Logic and Terrorism
One of Blair's abilities that really does not help is his ability to argue contradictory cases in the same speech. The point about contradiction is that if you argue a contradictory case then you could be arguing anything.
The syllogism goes as follows if P and not P are both true. P or Q is inherently true. Not P implies Q is true. In other words the whole system of logical argument collapses and anything can be proven.
There is a simplistic reductio ad absurdam
case dealing with Blair's speech of yesterday (linked) which unusually I watched thinking it might indicate something further about his position.
He argued that the battle against extremism was "not just about security or military tactics, it is about hearts and minds, about inspiring people, persuading them, showing them what our values at their best stand for."
The demonstration of the values is simple in the deaths of children through the conflict and particularly at Qana. You cannot isolate out one element from another.
The more complex argument requires quite a few more paragraphs.
Blair's basic error is to see some complex ideology behind the conflicts in the world. The main thing behind the pattern of global conflicts is actually human nature and in particular the behavioural patterns of human beings in groups. It is important to recognise that in any conflict these patterns of behaviour exist on both sides of the conflict (or even more sides when that happens such as in Bosnia).
Let us consider the group known in Arabic as Hizbut Allah Jihadi. This group has been responsible for human rights abuses, are dominated by a single leader who wishes to establish a religious state based upon his theological analysis and it has been responsible for a number of massacres. This might sound like an Islamic group, but that is only because the name of the group has been translated into Arabic. The name in English is the Lords Resistance Army and their theology is based on Christianity. There is also Hizbut Allah (Hizbollah) a translation into Arabic of "God's Army" which is a Christian Terrorist group based in Myanmar that fights Buddhism.
The fact is that people who are fighting like to feel that they have a solid justification for their acts. If they feel like fighting they will look for a cause. Generally people are happier if they feel that God is on their side. Hence they are likely to argue that case. What we need to look for is why conflicts develop and how to reduce conflict rather than be surprised that religion is used as a justification.
Blair is right to see that much of the world remains Feudal. A segmented society where the main pattern of loyalty is to the tribe or the clan rather than the class is the form of society that predominates nations which are not considered part of "the Western world". The Western World to a great extent had a class based society in which the main pattern of loyalty was to the class. In particular the loyalties within the trades union movement to the Labour Movement are strong bonds which have faded over the years, but still remain important. A key element of a class based society is that people can change class whereas they cannot change their parents.
The word "feud" comes from feudal because such persisting conflicts come from disputes between families or clans. It is important to note that generally in a segmented society religion follows the clan. All of the members of a clan are likely to be of the same religion and if they change religion then all are likely to change their religious allegiance at once. This was the case with Christianity in the British Isles in the periods from 900-1200 where frequently allegiance to then Catholicism was developed from the feudal leaders and spread to the clan members.
Disputes between clans, therefore, can quite readily end up also as religious disputes. The battles in the Ukraine between the Greek Catholics and Russian Orthodox are both ethnic (Ukrainian and Russian) and religious. The big battle over the government was, therefore, more feudal than ideological.
One challenge that Blair and his colleagues are not up to is understanding that within segmented cultures there are many different patterns of behaviour that would rankle in the pseudo-rational western devolved class based society. It is far more important in such societies to avoid causing offence. This can mean that people don't bluntly tell the whole truth to everyone - they are normally more subtle. Whereas being blunt and truthful and sticking by your word is an important part of the western culture it is more important to be polite in segmented cultures. This causes quite a communication problem as regardless of the language people speak people misunderstand the subtleties of communication.
Human nature has a drive towards group loyalties. People support football teams. They also tend to support their own country in a conflict beit sporting or military. Emotionally they celebrate victoris and viscerally they feel the pain of defeats.
It is this pattern of group loyalty that leads towards people developing hatreds. People whose family members died in attacks such as 7/7 can develop a desire to seek revenge. That is a natural process that happens in similar situations. The more remote the victims are the less of the demand for revenge, but if people identify with the victims there is a tendency to want to see revenge. This happens with politicians as well as people who are not elected to govern. There is a tendency to divide people into "them" and "us".
Normally in any situation the number of people directly affected by any incident will be relatively small. It does, however, become possible to widen the conflict and bring more people in. The mishandling of the Easter Uprising by the British in Dublin in 1916 was a good example of how to widen a conflict. With the unjust and disproportionate acts of the British Government they turned far more people against the UK and made Independence a demand rather than Home Rule.
Interational Humanitarian Law (the Geneva Conventions etc) have been developed to avoid the events that cause anger that lasts generations. There is a form of acceptance that soldiers will die in wars. There is less of acceptance that large numbers of children should die in wars. Collective punishments have, therefore, been excluded from "civilized" conflict.
Fedual conflicts historically involved attacks from one clan on another. This involved things such as collective punishment and kidnappings. Such uncivilized conflicts, however, tend to last generations. The reason for that is that those people who survive have a greater demand often for revenge than peace. That is what leads to suicide attacks.
When Blair claims to want to be "showing them what our values at their best stand for."
he should be remembering that actions speak louder than words. In endorsing the continuing conflict in Lebanon he is implicitly endorsing atrocities such as that at Qana.
He is demonstrating through his failure to support a ceasefire that his values allow for the murdering of children by irresponsible use of force. The longer this conflict goes on for and the more atrocities that occur the wider the ripples of anger will spread throughout world opinion. He and Bush have managed to unite Shi'a and Sunni in anger and with a desire for revenge.
His language indicates his desire to divide the world into two groups: "them and us". George Bush has already said that people are already with them or against them. It is always possible to change direction. However, the problem is that the government don't recognise that their direction is wrong. In their personal emotional desires for revenge against terrorists they are losing the objectivity that is needed for effective political leadership.
It took centuries for people to learn the lessons of the outcome of uncivilized conflict. It has taken less than a generation for those lessons to be forgotten.