November 20: Beware of gloating in our victories over ‘Islamic State’

From: J G Riseley, Harcourt Drive, Harrogate.

I AGREE with Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University, that a major goal for IS is the breakdown of relations between Muslim communities and the indigenous population of Europe (The Yorkshire Post, November 16). It is important that we avoid the venting of emotion through inter-personal hostility or the adoption of irrational policies.

I agree, also, that care is needed regarding the propaganda impact of the war in Syria and Iraq. Fine if “Jihadi John” has been taken out, but that this has been the subject of high-level gloating, and even that it has been made public at all, is potentially counter-productive.

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It is reminiscent of the Northern Ireland conflict where the security forces did an excellent job in occasionally seizing a cache of IRA weapons but would then spoil it by putting them on display, making a fresh bomb atrocity obligatory. This was vanity and self-indulgence. One might argue that such announcements are necessary to boost public morale, but if we need our morale boosting in the face of the pinpricks inflicted by terrorists then we must be a very much enfeebled stock compared to previous generations. It is perhaps more about boosting politicians’ images.

Similarly, we don’t need to help IS by publishing images of the bombing, and we need to keep the limitation of collateral damage in the forefront of our planning. But I take issue with the Professor when he extends his argument to the level of our effort. The so-called Islamic State is perfectly capable of presenting us to the world as ‘Crusaders’ whether we scale back the bombing or step it up.

Professor Rogers reports that IS numbers have remained stable at around 30,000 in spite of the claimed loss of 15,000 supporters inflicted by the air campaign. But there is no basis for his suggestion that 15,000 replacements volunteered in direct response to the bombing. One could equally argue that, without the bombing, there would still have been 15,000 new recruits, taking Isis numbers up to 45,000. A similar debate has raged over the Second World War; whether the extraordinary resilience of the German war industries in the face of the allied bombing offensive demonstrates the futility of that campaign or indicates the threat of even greater output from an unmolested industry.

If, however, our actions do draw new recruits to IS in Syria, then we can be thankful that they are there where we can bomb them rather than here where they can bomb us.