War on terror: an overrated threat?

A new security study deeply critical of the war on terror has been published in Britain by an independent NGO, the Oxford Research Group. Some call it one of the most comprehensive mainstream critiques of UK & U.S. policies to date.

John Sloboda, ORG Executive Director and one of the authors of the study, believes the terrorism is but one of many serious threats the world faces today.

“What we’ve come up with really is that terrorism is an overrated threat. Of course it is a threat and it is killing people but there are other threats which are already killing far more people than terrorism – for example, climate change, resource competition – that we are running out of oil and also water – increasing marginalisation and poverty in the world, and the world’s militarisation, as every year the world spends more on weapons,” he says.

These are the problems highlighted by the study, as needing to be brought under control: displacement of peoples, severe natural disasters and food shortages, creating migration and social unrest. The wealthy are getting wealthier and the poor are getting poorer.

Oil, according to the authors of the report, is the only reason why the Middle East is currently in flames. Treating Iraq as part of the war on terror has only spawned new terror in the region. Terrorism is the simple result of wrong policies.

The British Home Office has issued a statement countering the ORG's findings.

“We acknowledge that our involvement in Iraq is controversial for many people and that this may be used as a motivational device for terrorists in terms of recruitment. But Al-Qaeda was attacking and murdering innocent people, and plotting to do so in the UK, long before our intervention in Iraq,” the statement says.

Some argue the ORG report is inconsistent, and transnational terrorism is in fact a major threat.

“What we are seeing is that after the 9/11 more atrocities in more parts of the world than ever before. Whether we look at the attacks in London, Bali, Madrid, Beslan – they’ve all been major mass casualty atrocities,” states Sajjan M. Gohel, Director for International Security, Asia-Pacific Foundation.

Nevertheless, many in Britain support the report saying that an ongoing military and political campaign aimed at destroying groups deemed to be ‘terrorist’ and the whole ‘war on terror’ are just tools for governments to attain public consent for their increase in military resources. And what's more, it is increasing rather than decreasing the likelihood of future terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11.

There is a direct connection between the acts of terror and the response of the governments – so it’s cycle of violence. As governments prepare to respond to the acts of terror by building up military intervention that creates many of the grievances – and those create more terrorists, and crucially not just the terrorists but support for terrorists,” suggests Paul Ingram, an analyst of the British-American Security Information Council.

The ORG report is called “Beyond Terror”. What it mainly says every drama of the present has a 50 to 100 year history behind it and it will have the same timescale effect in the future. So, the report concludes, all people – and especially governments – need to stand back and think how thier actions will affect the long term.