In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

In Defence of James Bloodworth

Whenever political labels are applied, there are those who seek to rip those labels off people deemed unfit or unworthy. Ian Sinclair of the Ceasefire magazine has sought to challenge James Bloodworth’s “warmongering”. When asked what Western countries could do to support the rights of Pakistani schoolgirls, Mr Bloodworth replied: “Militarily defeating the people who shoot them, first off”.

Mr Sinclair’s rebuttal is comprised wholly of testimonies, from Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafazi and military adviser David Kilcullun, amongst others. The article castigates Mr Bloodworth’s supposed imperviousness to “evidence and elementary logic”, and unsubtly questioned whether Mr Bloodworth should be considered left-wing.

The political taxonomy should be settled. Labels like ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’ refer to a person’s whole viewpoint, on a wide range of policies, rather than a single stance. Being against wars is not an essential left-wing position. To expel someone on the basis of one policy represents one-dimensional thinking.

Do US drone strikes assist the support of terrorism? (Photo: KAZVorpal)

Do US drone strikes assist the support of terrorism? (Photo: KAZVorpal)

These powerful testimonies don’t answer the question highlighted by Mr Sinclair: does United States drone strikes programme futilely increase support for terrorism and insurgent attackers? Recognisably, this is the ‘blowback’ theory. It seems intuitive that if you are ‘hit’, you want to ‘hit back’. However, this intuition crumbles when applied to terrorism. Terrorists aim their principal attacks against civilians, usually to instigate changes in government policy.  Suicide bombings and other attacks have wrecked Pakistan, where 3,318 civilians were killed during 2009.   Substantial moral erosion must occur to justify attacking fellow civilians, after someone has killed your family and friends. Violence is not a natural consequence of feeling aggrieved.

Armchair Cleaners

The huge unpopularity of US drone strikes in Pakistan has not translated into support for terrorism. The Pew Research Center shows that 67% of Pakistani Muslims are concerned about Islamic extremism in their country. Moreover, in 2002, 33% of Pakistani Muslims said suicide bombs were sometimes or often justified. In 2013, that figure stands at just 3%. Their survey found favourable views of the Taliban were more common among Malaysian and Indonesian respondents than Pakistani respondents. The driving factor for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan – the main conglomerate of militants – are not the drone strikes, but according to its deputy leader in October 2013:

Pakistan’s system is un-Islamic, and we want it replaced with an Islamic system. This demand and this desire will continue even after the American withdrawal.

The article is littered with allusions about “armchair warmongering”. In a liberal democracy, any citizen should be able to propose any public policy. You don’t need to wield a scalpel to suggest surgeons should be paid more or hold a broom to believe your street should be cleaned.

There may be other reasons to be against drone strikes, such as estimates that high-level commanders represent only 2% of deaths from drone strikes, or their effect on international relations. However, counter-productivity against terrorism is a hardly plausible reason. Democratic debate enhances our arguments, whether you are left-wing, right-wing or believe that whole taxonomy is defunct.  It is simply erroneous to castigate James Bloodworth in this manner.

Update (21:38 18/12/2013): Ian Sinclair has pointed out I moved too easily between terrorists and insurgents, which is imprecise. I have replaced that example with the death toll by suicide bombing in Pakistan.

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This entry was posted on December 18, 2013 by in National Politics and tagged , .
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