Matthew Dancona

Brown’s view of the terror threat

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The Brown doctrine on the war on terror is emerging more quickly than we might have expected and certainly than he would have wished. In his interview with Andrew Marr, the Prime Minister rightly pointed out that al Qaeda's campaign against the West began long before the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq. He spoke - again, wisely - of the war against our "values", the assault by the Islamists upon a way of life rather than a specific foreign policy. He seems to understand that there is no quick fix. He grasps that we will need tougher security measures and rights to detain without charge beyond 30 days. (Interesting that he hinted he was in close touch with Tony Blair)

And yet Mr Brown also said that "making progress in the Middle East with Palestine and Israel will make a difference" and that the battle for "hearts and minds" was essential, as if his predecessor had made insufficient efforts to engage moderate Islam. One wonders how much he hopes to achieve on either front, and whether, in particular, he has made the great error of believing that there is a causal link between the growth of Islamism and the Middle East conflict: it is too easily forgotten that Osama Bin Laden said next to nothing about the Palestinians until he grasped how successfully he could undermine Western morale if he did so. Peace in the Middle East is essential, but those who think it will prevent jihadis driving flaming cars into public places woefully underestimate the cosmic, theocratic scale of their ambition and the breadth of their grievance. This is not a secular battle over territory. It is a fundamentalist battle over our very mode of existence.