David Blackburn

Andrew Mitchell: the answer to global terrorism

Andrew Mitchell: the answer to global terrorism
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Al Shabaab and al Qeada are brothers in arms – Somalia is a hothouse for terror. Jonathan Evans, director general of MI5, has openly expressed his view that it is ‘just a matter of time’ until Somalia and the Yemen export terrorism to Britain’s streets. That striking statement contains one oversight: they do already. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, was trained in the Yemen and two of the 7/7 bombers were Somali.

How to eradicate this threat? The legacies of Iraq and financial retrenchment have made armed intervention an absolute last resort. Counter-terrorism is essential, but well targeted aid is the easiest remedy for chaos.

In a speech yesterday, Andrew Mitchell described why aid should be directed to benighted regions. Conflict creates power vacuums that are exploited by extremists, who use organised crime to fund exported terrorism - Al Qaeda’s nomadic progress across the conflicted corners of the globe is a case in point. Extremists conspire to disrupt the development and order that would expel them. Conflict becomes endemic.

Mitchell surmises, correctly, that it is in our interests to improve security in these regions. Instability harms growth. The nightmare in Mogadishu released piracy onto the approaches to the Suez Canal: global trade’s jugular: carriers are now taking a 1,000 mile detour round the Cape of Good Hope.

Conflict causes displacement. More than 80 percent of asylum seekers in the UK come from war zones. They are not all a direct security threat, but they are at least a security issue; the Home Office and its subordinate immigration agencies should be part of an integrated Whitehall approach to defence, foreign policy, aid and security.

Above all, conflict engenders poverty, which begets terror in turn. Somalia comes fourth bottom in global infant mortality; life expectancy is 50; primary school attendance is barely 30 percent; GNI per capita is a measly $140, and that includes the pirates and their loot. Development is impossible amid chaos, and terror burgeons as a galloping cancer.

Mitchell is no neo-con. ‘You cannot export democracy from behind a machine gun,’ he says. Stability is his raison d’etre. Somalia can attain the millennium development goals with the help of international aid and peace-keepers – hospitals, schools and clean water are the antidote to gun-runners and religious maniacs.

The basic institutions essential to civilised society can only operate in a stable political and economic atmosphere, and stability is self-fulfilling. If you give people a functioning legal system, they are likely to use it and how their rulers and each other to account. People will send their children to school if they can, and education is the key to self-betterment the world over. The poorest have a stake in their nation and today’s pirate could father tomorrow’s teacher.

Mithcell’s case is compelling and a welcome change to the wasteful bleeding hearts that pre-existed it. It is plainly in the developed world's interest to bring peace to the conflcted world: 22 of 34 countries furthest from the millenium development goals are in conflict, and they are, without putting too finer a point on it, hell-holes containing particularly vicious wares.  But, there is a suffrage shaped gap in Mitchell's argument. Institutions can only remain healthy if they are accountable, and that requires a functioning electoral system – the perceived decay in British public life can be ascribed to our entrenched disempowerment, what chance has Somalia?