There’s a conundrum in the western world for left-wing politicians, and it stems from the perception that they are softer on terrorism than their right-wing counterparts. These progressives may believe that one root cause of Islamic terror is the decades of aggressive action of western nations in the Muslim world—action which is ongoing—but it’s difficult to express this idea without being attacked from the right as blaming your own country and exonerating those who commit the terrorism. Many citizens fail to understand the cause-and-effect at play here, and focus, understandably, on the atrocities committed domestically. Nor do they understand the idea that by failing to deal with terrorism rationally, and instead empowering those who are willing to espouse, quite vocally, the most anti-Muslim ideology, you are inevitably bolstering the future ranks of said terrorists.
So how do you speak on all these paradoxes and contradictions, in the hope of getting across a sensible message that would contribute to the future diminution of terrorism without seeming weak or forgiving toward the terrorists themselves?
Jeremy Corbyn, the UK’s labour leader and PM hopeful, struck a pretty strong balance. In the speech embedded below, pay particular attention to the second half, in which he addresses the culpability of his own nation in growing terror with its actions abroad.
“We will also change what we do abroad,” Corbyn said. “Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home. That assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children. Those terrorists will forever be reviled and implacably held to account for their actions. But an informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people, that fights rather than fuels terrorism.”
Granted, he has to feed the population this message with a couple spoonfuls of sugar—reiterating that the terrorists are bad, will be punished, and that he’s going to put more cops on the street—but even vocalizing this sentiment, at a time when self-criticism is anathema to such large portions of the population, is quite radical.
Now, as you’d expect, he’s already come under attack for “putting politics before people, and Breitbart, less polite than conservatives in Britain, have already trotted out the “blaming the west” line. It could be that it backfires on Corbyn, making future discussions on this topic even more difficult. But to see him at least broach the topic shows that he’s a leader with the courage of his convictions, and may—hope of hopes—make it easier for nations like the UK and America to take an honest look at why terrorism is flourishing, and how to stop it for good.
Watch the entire speech below, and read the full text here.