In the wake of Foley's murder, the Prime Minister said his government will redouble its efforts to dam the trickle of British IS sympathisers joining with them in their desert hell. Quite rightly, speaking for Labour Yvette Cooper points out how, like so many other things, the Tories slashed funding for anti-radicalism projects. Lax on security. Lax on the causes of insecurity, it would seem. Nevertheless, now the horse has bolted at least the government, in concert with France and the US, have belatedly woken up and are shipping arms to the Kurds. Yes, as I noted last week, the real reason might have more to do with UK geopolitical interests than ostensible humanitarian concerns. But acting in this instance, may well avert a blood-stained catastrophe. The struggle for socialism needs people, not dead people.
Tracking social media from the plains of Nineveh, British jihadis might take pride in being branded IS's "most brutal" - if pride wasn't a mortal sin, of course. Coming from a "decadent" nation and having led a "coddled" existence, at least compared with fighters from Middle Eastern states, these are men with something to prove. And should they be crushed militarily, some surviving units will find their way back home, understandably touching off another panic about Islamic terrorism and all the ugliness that entails. Hunting down and offing them might be popular among armchair generals and tabloid editors. It might even be unofficial policy already. But IS fighters aren't Pokémon. You're not gonna catch 'em all. Besides, summary execution is hardly an advert for British civilisation vs the IS barbarians anyway.
Similarly, the Tory right sentiment tending to the stripping of IS fighters of citizenship (demonstrated by this exchange) is stupid. It shows how far so-called libertarian sensibilities have colonised rightwing psyches. Just as they wish to divest business of any kind of responsibility to the very workforce that makes them their money, so they want to jettison any responsibility Britain has to citizens who fight and commit crimes under an enemy flag. Apparently, stripping IS Brits of their rights is entirely justifiable. Really. Declaring an IS fighter stateless isn't going to do anything but keep them in the field. Is that in anyone's interest but IS? Yes but no but. What they have in mind is the removal of due process for captured fighters because, apparently, it's really hard to prove who did what in a war zone. We don't want to run the risk of highly dangerous individuals running around our cities because a case couldn't be proven. This argument doesn't wash. At a time when celebrities are getting successfully prosecuted for sex offences committed decades ago on the basis of probabilities, I am quite sure a jury of peers is more than able to sit in judgement on cases of British IS war crimes. Not that that matters. What they want is a rerun of internment, of removing rights to allow for a UK Guantanamo Bay because this is being seen to be tough on British jihadis. That it wouldn't work is so much a minor point, as is the possibility our hypocrisy would add fuel to radical Islam's fire.
My favoured method is the standard method. The arrest and prosecution of suspected fighters, followed by lengthy prison sentences. I argue for this because British jurisdiction recognises that wherever in the world a UK citizen commits a crime, they are liable for it under the law. In other words, our legal system recognises that Britain has a responsibility to the rest of the world for its citizens. Dragging back British jihadis, giving them a fair trial, and locking them up is about the best way we have of removing them from circulation without generating more grievances and more radicalisation. When dealing with a barbarism that, unfortunately, was tempered on these shores, it's all the more important we keep clear heads and stick with sound principles.