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Blair: Terror battle will be long

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair says it will take a generation to defeat what has emerged as a global movement of fundamentalist Muslim terrorists, a movement he described as "something more akin to revolutionary communism in its early and most militant phase."

Blair -- who made the remarks in a lecture on Friday about the role of the United Kingdom's armed forces in the 21st century -- said "the battle will be long. It has taken a generation for the enemy to grow. It will, in all probability, take a generation to defeat."

The wide-ranging lecture emphasized that Britain should remain a fighting, as well as a peacekeeping, nation. British troops currently have significant deployments in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Blair said radical Islam's "belief system may be, indeed is, utterly reactionary. But its methods are terrifyingly modern." And he said, "the enemy" regards its "strategic advantages as terrorism and time." Blair said such militants aren't a "conventional army" and can't be "defeated by conventional means.

"It has realized two things: the power of terrorism to cause chaos, hinder and displace political progress especially through suicide missions; and the reluctance of Western opinion to countenance long campaigns, especially when the account it receives is via a modern media driven by the impact of pictures."

Blair said the deadly attacks against soldiers many times produce a skepticism about why British troops are deployed in a particular region, a fact that militants understand.

"Yet to retreat in the face of this threat would be a catastrophe. It would strengthen this global terrorism; proliferate it; expand its circle of sympathizers. Given the nature of it and how its roots developed, long before any of the recent controversies of foreign policy, such retreat would be futile. It would postpone but not prevent the confrontation."

Blair, emphasizing the unique aspect of the present-day security threat, said conditions require Britain to be primed for battle.

"There are two types of nations similar to ours today. Those who do war fighting and peacekeeping and those who have, effectively, except in the most exceptional circumstances, retreated to the peacekeeping alone. Britain does both. We should stay that way."


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