Simon Jenkins: First thoughts: Rather than the ‘British FBI’ and the US crashing about Somalia and Libya, it’s police work on the ground that gets results.
Navy seals storm ashore on Brighton beach. They race to a murky boarding house and bundle its occupants into a Mercedes and rush them to a ship offshore. Don’t worry, they tell passers-by, they are terrorists. The innocent have nothing to fear. What would we think? The US attacks on Somalia and Libya over the weekend were against lawless parts of the world that harbour dangerous people intent, so we are told, on causing mayhem outside their borders. Someone needs to deal with them. Yet both these countries have been subject to massive western intervention, supposedly to set them on the path to democracy and good order. As with the failed Somalian kidnap, something went wrong there too.
The attempt to curb international violence is taking ever newer forms. In Britain the centralisation of crime-fighting has been a bad joke for years, as the Home Office invents one “British FBI” after another. It has splurged money on bureaucrats, while the front line is cut back. This week the government has invented yet another body, the £450m National Crime Agency, with the crass motto “We instil fear”.
The reality is that ordinary policing of terrorism in most European countries has a decent record. There have been no serious terrorist massacres in Britain since 2005. The US seems equally safe. The stories that have emerged suggest this is largely the result of local tip-offs and good intelligence work rather than any drastic extension of police powers or global derring-do.
All the best police work is local. The best tip-offs are local, the best knowledge is local. It was a failure of local intelligence in Pakistan that meant it took the Americans more than a decade to find Osama bin Laden. The future of western security lies not in the courage of special forces or the deployment of drone squadrons and snatch squads. It lies in dogged police work, and in not provoking or abusing the sovereignty of countries that may so readily offer refuge and support to terrorists.
If one thing has been proved beyond a doubt, the surest way to endanger the west is to proliferate the hamfisted interventions that have made Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere a ready refuge for those who want to take revenge on westerners. To go crashing about the world arresting and doubtless mistreating suspects is a desperate throw. It makes good headlines but it does no good.
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