Caution No Excuse For Chaotic Response To IS
Updated: 6:52pm UK, Friday 29 August 2014
By Sam Kiley, Foreign Affairs Editor
This is a Corporal Jones moment: "Don't Panic!"
But it is one that, so far, has revealed that the British approach to the rapid emergence of Islamic State from almost nil to "a deeper and greater threat than we have ever seen before" has been as chaotic as the Dad's Army character.
David Cameron has now elevated IS above al Qaeda in terms of the danger it poses to the safety of British citizens.
And the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has raised the immediate threat level for the UK from substantial to severe – which means it's likely.
The Prime Minister will announce new measures to restrict the ability of would-be terrorists to leave the UK to get training and to return to commit atrocities.
For now, though, he has continued to rule out the use of force to battle IS in its home territory.
Instead the UK will continue to offer logistical and intelligence support to the US which has been conducting very limited air strikes against the 'Caliphate'.
If, as the PM suggested, this is to be a conflict that could last years or decades, then there is clearly no rush.
But caution can no longer be an excuse for chaos in the response.
The world isn't the way that anyone would wish it. Not now and not for the foreseeable future.
The next generation of Britons will be facing a Malthusian struggle over resources with a hungry China, a Russia brimming with ambitious consumers, Africa's exploding population, India's intellectual empire, and global warming.
The mess that is the Middle East may have its roots in the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I and sectarian rivalry – but it will be further fuelled by the competition that is going to drive conflicts for years to come.
These may involve a long-term campaign against political Islamist terror.
But that won't be the only problem the UK and her allies will face.
For proof one only has to look at eastern Ukraine.
Nato's leaders are going to meet in Wales next week to thrash out priorities and strategy for the next few years.
Cameron's recent short speech and his appearance on Monday in the Commons, is a clear sign that he's steeling himself to grasp a handful of nettles.
He's bracing the British for a long haul conflict with the IS. He's fortifying the debate over what it is to be British by insisting that adopting "British values" are not an option or a choice but "a duty".
He will soon have to help drag more money for Nato out of its members.
And he'll be ordering his security services to come up with tactics and long-term strategies to deal with the uncomfortable realities of the modern world that politicians have been refusing to confront.
These are that it's going to get more dangerous, more expensive, harder work and just tougher all around. Few politicians will want to sell that less than 12 months from an election.