Meanwhile, in a place nearby...
I confessed before to subscribing to the London Review of Books earlier this year, having read that it contains some of the best writing in British publishing. Well, so it does, but it also contains a heck of a lot of Marxism. Thus, on many a political subject, you can guess that some very predictable points will be made along the erudite way.
There's a very interesting article in the latest edition called How should we think of the Caliphate? that, for the most part, isn't as obviously Marxist/New Left as most of the other political stuff...which is a good thing as the author of BBC World Service presenter Owen Bennett Jones [not to be confused with Owen Jones]...still it's a piece that sits comfortably in the LRB.
Well, he thinks we shouldn't worry about all those British Muslims who have gone to join the-terrorist-organisation-formerly-known-as-ISIS:
Isis’s openness to foreign fighters has paid dividends, though the question that concerns Western media is how much of a threat they would pose if they returned to the societies that nurtured them. British officials claim that as many as five hundred Muslims from the UK are now fighting in Syria and Iraq and that those who survive and return will be too numerous for the security services to monitor. But in reality there is nothing even approaching an existential threat to the UK. Many of the young men who have gone to the Middle East have done so precisely because they don’t consider the UK their enemy and don’t think they should attack British targets. And one of the insights gained by the various deradicalisation programmes that now exist all over the world is that while jihadis appear ferocious, many are fairly weak-willed individuals. It’s easy to persuade them to fight, but it also turns out to be easy to persuade them to stop. It has been estimated that in the past just one in nine returning foreign fighters has continued to wage jihad in some form in his home country.
That's comforting. Some of those 500 or so British Muslims won't return anyhow (whether choosing to stay, blowing themselves up or being killed) but, if those estimates are correct, a mere one in nine of any of those who do return to the United Kingdom will still want to wage jihad. Let's assume 450 of them return. That's a mere 50 battle-hardened jihadis returning to our stores. What could 50 battle-hardened jihadis (who fought with a group which Al Qaeda finds a bit too much mean for its taste) do back in Blighty?
Very comforting indeed.
What does he think about President Obama though? (Something impartial?)
When you consider the alternatives, America’s inaction looks well advised. And while Obama is derided by left and right for his many failings it may just be that after he leaves office in a couple of years’ time, he’ll be missed.
I suspect Owen won't be the only one to miss President Obama at the BBC.
To end, a quiz...Which of the following is former 'Plebgate' minister Andrew Mitchell and which is the BBC's Owen Bennett Jones?