An Aussie politician has gone off to fight the Islamic State – brilliant

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics

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Imagine Chuka Umunna hanging up his immaculately tailored suits and heading off to Syria to do battle with the Islamic State. Or Ed Balls ditching his unconvincing blather about how Labour would resuscitate the British economy in preference for picking up a gun and knocking off some ISIS nutters. Imagine if some of the Labour-leaning laptop bombardiers who pepper the British press put down their spittle-flecked iPads and actually filed off to war against IS rather than filing 800 words about why the armies of the West should launch a war against IS.

Crazy, you say? An unacceptable demand to make of politicians and opinion-formers who have serious jobs and nice homes? Not so fast. For it appears that this very scenario has just unfolded in Australia. Matthew Gardiner, head of the Northern Territory branch of the Australian Labor Party, has apparently gone off to Syria to fight alongside the Kurds against IS forces. Gardiner, who was also secretary of the Aussie trade union United Voice, and is a former soldier who served with the Aus army in Somalia in the 1990s, is thought to have left Australia a few weeks ago after making connections with Kurdish militants online. Where most Western politicians talk a good fight against IS, Mr Gardiner seems keen actually to fight one.

There is much to admire in Mr Gardiner’s reported move. He is, it seems, acting on his convictions, putting himself on the line for what we can assume to be his pretty stand-up beliefs: that the Islamic State is a backward and dangerous force and the Kurds deserve solidarity and help. His alleged actions also expose the shallowness of other Western politicians and observers who talk endlessly about the need to launch wars against evil forces overseas — everywhere from Yugoslavia to Iraq to Syria — yet who would never deign to get their manicured hands dirty by actually picking up a gun. Where earlier leftists trekked to Spain to physically fight for their moral beliefs, the greatest exertion that today’s laughably self-defined heirs of Orwell are willing to undergo is to flick through a thesaurus to come up with the juiciest words possible to describe their anger at the various wicked things happening overseas.

Ours is age in which too many people live vicariously through the military interventionism of Western armies. Bereft of the old, clear politics of left and right, lacking any serious moral or political vision, politicians and observers alike prefer to stage fantasy battles between Good and Evil in far-off fields and then watch them on their TV screens in the hope that they will imbue their sad, anchorless, post-ideological existences with some clout and meaning. And the fact that these interventions make things worse, turning tinpot states into post-states in which all manner of odious forces can take root and take power (think Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya)? Don’t mention that. All that matters is that, for a few weeks or so, Westerners who have watched politics and morality at home fall apart can temporarily reconstruct it on the rubble of someone else’s war and hardships.

Well, Mr Gardiner shows, if the reports are correct, that there is another way. That you can fight on the ground with local forces who might actually make a real difference and create a new, potentially democratic system — something a Western missile is utterly incapable of doing. He has shown that it is possible to get to the Kurds, to train with them, to work with them. So, those Westerners who are relatively young and relatively fit and who have spent years demanding that we Do Something about nasty forces overseas — now your’s chance. Follow Matthew Gardiner. Take up arms. Fight the backward armies. Do something.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked.

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Topics Politics


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