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Why Should Jeremy Corbyn Apologise for Being a Pacifist?

23/11/2015 10:46 GMT | Updated 22/11/2016 10:12 GMT

As Labour's leader, Jeremy Corbyn, argued that police must not shoot to kill; the emerald benches behind him were soon deserted and he was left with a pitiful handful of colleagues - I felt sorry for him. He's been a pacifist all his life and yet members of his own party are vilifying him for his links to Stop The War Coalition and his anti-war stance. Scorned when he argued Jihadi John should have been tried in a court of law instead of killed by the drone (how exactly could the British government have arrested him?), but his views regarding giving police powers to shoot terrorists on the spot are not completely barmy. Have we forgotten the death of Jean Charles de Menezes shot eight times on 25 July 2005, when the Brazilian electrician was mistakenly gunned down by anti terror police at Stockwell tube station? This was a case of mistaken identity - a gross error that could happen again. Granted if a terrorist is shooting people dead the police require the mandate to eliminate the threat immediately and that could involve shooting to kill. Corbyn was forced into a dramatic U-turn by out spoken party members.

Corbyn's misgivings about allowing the UK to bomb ISIS in Syria (they are currently only bombing Islamic State in Iraq) are also not without validity. Using conventional war tactics to eliminate terrorists is not guaranteed to work. IS is not a conventional army with organised armed forces. Decimating Syria with bombs could create the perfect environment for IS to cement its hold as well as killing innocent civilians and damaging an infrastructure that further destabilises the country.

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Detail from War on a Scroll Part 2 (pen and ink on 30-foot scroll of paper, 2015)

Rather than destroy them bombing IS will incentivise them to strike back. The more the US, France and Russia bomb them, the more recruits will line up to consolidate their campaign and so it goes on. During the Vietnam War the US employed the tactic of bombing Ho Chi Minh's (leader of the Viet Minh's Independence movement) Viet Cong but they remained undefeated and undeterred. In the end the US gave up. Instead of the jungle being their hiding place IS is ubiquitous, operating in cyberspace, camping out in the rubble of Syria and Iraq, operating in Europe with continuous access to vast resources.

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Detail from War on a Scroll Part 2 (pen and ink on 30-foot scroll of paper, 2015)

Europe is now on high alert, with arrests taking place in France and Belgium, police patrol the streets and how can there be a resumption of normality when you are not entirely sure when the next attack will be?

Defeating IS in Syria and Iraq will be no easy feat. But there is much that European governments can do such as examining grass roots radicalisation in UK, France and Belgium. Molenbeek in Brussels is known as 'Jihad Central' home to Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian born national involved in the Paris massacre and currently on the run. It is also an area with lost generations born to immigrants who face long term unemployment and a dead end existence, it is easy to say: 'go get a job, get a life', but the fact is many haven't. When it doesn't pay to work, why would people go and do some menial job for less then they receive on welfare? Many, especially the young, are stuck in a rut. By contrast ISIS has almost become a cult, join them and you can have instant global fame by blowing yourself up, as well as an eternal life in paradise. Although it's a farce of a dream, for some it is self-evidently more enticing than a life with no prospects and petty crime where people regard you with suspicion and animosity. Governments need to address the issues of ghettoization of communities and subsequent divisions and radicalisation, which has been going on largely unchecked post 9/11.

Despite the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the efforts to rebuild both countries, the Taliban is still around, al-Qaida show no signs of disappearing, and now we have IS to contend with. Is IS a direct product of the misguided war in Iraq? I would say the seeds of extremism were already there, but certainly the Iraq war created a power vacuum for such extremist factions to flourish.

How then can IS be defeated?

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Detail from War on a Scroll Part 2 (pen and ink on 30-foot scroll of paper, 2015)

The UN is now urging countries to unite in the fight against IS with many of the key players advocating bombing raids. Let's just say for arguments sake that PM David Cameron gets the mandate he's been seeking to bomb Syria, and by some miracle IS are ousted from Syria and Iraq, who will stick around to help rebuild the country, to ensure a legitimate and democratically elected government is in place? And what about Bashar al-Assad? He's still very much in the picture. Will he be allowed to simply resume power? Looking at what happened to Iraq in the aftermath of the war I don't have much faith in the post war plan of reconstruction, which hasn't even been spoken about.

Corbyn is sensibly trying to raise concerns, to make his fellow MPS pause and think, to reflect on the mistakes of the past, to come up with other solutions to what seems to be the intractable menace that is IS.

There is much that can be done at home that doesn't involve bombs and further destruction to a country and people on the brink.

For example tackling IS's social media campaign, shutting down websites, persistently shutting down twitter accounts and blogs that disseminate hate, going into schools in areas that are vulnerable to radicalisation, working with moderate imams, de-radicalising those that have been radicalised, and implementing checks on the people coming into Europe from Syria.

No one really knows how to defeat IS, the extent of the threat posed by them globally is unparalleled. It's easy to press a button and release a torrent of bombs, more time consuming to do all the other stuff, but the other stuff could make a difference to security at home.

Just because you don't advocate war doesn't mean you don't advocate ensuring security for your nation, the two are not mutually exclusive. It seems that many of our politicians have become belligerent - hungry for war post 9/11 - and where has it got us? No closer to lasting peace and stability rather it has achieved the complete antithesis.