Blowback

Speaking about the explosion which killed 11 people in St Petersburg on Monday, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that ‘media speculations that the terrorist attack is revenge against Russia for our policy in Syria … are cynical and mean.’ Lavrov’s comment is similar to those made by various Western politicians and political commentators in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in their countries. They have denied that the attacks were ‘blowback’ resulting from military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. They have claimed also that the imputation of blowback somehow justifies or excuses terrorism, and thus should not be made.

This is a poor argument. Explaining is not the same as justifying. Anti-terrorism policy must be judged by whether it is likely to increase or decrease terrorism, not by whether one thinks the terrorists’ reaction to the policy is justified. So if the policy consists of bombing people in other countries in order to kill terrorists there, but the foreseeable side effect is that you radicalize some people who live in your own country and they then bomb you there, then your anti-terrorism policy is a bad policy. It is counterproductive.

I have no idea whether the attack in St Petersburg was blowback from Russia’s military campaign in Syria, but it’s a possibility which deserves serious consideration and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand because it’s politically inconvenient. Generally speaking I see no evidence that military intervention in the Middle East or Central Asia has done anything to make the intervening countries more secure. And that applies not only to Western countries, but also to Russia.

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24 thoughts on “Blowback”

  1. “Generally speaking I see no evidence that military intervention in the Middle East or Central Asia has done anything to make the intervening countries more secure.”

    The military intervention in the Chechnya in 1999 certainly made Russia more secure

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  2. Conflicts you refer to are not purely military one. As one expert mentioned: its is 20% military and 80% political. Looking at the developments the percentages have been reversed and military might is suppose to solve political issues. This explains why there are wars that have been dragging on for years with lack of security spreading to the far away corners of the globe. You may call it blowback but names do not matter here.

    Regards,

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  3. What have the conflicts you mention got to do with Russia?
    If you want to talk about blowback explain this theory.
    But it’s clear you are in the Russia deserved it camp.
    Very dissappointed that this is your response to the terrorist attack. But looking at other articles it fits

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  4. Agree with Paul, in general.

    The Lavrov’s quote (his reply to a question) starts with the statement that ‘terror and terrorists have no nationality’. This is reminiscent of the Bush’s “war on terror”, a war waged upon an abstract sociological concept. And that’s nothing but rhetorical bullshit.

    On the other hand, why don’t they (western MSM) wait till the incident is investigated and then, hopefully, we’ll know if it was indeed a revenge attack, or something else…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “They have denied that the attacks were ‘blowback’ resulting from military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. They have claimed also that the imputation of blowback somehow justifies or excuses terrorism, and thus should not be made.

    This is a poor argument. Explaining is not the same as justifying.”

    Okay, let’s do it!

    Berlin attacks (and several other attacks in Germany last year) were a “blowback” to Germany for accepting too many migrants. Or something like that. Whayt? One might even belive that this is not a “a poor argument” but a very thoughtful one. Explaining is not the same as justifying (c).

    Breivik’s “performance” was a “blowback” to all EU for its multiculturalism. Or against [insert conspiracy theory here].

    I have no idea whether the last year’s “Pulse” club massacre was a blowback against gay fabulousness but it’s a possibility which deserves serious consideration and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand because it’s politically inconvenient.

    If you don’t remember it already – Byelarus suffered from a Metro terrorist attack itself, years ago. Terrorists in question were found and executed.

    Canada itself suffered recently several incidents of religion influenced attacks and bombings.

    Generally speaking I see no evidence that the LACK OF military intervention in the Middle East or Central Asia has done anything to make the NON-intervening countries more secure.

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  6. Just to make a small correction, in the post-911 period, exactly 2 Canadians have died as a result of Islamic-inspired terrorist attacks. A couple other amateurish attacks have been broken up before they could be carried out, but terrorism in general is an extremely marginal concern in Canada. Pick pretty much any cause of death you can think of (being struck by lightning, drowning in your bathtub, being hit by a falling brick from a construction site, etc.) and it’s killed more Canadians than terrorism.
    In general, the important thing to keep in mind is that a causal link between some decision of the government and terrorist attacks does not prove that the decision was a bad one. It just proves that the decision had costs, as most decisions to. It’s the start of the discussion, not the end. I think people often react so violently to the idea of blowback because they think that, if you admit blowback, you instantly have to support the reversal of the policy that led to it, but that simply doesn’t follow. To take Breivik as an example, it’s entirely (and obviously) true that, if Norway had pursued a racist policy of keeping Norway “pure”, the Breivik attacks would have been less likely to occur (of course, some one with that psychological profile may have found some other reason to kill people, but that’s not certain, so the probability that he would have done so is lower). But that has to be stacked up against all the other considerations affecting Norway’s policy.
    In regard to the claim that military activity in other countries doesn’t make terrorist attacks more likely, I think it’s pretty clearly false. Europe is a common target because European countries often participate in America’s adventures in the Middle East. For counter-examples, think about countries that don’t involve themselves at all in affairs outside their borders. Who ever heard of internationally-originated terrorist attacks in Laos or Brunei?

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    1. “Just to make a small correction, in the post-911 period, exactly 2 Canadians have died as a result of Islamic-inspired terrorist attacks.”

      Yeah, because they are the only one’s that count, don’t they? This, apparently, is of less importance to us.

      How do you define the “Islamic-inspired” anyway? Even then, there is something off with your claim.

      “Pick pretty much any cause of death you can think of (being struck by lightning, drowning in your bathtub, being hit by a falling brick from a construction site, etc.) and it’s killed more Canadians than terrorism.”

      In Russia as well. So?

      ” I think people often react so violently to the idea of blowback because they think that, if you admit blowback, you instantly have to support the reversal of the policy that led to it, but that simply doesn’t follow. “

      No, Russia is reacting “violently” to such claims, because they are part of the general narrative of the West about Russia. Late and unlamented Andre Gluksman (a patented, shameless slimy Russophobe) did exactly that after Beslan, calling it a “blowback” and the rest of the Western punditocracy was not far behind. And this is totally accepted by the Enlightened Western public. After all, Russian planes bomb for Evil, while Murikan planes bomb for good (“humanitarian bombings”, anyone?).

      Either:

      A) We allow ourselves to be equal opportunity basterds and slimeballs, abandoning all pretenses to human dignity and, basically, becoming Charlie Hebdo’s avatars – i.e. I expect jokes and passive-aggressive concern about London terrorist attacks to feature prominently in the Western press, with conspiracy theories (“The discussion of the new Scottish referendum on independence was postponed after the attack! Coincidence? I don’t think so!”) given equal footing and discussed seriously

      OR!

      B) Someone among the pressitude masses and opinionated public learns to filter their speech and abandoning double standards.

      What, before Syria Russia was 100% safe from Islamic terrorism? How can you explain all the TerrActs before then, where we had a large terract every year since 1999? How do you explain the lessening of the total number of the terrorist attacks since 2014? Umar al-Shishani, Georgian-Chechen field commander of ISIS – what, it would be better for him to live and fight Russia in the North Caucasus, or be blown to bloody shreds in Syria?

      “Europe is a common target because European countries often participate in America’s adventures in the Middle East. “

      Wrong. They are targets because the terrorists have an opportunity to carry out their attacks. In the “just” world you try us to imagine, Ryan, each country would have got what it deserved based on the amount of bombs it spent fighting America’s wars. France and Germany didn’t invade Iraq – they in fact condemned it and the following rapine of the Middle East. And yet, lo and behold – who’s targeted more than any? Belgium – whom did they invade?

      In the just world you argue for, Ryan, America would be a post-apocalyptic wasteland inhabited by crazed mutants with no civilization in sight – if they *did* get what they deserve. But they don’t. The number of the terrorist attacks and the number of their victims since 2001 is a pittance, compared to all who die (yearly!) from police shootings and random gun violence.

      Because the ugly truth is the following – the world is unjust. Only total State Security with severa infringement of basic rights of anyone is what can protect you most effectively from the terrorism on your homefront.

      “For counter-examples, think about countries that don’t involve themselves at all in affairs outside their borders. Who ever heard of internationally-originated terrorist attacks in Laos or Brunei?”

      I.e. puny insignificant countries. And Brunei is an absolute monarchy to boot. And when the time comes – even this might not save them from the terrorist. Surely, you heard about Boko Haram? African countries that become victims of it and similar islamist groups were not “meddling” in the Middle East affairs. They just happend to be ripe targets.

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      1. France and Germany didn’t invade Iraq

        Many, on both sides, view this conflict as a clash of civilizations. France and Germany do belong to the crusading western civilization.

        Russia (unfortunately imo) adopted orwellian western rhetoric, labeling opponents ‘terrorists’, and basically volunteering in the western ‘war on terror’. This will have consequences.

        Personally, I think you should stick with anti-globalist/sovereignist philosophy, and quit trying to become Washington’s little brother.

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      2. “Russia (unfortunately imo) adopted orwellian western rhetoric, labeling opponents ‘terrorists’, and basically volunteering in the western ‘war on terror’. This will have consequences.”

        Then how would you call the people who use the terror tactics against the people? What, you think that if Russia ceases calling them the terrorists after that (as if by Magick!) joy and happinnes will come?

        You are talking about the clash of civilization. I’m less eager to smoke Huntigton heavily in this instance. It’s, simple, really. Russia is targeted not because we some time in the past proclaimed our “solidarity” with the War on Terror. We are targeted because:

        1) For Them we are the Other
        2) They have opportunity to do that.

        What’s your suggestion? For Russia to adopt salafism and basically bow to the islamic terrorists terms?

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      3. “What’s your suggestion?”

        My suggestion is that perhaps the Syrian campaign – and especially this particular implementation of it, the framing, the rhetoric – was a mistake.

        Or, if it was justified, it has to be understood and acknowledged that it’ll have consequences. Shooting cruise missiles into a country 1500 km from your borders is fun and all, but hey, it also makes you a target. Or, let’s say: more of a target.

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      4. “My suggestion is that perhaps the Syrian campaign – and especially this particular implementation of it, the framing, the rhetoric – was a mistake.”

        How so? Please, explain, ’cause for me this is not obvious.

        “Or, if it was justified, it has to be understood and acknowledged that it’ll have consequences… it also makes you a target. Or, let’s say: more of a target.”

        Right. Once again, when was Russia more attacked by the terrorists – prior to Syrian campaign of after it?

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      5. “Please, explain, ’cause for me this is not obvious”

        No idea. Not getting involved at all, in Syria, perhaps? Putin went to the UN in 2015, and declared himself the new leader in the new-and-improved ‘war on terror’. Hoping that the Europeans terrified by the inflow of ME migrants would welcome him as the savior? If that was the plan, it hasn’t worked out well. Was that really necessary?

        “Once again, when was Russia more attacked by the terrorists – prior to Syrian campaign of after it?”

        But again, like Lavrov, you’re talking about terrorism as a thing of its own, without nationality, without reasons. As if terrorism is done by terrorists just because that’s what they do.

        And I’m talking about this particular cause for terrorism (or for sabotage, or some other unpleasantness): the Syrian campaign. If Russia is attacked less now, than perhaps without Syria it would’ve been attacked even less?

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      6. “Putin went to the UN in 2015, and declared himself the new leader in the new-and-improved ‘war on terror’.”

        Putin did nothing of the sort. The pundits (some of them) tried to introduce such a spin, but that on their (miniscule) conscience.

        Putin’s message was twofold:

        1) “Do you understand what have you done?” – a rhetorical question, with already known answer

        2) “Screw you guys – Russia’s gonna do what we gonna do – with or without you”. Understending perfectly well that Russia is “unhandshakable” to be considered as a partner in any coalition. A PR stunt – yeah. A rhetoric. Propaganda, if you like. Still – a way to deliver a message.

        “But again, like Lavrov, you’re talking about terrorism as a thing of its own, without nationality, without reasons. As if terrorism is done by terrorists just because that’s what they do.”

        Of course not. Why do you think that’s what I’m saying?

        Terrorism is not a force of nature, blind, random and unstoppable. Terrorism is totally subservient to the cause and effect rationale, as well as to the necessities of the base human being. Terrorism is a tool, a human construct that, from time to time, develops a limited “mind” and independence of its own.

        Afghanistan became a focal point in the 1980s for attracting a particular breed of the radical islamists. Then – Chechnya and the North Caucasus. Because neither you, nor me, nor even Lavrov, are blind people, ignorant of the most obvious facts, it’s apparent to us (I hope) that these wages of jihad were not really spontaneous. A combination of factors ensured that – the existence of target of opportunity, the existence of general situation favouring the jihad and the existence of logistical support for the jihad.

        Long story short and to cut all crap – someone is funding jihadis. Someone is churning money, which go to arms and ammo, to agitation and propaganda, for recruitment, for salaries, for the training camps, for bribes, for fake IDs, etc, etc. An entire Infrastructure, in short. But, as they say in Odessa, the zimmes of this situation is that the amount of the money, resources, mujaheeds and what not allocated to any given “cause” is limited. So they have to pick up their fights.

        Tell me, nowadays, which was more “glorious” for any potential mujaheed – to go serve in the Imarat Kavkaz under no-names (soon to be dead anyway) or to fight kaffirs in the End of the Days Battle ™ with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadia (subhannallah!)? Though the engine of the PR (agitation and propaganda), one “cause” became a focal for the sponsors of the Jihad and for potential jihadis themselves. All others elsewhere had to do with morsels and leftovers, which, naturally, deteriorated their performance AND their attraction for the would be sponsors and “volunteers”. Abovementioned “Bokor Haram” is past its glory days and is on the way of the dodo. ISIS in the Lybia, after serving its intended part (i.e. plundering of post-“Revolutionary” armories and the transfer of their contents elsewhere) were left abandoned and now are gone.

        Manbij used to be a “Chechen capital” of the ISIL. Then Kurds after long and protracted fight kicked them out, inflicting rather serious losses to them. Those “shishanis” who fought and died for the Caliph at Manbij were vets of various warbands from the North Caucasus plus some unhinged new wave volunteers. Is it a bad thing that a lot of them died far away from Russia with Russia’s miniscule contribution to that fact? For me, this is a good thing. What, would it be better if the North Caucasus would remain a focal point and Russia was on the defensive? I don’t think so.

        This last terract was a desperate attempt to draw attention to itself, to show all potential sponsors that “We are still relevant”. No, they are not. Europe is much more “juicy” target, that generates more hype and butthurt across the so-called “Civilized World”. Russia of today is not Russia of early 2000s – a reeling weakened state with pourous border. Re-creation of the Caucasus war – right now – is not even close. Russia, therefore, is less attractive to the Jihadis and their sponsors. But this happened in part because Russia took a series of actions which seriously crippled and bogged down the Jihadis infrastructure elsewhere.

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      7. “Putin did nothing of the sort. The pundits (some of them) tried to introduce such a spin, but that on their (miniscule) conscience.”

        Nah, I don’t think so.

        What we actually propose is to be guided by common values and common interests rather than by ambitions. Relying on international law, we must join efforts to address the problems that all of us are facing, and create a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism. Similar to the anti-Hitler coalition, it could unite a broad range of parties willing to stand firm against those who, just like the Nazis, sow evil and hatred of humankind. […] …Then, dear friends, there would be no need for setting up more refugee camps. Today, the flow of people forced to leave their native land has literally engulfed, first, the neighbouring countries, and then Europe. There are hundreds of thousands of them now, and before long, there might be millions. It is, essentially, a new, tragic Migration Period, and a harsh lesson for all of us, including Europe.

        http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/50385

        “…someone is funding jihadis […] This last terract was a desperate attempt to draw attention to itself, to show all potential sponsors that “We are still relevant”. ”

        For all I know, you might be right. I could be completely wrong. Still, intuitively it seems obvious to me that actively joining ‘the war on terror’, and especially executing a bombing campaign, makes you a target (more of). To me, it’s just common sense. There’s nothing I can do to suppress this hunch. So, I guess we need to agree to disagree.

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  7. It’s blowback alright… for trying to build Greater Turkestan through open borders with Central Asia.

    The kremlins however are predictably bleating about terrorists having no religion and no nationality just like their Western partners like to do, but unfortunately for the kremlins trying so hard to gain respectability points from the Western partners, the Western partners themselves are saying it’s the kremlins’ fault. Complete circus on all sides.

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    1. “…for trying to build Greater Turkestan”- really? In any case, what do you propose to do? It seems to me that Putin is committed to multi-culturalism and multi-ethnicity with an insistence on loyalty to the Russian state. What is the alternative? By the way, I am currently in New Zealand and unfortunately found myself watching TV last night. I say “unfortunately” because it featured one Reggie Yates, of BBC Three, fame “investigating” Russian neo-Nazis and their intolerance of Muslims in Moscow. Presumably, the aim of the program was to convince the audience that Putin’s Russia is full of neo-Nazis and other thugs.

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  8. “Who ever heard of internationally-originated terrorist attacks in Laos or Brunei?”
    “Complete circus on all sides.”

    Yes, it is a circus but a dangerous one. From the European perspective I live in a faraway corner of the globe. Until now the region has been spared current wave of violence – but for how long? It seems it is coming. Going back decade or a little bit more international wars ( we had our own conflicts in the past) and terrorism were a distant phenomena. No longer, Today, we are separated from all that by one country.

    Regards,

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  9. Well, the dangers of Russia experiencing blow back because of it’s involvement in Syria are prospective (though very real) and geo-politically uncertain, while the dangers of Russia losing its sole Mediterean naval base (in Tarsus, Syria) are far more immediate.

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  10. Terrorism in America? They hate us for our freedom! Terrorism in Russia? They had it coming! by Danielle Ryan.

    “On CNN, BBC, Sky and others, the attack was immediately linked to Russia’s military intervention in Syria. Mere hours after the blast, commentators were referring to the attack as “blowback” for Russia’s foreign policy. This is not a word you hear frequently in the aftermath of terror attacks on European and American cities — despite decades of Western military intervention in the Middle East, with much of it engendering intense resentment among Arabs and Muslims.

    The subtext was clear: When terrorists target Western cities, it is an abhorrent attack on our freedoms and way of life, for which there is no excuse and no explanation. When terrorists target the Russians, well, they obviously did something to deserve it.

    On the rare occasion that a public figure does speak out to link attacks in the West to American or European foreign policy, they are quickly accused of politicizing the event, denounced as “terrorist sympathizers” and told to get back in their box. This is not so when the target is Russia. Suddenly, it’s perfectly acceptable to blame terror attacks on bombs falling in Syria.”

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    1. I have repeatedly said that terrorist attacks in Western countries may be a reaction to those countries’ foreign military adventures.
      For instance, I made exactly the same point as I made in this blog post in a piece for The Spectator following the attack on the Canadian parliament a couple of years ago. https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2014/10/is-canadas-foreign-policy-making-the-country-any-safer/#

      Blowback is something which needs to be considered seriously in the West and in Russia. The latter is no different.

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      1. “For instance, I made exactly the same point as I made in this blog post in a piece for The Spectator following the attack on the Canadian parliament a couple of years ago. “

        What about all other terrorist attacks that happened since then, hm? Did you employ the same reasoning, logic and argumentation in these cases either in the press or in your blog here? Why single out Russia? C’mon, professor, why were you silent when in a country that’s hardly an alien place to you (the UK) there was a terrorist attack recently – why were you silent and without wise words of the possible blowback against this or that? You managed to found courage to speak out against Brexit and even to offer some advice to Boris Johnson, but human lives are of no interest to you? The Quebec mosque attack – why not weight in here and try to connect it to something larger, something that extends across all borders?

        Of course, you are absolutely free to choose a topic for an article or a blog post – no one can order you to pick something which you are loath to discuss. Which you did – i.e. you posted your “blowback” piece here, on your personal blog absolutely voluntary. Just as you utilizing your own free will DID NOT do the same for other cases.

        That was your choice.

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      2. I have also repeatedly linked terrorist attacks in the UK to the British government’s military interventions overseas, so you really don’t know what you are talking about here.

        I even warned this was a possibility in a TV interview on Channel Four News prior to the invasion of Iraq. Having warned that there could be what later became known as ‘blowback’, I was about 200 metres from the bus which blew up in London in July 2005, and I said that day ‘F****** Blair, this is his fault’.

        So, no, I am not singling out Russia. I have been consistent on this issue for over a decade

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      3. “I have also repeatedly linked terrorist attacks in the UK to the British government’s military interventions overseas, so you really don’t know what you are talking about here.”

        Once. Again. Sorry for repeating myself, but:

        “What about all other terrorist attacks that happened since then, hm? “

        Since then – i.e. after 2014. Here, Professor, there is a unique opportunity for you o shine and to wight in with “consistent” opinion – Stockholm lorry rams crowds, killing at least three people by BBC. The perp is the ethnic Tajic, who had been present in ISIL chats and on-line conferences. 100500% a blowback, no?

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