David Cameron: 'Premature withdrawal would be a surrender to jihadism'

From a speech by the Conservative MP and Shadow Education secretary, to the Foreign Policy Centre in London
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The Independent Online

Jihadism feeds into the sense of alienation felt by many in the Muslim world. Far from being restricted to the poor, jihadism, like Nazi-ism and communism before it, often bewitches educated young men, whose search for certainty makes them vulnerable to an ideology of purity.

The parallels with Nazi-ism go further. Just as there were those who argued that Hitler had a rational set of political demands, so there are people today who try to explain jihadist violence with reference to a limited set of political goals. If only, some argue, we withdrew from Iraq, or Israel made massive concessions, then we would assuage jihadist anger.

As we discovered in the 1930s, a willingness to cede ground and duck confrontation is interpreted as weakness. Indeed, the inaction of the West in the 1990s fed the belief among Bin Laden and his allies that we lacked the strength to defend ourselves. The ignominious US withdrawal from Somalia, the weakness of the response to the bombings of embassies in Africa, and to the attack on the USS Cole: the lesson from all this with respect to our presence in Iraq is clear.

Premature withdrawal would be seen as a surrender to jihadism. Nothing would embolden the terrorists more. If we are to defeat the global jihadist terrorist threat, we must realise that we're all in this together, that we share a responsibility with the people of the Islamic world and the Middle East to promote reform and liberalisation.

That means: standing with the brave democrats in Iraq, fostering the process of democratic state-building in Palestine, supporting leaders who are taking the necessary steps towards modernisation, and crucially, demonstrating our strength of purpose to regimes that support terror. In other words, it means standing up for our shared values - freedom under the rule of law.