In the 1980s the US and the UK encouraged Saudi Arabia to support the armed opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The US and UK had earlier entered into a Faustian pact with the Saudi regime. In order to secure access to oil, the Western powers agreed to turn a blind eye to the corruption, brutality and misogyny of the ruling house of Saud. The poor Westerners had delusions they could guide their protegés.
The West provided billions in arms deals, with generous kick-backs, and the Saudis pretended to support Western strategic interests in the region. Meanwhile they invested hundreds of millions in spreading a violently extremist political-religious ideology to all corners of the Muslim world. Look at the violent extremists who dishonestly claim to act in the name of Islam in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines, the South Caucasus, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Somalia, and the Saudis are behind the promotion of violent extremism in every case. It is beyond irony that Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers of the Twin Towers have had their nationality airbrushed out of history.
The collapse of the Soviet Union spurred the Western cowboys Bush and Blair to believe they could use overwhelming military force to engineer quick-fix political solutions. The technological development of drones and “surgical strikes” was promoted as a magic wand solution that could eliminate the bad guys without collateral damage. Except it only worked in the movies, in the real world the slaughter of innocent civilians generated recruits for the extremists, and the Saudis funded, armed and guided them.
Undeterred by the long-lasting disaster arising out of their Afghanistan strategy the West turned to the Saudis and the Qataris to help them overthrow Assad in Syria. What a surprise when that went wrong. In Bahrain they acquiesced in the brutal repression of the peaceful movement for democracy and human rights.
Westminster has now authorised our mighty six planes to conduct air strikes against an enemy that mostly hides within and amongst civilian populations and which is eagerly seeking confrontation with the West. Repeating the mistakes of the past and expecting a different outcome is one of the definitions of stupidity. ISIS is a particularly abhorrent symptom, but the Saudi Arabian regime is at the heart of the cancer that we confront. When will we learn that there is no quick fix and that violent extremism can only be defeated by the rule of law, respect for the rights of the victims, integrity and consistency?