsibility for the rise of the IS plague, as it was their thoughtlessness and conceit that inadvertently led to its creation, following the allied invasion of Iraq in 2003, ostensibly to destroy Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction or WMD's, which didn't actually exist. By removing Saddam from power, along with his army and intelligence services, the allied forces essentially removed any effective counterweight to those religious fundamentalists who would have previously been suppressed by Saddam Hussein's administration. Even though he was a dictator of the worst kind, responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in his own country, Saddam was said to have operated a generally secular government, in recognition of the fact that inter-faith rivalries did indeed exist and could therefore pose a significant threat to his continued rule.
By defeating and then disbanding the standing Iraqi army after the 2003 invasion, western forces helped to create a situation where extremist groups were able to thrive, so much so that allied troops were reported to have incurred losses as the result of militant actions, which might not have been the case had the regular Iraqi army units been kept in place. In fact, it has even been suggested that numbers of these same former well trained Iraqi soldiers went on to form a core of the various religious militias that regularly attacked coalition forces in Iraq, causing additional human losses that otherwise could and should have been avoided.
Tony Blair
No doubt hoping that a completely reformed Iraqi national army with very little experience and a new civilian government would help resolve such issues after western forces had withdrawn from the country, almost inevitably the problem has got worse rather than improving. Iraq has not only found itself saddled with a national army that is incapable of confronting the IS militia, but one that finds it easier to run away without even firing a shot at the religious insurgents. With an officer corps lacking both quality and experience, who are generally reported to be the first ones to flee the scene of an impending battle with IS, it is perhaps little wonder that the regular troops are inclined to follow their officer's lead and abandon their uniforms and weapons, rather than confront the heavily armed and mobile enemy which is approaching them.
Added to this is the national government of Prime Minister Maliki, who has thus far failed to bring the country together under his leadership, preferring instead to exacerbate the tribal and religious differences that even Saddam Hussein would regard as a disastrous approach. Having ignored and isolated both the Kurds and the mainstream Sunni Muslims within the country. Prime Minister Maliki is only now, albeit late in the day, coming to realise that an inclusive military and political approach must be employed if he is to rescue Iraq from the real threat posed by the Islamic terrorist groups that now hold power in huge swathes of the country. Even though many thousands of Iraqis have died thus far, as a result of the IS invasion of the country, in the event that the Kurdish peshmerga forces were to fail through no fault of their own, or the remaining Iraqi military forces were to refuse to stand their ground, it is almost certain that a humanitarian disaster will eventually occur, of the sort previously witnessed in the former Yugoslavia, in Rwanda and in Cambodia; even though the international community has since dedicated itself to preventing such events from happening, yet again!
The point being of course, why has it taken this long for the international community to finally wake up to the looming disaster that is taking place in Iraq, bearing in mind that it was this same international community and principally the United States and the United Kingdom who were the chief architects of the disaster, in the shape of President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Although no-one could doubt that Prime Minister Maliki has been instrumental in creating the basic conditions for the worsening ethnic and religious divides in Iraq that has added to the situation, ultimately it was the Americans and the British administrations that chose the framework for a post Saddam Iraq, with no effective army, no effective intelligence services, no inclusive government and who between them allowed the Kurdish peshmerga forces to be marginalised and under resourced in terms of military arms and equipment, with which they could help protect the wider country. It is utter madness that the most effective fighting units in Iraq at present were and continue to be denied the sort of logistical support that the overrated and totally outclassed Iraqi national army were more than happy to abandon; that subsequently fell into the hands of the IS militias and is now being used to attack what is left of Iraq.
Peshmerga Fighters
For their part at least the United States is trying to offer some sort of military support to the Iraqi government, if only by attacking the IS militias from the air and by targeting equipment that has fallen into the hands of the Islamic terrorists. It is astonishing though that for its part the UK administration of David Cameron doesn't seem to accept that our country has at least a moral responsibility to try and rectify a situation that a previous British Prime Minister helped to create. Food parcels, water, tents and groundsheets for Iraqi refugees are all very well, but ultimately they provide little or no protection from the bombs and the bullets that the Islamic militias have at their disposal and that they will almost inevitably use against the refugees at the earliest opportunity. We helped to create the problem of ISIS and it is only right and proper that we should use our armed forces and our logistical muscle to help in resolving the problem, ideally by using strike aircraft to both undermine and degrade the IS military forces.
Although no-one is suggesting that the UK should put men on the ground in Iraq, there can be no good reason why Britain cannot arm and re-supply the Kurdish peshmerga forces who are more than capable of taking on and defeating the Islamic militias provided that they're are given adequate military materials to do the job. I find it truly astonishing that Mr Cameron was more than happy to involve our country's armed forces in Syria, despite the fact that it had nothing to do with us. He was more than happy to involve our armed forces in Libya, even though it had nothing to do with us. Yet when it comes to Iraq, where we do bear some degree of responsibility for the current situation, he refuses to take any sort of meaningful action! Regardless of the fact that both Iraq and Afghanistan have turned out to be the most wasteful sort of adventurism for our country; and especially for members of our Armed Forces, if we ever hope to regain our reputation for being a guardian of international law and protecting the weak from the powerful, then surely we must be prepared to clean up the mess that we have helped to create, beginning with Iraq? 

Friday 8 August 2014

Boris Johnson? Not Seeing The Appeal I'm Afraid!

Maybe it's because I'm a northerner that I fail to see the attraction of Boris Johnson, either as an individual, or indeed as a worthwhile political figure, even though much of the mainstream media would seemingly have us all believe that politically, Boris is the best thing since sliced bread.
Telegraph columnists like Professor Tim Stanley, Isabel Hardman and others have tried hard to convince their readers that Mr Johnson has not only been a roaring economic and political success during his time as London mayor, but somehow also represents a repositioning of Conservative party values that are more in tune with the wider electorates beliefs, when it comes to issues such as the UK's troublesome membership of the European Union and the often thornier subject of mass migration.
At the same time, Mr Johnson's recent announcement that he intends to contest, an as yet unidentified parliamentary seat in 2015, is said to mark a direct challenge to the leadership of David Cameron, the current Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, in the event that Mr Cameron fails to lead his party to victory in next year's General Election. Putting a brave face on Mr Johnson's public announcement, Mr Cameron is said to have welcomed Boris' decision to stand and described the London mayor as one of the Conservative Party's "best players"
Although one suspects that Mr Cameron probably isn't that happy about Boris' decision to stand as an MP, he cannot be seen to publicly oppose him for fear of offending even more of the dwindling numbers of traditional Tory voters, who really do seem to believe that Mr Johnson might just turn out to be the saviour of their party's political fortunes in 2015. Others are not so sure; and unhappily seem to take the view that Boris' erratic nature will no doubt be exposed in the glaring light of a national publicity campaign, where voters in the North, in the Midlands, in Wales, in Scotland and Northern Ireland will see Mr Johnson for what he really is, a rampant right-wing Eton educated rich boy who purposefully hides behind the facade of a generally old-fashioned, but completely harmless British eccentric, when in fact he is nothing of the sort.
One assumes that either Mr Cameron already accepts that the chances of a Conservative electoral victory in 2015 are slim to non-existent, or he really does believe that the presence of Mr Johnson on the campaign trail will actually boost the Prime Minister's chances of being re-elected, ostensibly by Boris helping to undermine the appeal of Nigel Farage and UKIP. It has hardly escaped people's notice that Mr Johnson has regularly positioned himself in similar territory to UKIP, when it comes to the UK's continued membership of the EU and the associated subject of mass migration. The current Conservative thinking seems to be that with Boris talking tough on European Union directives and mass migration, even though he holds no elected parliamentary position or ministerial power, sufficient voters will be attracted to the party's electoral cause in 2015 to give Mr Cameron his second term as Prime Minister.
Even ignoring the fact that Boris first has to identify a potential parliamentary seat, contest it and then win it, such a strategy pre-supposes that Mr Johnson would be able to influence or guide future Conservative policies as regards the EU, which is by no means a certainty. Mr Cameron has already laid out his own plans for some form of renegotiation over the UK's membership of the EU assuming a Tory General Election victory in 2015, to be followed by a national plebiscite on the matter of 2017. However, given his previous history of reneging on his promises, it is hardly a surprise hat a majority of voters are generally unconvinced by Mr Cameron's personal promises on anything, never mind the UK's membership of the European Union, of which the Prime Minister is reported to be a huge supporter. Likewise, his fellow Conservative and possible future opponent for the party leadership, Boris Johnson, is also reported to be an avid reporter of the EU, as well as the concepts of free movement and open borders from which the City of London has been a principal beneficiary.
Despite what Mr Johnson and his supporters may choose to tell the British people, in support of his own campaigns, both for a parliamentary seat and for the Conservative leadership, the reality is that Boris Johnson is simply another self-serving privately educated millionaire, who will do and say whatever it takes in order to achieve their own selfish personal objectives, the acquisition of power and wealth. Unfortunately for Boris, his own previous pronouncements, statements and writings tend to make plain the lie of his so-called personal Euro-scepticism;  pointing instead to a Conservative politician who is fundamentally wedded to the concept of Britain's ongoing membership of an all embracing federalist EU, as well as the outrageously unfounded view that Britain's indigenous workforce are more often than not the architects of their own misfortune, by virtue of being lazier and significantly less well educated than their incoming foreign counterparts. According to one of Boris's oft quoted statistics, around one in four Britons (or 25%) will leave primary school being unable to read, write, or do basic maths. Quite whether that particular figure is true or not is unclear, as one doesn't imagine that every British child is individually tested when leaving primary school, although the fact that the London mayor chose to use such a generalised statistic to somehow excuse the use of foreign workers, instead of British born employees, should perhaps be the more noteworthy point.
But therein lies the main problem with Boris. For this writer at least, he is first and foremost a fair weather politician, allowing himself to drift from one populist cause to another, depending on the direction that the winds of public opinion are blowing, from the EU, to immigration, to foreign affairs and then onto the economy.
After all it wasn't that long ago that he was busily berating the likes of David Cameron and Theresa May over the subject of putting limits on the numbers of migrants coming into the country, at the same time suggesting that the hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens already within our borders should be given British citizenship, in order to bring them into mainstream society, an amnesty if you will. Of course one could only conclude that these hundreds of thousands of newly created legal citizens would then have been entitled to bring their wives, dependents and extended families into the country as well, adding a few more hundreds of thousands to the already overstretched population; and yet Mr Johnson seemed perfectly happy for this to happen? Fast forward a couple of years and the same Boris Johnson is now demanding that Mr Cameron and Mrs May should be imposing more stringent controls on the numbers of migrants coming into our country, presumably because the national debate has moved on and the public's opinion has changed, so Boris' position has needed to adapt as well.
Although there's little doubt that Boris Johnson is an extremely shrewd political operator, much of the evidence from his time as London mayor suggests that he has not only tried, but has in part successfully managed to politicise a great deal of that city's administration, even though tradition demands that certain offices and services be exempt from party influence. It is also clear that as with a number of other London based local government authorities, Mr Johnson has successfully managed to construct a highly loyal team around him, one that is dedicated to protecting him and his reputation, even if that involves one of them having to take a political bullet for him occasionally.
However, even though Boris' cheery, mildly eccentric, "hail fellow well met" persona might play well with the Conservative party faithful and elements of the wider British electorate, it remains to be seen whether or not Mr Johnson proves to be a vote winner or not. Britain has never been short of colourful characters, or mild eccentrics like Boris Johnson, Magnus Pike, Grayson Perry, Screaming Lord Sutch, Quentin Crisp, Vivienne Westwood, to name but a few; and we might occasionally cast a vote for them in local and national elections just for a laugh or as a protest, but would we really want to give them any real power? Clearly the voters of London decided to trust Mr Johnson with their economic, social and political futures, but despite what the Westminster led mainstream media would have us all believe I'm not so sure that the rest of the country are quite as gullible as their southern cousins are, when it comes to a choice of national leadership. Boris Johnson for Conservative Prime Minister? Not seeing the appeal I'm afraid! 

Monday 4 August 2014

Democracy Isn't Always The Great Panacea:

Even though some people would doubtless regard it as a highly controversial suggestion, there is a fundamental argument to be made that sometimes, just sometimes, particular countries or regions of the world sometimes fare much better when they're being ruled by an autocratic individual, rather than the democratically elected administrations that we're much more used to seeing in the west. Although we may not agree with basic principle of someone unilaterally seizing power to control the future direction of a particular country, there is no doubt that under certain circumstances such a scenario or outcome can be much more preferable than allowing power to reside in the hands of the people of that country or region.
It remains a fact that in certain parts of the world indigenous populations are little more than children, lacking the education, the basic understanding and perhaps the sophistication to be trusted with a choice of who governs them  and who does not. Throw into that situation a sometimes irrational adherence to religious fundamentalism, a belief in ethnic superiority or inferiority, an occasional reliance on traditional backwardness in the form of primitive tribal practices; and in a sense granting electoral power to such native populations, is to virtually invite the worst sorts of anarchy, mayhem and disaster to occur.
With a few notable exceptions, it's worth remembering that some of the world's greatest democracies originally started out as autocracies, tyrannical kingdoms or fiefdoms that were ruled over by single individuals or specific families for hundreds of years, before a single one of their subjects were entitled to a vote on who exactly governed them and on what basis. Again, with a few notable exceptions, even if the citizenships of the likes of the old western kingdoms of England, Scotland, France, Spain, Portugal, etc. had somehow wanted to demand their rights to be heard, to participate in the running of their homelands, for the most part, few of them would have actually possessed the education, the understanding, or the personal sophistication to have done so anyway.
If one accepts that a decent education, a better understanding of the world and a well-balanced personal judgement are just three of the basic benchmarks for an entitled electorate then it perhaps explains why democracy isn't always an appropriate form of government for every country. In large parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East significant numbers of the native populations still can't even read or write, let alone understand their own country's place in the world, or develop the sorts of personal skills that might help to inform or enrich them as individuals. Women traditionally carry the weight of these disadvantages far more than men, often because the various societies regard women as second-class citizens, or sometimes even as mere chattels, tasked with being little more than homemakers, child-bearers, wage-earners and sex-slave.
One only has to look at certain areas of Africa, Asia and the Middle East to recognise that a western form of democracy doesn't always work for the betterment of every country. Can anyone honestly say that Iraq is a better country now than it was when Saddam Hussein ruled over it? Has Syria been in anyway improved by the western backed insurgency that has blighted that country for the past few years? Does anyone really believe that Afghanistan will actually survive the withdrawal of the thousands of western troops that have helped suppress the religious extremism, lawlessness and tribalism that is endemic to its very core?
That is not to say that the likes of Saddam Hussein are a perfect candidate for governing a state, or that his often tyrannical actions were in any way justified, but contrast the numbers of dead and dispossessed in Iraq since the dictator was forced from office, to those who died before; or consider the thousands more who have been slaughtered since the religious fundamentalism of  the ISIS insurgency has taken hold in that now bitterly divided country. Is that what the millions of newly enfranchised Iraqi people voted for when they went to the polls after Saddam had been removed by the west, slaughter, mayhem and division? Is that what the people of Syria can expect if and when Bashar Al Assad eventually falls; and they're offered the chance to participate in free and fair democratic elections? Is that what the voters of Afghanistan can expect to experience once the last remaining western troops go home, leaving them in the not so capable hands of yet another western trained national army? Did the removal of Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi bring a better life for the Libyan people, bearing in mind that their country is currently being ravaged by a range of underlying tribal and religious differences, which probably wouldn't have arisen, or indeed taken hold had the autocratic Gaddafi still been in place.  
It is perhaps worth recalling that any number of modern democracies around the world have been preceded by sometimes brutal dictators or by military juntas; but that have subsequently gone on to develop into highly advanced and generally successful modern democratic states, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Argentina and Pakistan being just five of the many countries that have eventually and successfully made the transition from dictatorship to democracy.
That is not to advocate individual dictatorships or military juntas as the preferred method of government for any country, although it has to be said that certain countries, simply by virtue of their indigenous populations and the prevailing cultures cannot or should not be trusted with their own self governance. One only has to look at the state of Iraq, a potentially successful modern and wealthy state that is currently in danger of being destroyed from within because the two main religious factions within the country, Shia and Sunni, cannot agree to co-operate with one another. Similar divisive issues exist in many other modern countries, be it Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Libya, Ivory Coast, Chechnya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Darfur, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, etc.
Whether a country is divided by ethnicity, by religion, by caste, or by simple tribalism, it often requires a fairly autocratic, even a dictatorial style of government in order to prevent such countries from being ripped apart by internal feuding. Even though such autocratic rulers may engage in the pretence of democratically free elections to underpin their right to rule, dictators such as Robert Mugabe are content to not only repress the rights of the white minority in Zimbabwe, but also the rights of those black tribal groups who are generally opposed to his own. Nouri Al-Maliki in Iraq and Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan are both democratically elected leaders, who have thus far failed to prove that they have overcome the longstanding religious and tribal divides that are endemic to their individual countries. Indeed, Mr Al-Maliki is thought to be such a divisive figure in Iraqi politics that it is his own policies of isolating his religious opponents, which has led to the unexpected rise of the Islamic Caliphate (ISIS) within the borders of both Iraq and Syria; and now threatens the very existence of Mr Al-Maliki's own recently elected government.
Due to the fact that the likes of Mr Al-Maliki and Mr Karzai are unwilling or unable to impose their individual wills on their respective national populations, ostensibly because they are both personally weak, but fundamentally democratic in their approaches, they unwittingly create the sort of political environment, which allows ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Taliban to not only establish themselves, but also to thrive in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Extremism, of the sort exhibited by the likes of ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Taliban can only ever be countered by other forms of extremism, as in the sort of autocratic rule practiced by the likes of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, the Ayatollahs in Iran and by President Assad in Syria. Even though all of these states have held national elections on a fairly regular basis, if only to maintain the pretence of a democratic mandate, at least such polls restrict the activities and the candidature of the more extremist groups who sometimes try to manipulate the democratic process for their own means, as was suggested to be the case with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Hamas party in Gaza.
Although no-one would willingly advocate that a true democratic process should be replaced by an authoritarian dictatorship, for some countries, this would undoubtedly be preferable, if only to guarantee the lives and well-being of a majority of the local populace. Of course, it is probably also true to believe that were religion generally to play less of a part in national government and in people's everyday lives, then the need for firm, disciplined, autocratic leaders would be far less necessary than it is, most especially in the region of the Middle East where Islam in its many forms is doubtless responsible for many of the major problems that endlessly affect the native populations of that area. Tyrants may not to be everyone's tastes, but according to some schools of thought, dictatorships, especially of the more benevolent kind, often offers the countries in question stability, less corruption, more efficient government and lower crime rates, benefits that many of today's failing states could undoubtedly do with.