In recent days, the Australian public has seen an increase in ASIO’s assessment of our internal terrorist threat from returning jihadist and the allocation of a $680m budget to combat the effects of some 10-20 young radicals.
We have now seen that the Abbott government is committed to providing ground troops and air strike capability for the US led coalition in the Middle East. We have been warned that “this is not the task of weeks or even necessarily, just a few months” President Obama’s advisers are already suggesting at least three years. Certainly, the cost will run to hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars.
One of the arguments that has been put by the government is that the participation of young Australian Muslims in the war in Syria will further “radicalise” them. One would have thought that the preparedness to take part in an armed conflict overseas, with a good chance of being killed, is a pretty complete definition of radicalised. The concern really is that these young Australians will return home with military skills that could be used for terrorist activities on home soil.
Ironically, this is a problem that is being faced in New Zealand with Afghanistan veterans returning to join Maori gangs with a much better training than could possibly be provided by the ragtag militias in the Middle East.
At very superficial level, this argument is very compelling, but it should be accepted with some caveats. Why would someone who has gone to fight to establish “pure Islam” in the caliphate want to come home? Wouldn’t they want to live in the political system that they risked their lives to establish? It may well be that they will become profoundly disillusioned with life under such a regime and wish to return to Australia. It may also be that they see Australia as the next frontier for the terrorist activities. But we should not accept this assumption purely at face value.
One thing that we can be relatively certain about is that the radicalisation of these young Australians will be far more complete as result of their being attacked by an overwhelmingly superior air capability comprising, in part, of Australian FA-18 Super Hornet fighters.
It is unlikely that those that survive this are going to return to Australia to live happily ever after.