Blog powered by Typepad

« The manifesto now standing ... Part II | Main | Swing High, Swing Low »

Friday, 26 May 2006

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Why? Because it is the noble, chivalrous, and manly thing to do for a fortunate and potent nation to help a weak and suffering people. Why not? If it were to undermine our national good or to throw the world into chaos then by all means avoid it. If not, no need to avoid it. How? With prudence, foresight, great care, and with a skilled and intelligent army.

I wouldn't put too much faith in your "hit-and-run" or "drive-by" way of war. It sounds like you are grasping for a cheap and easy way to make war. Beware the cheap and easy option when it comes to fighting! At times it may work, other time not. Sometimes you have to hit-and-stay or drive-in and drive-around for a while.

"Why?", Paul asks before telling us "it is the noble, chivalrous, and manly thing to do for a fortunate and potent nation to help a weak and suffering people". Possibly, I would reply, but not at the cost of British men and women slaughtered, *unless* there was some other more tangible advantage to the British nation. Prudently he advises against any action likely "to undermine our national good or to throw the world into chaos" but I would remind him that a war started is devilish difficult to finish, and if ever the Law of Un-intended Consequences is to be seen in all its ghastly conclusions it is in the outcome of a war.

He makes this very point in his last paragraph. However, an 'in-and-out' war is at least a step in the right direction compared to an 'in-and-stay' war which we are witnessing in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are no absolutes which is why it is so critical that before the 'dogs of war are slipped', political leaders decide on a tangible and achievable set of aims and objectives rather than moralistic platitudes.

Apologies in advance if this sounds as though I'm on a wind up (as if!), and bearing in mind there's been a good Carlsberg Export offer at Morrisons and it's half eleven on a Saturday, and I've probably mis-read or mis-interpreted the posts (obviously), and I'm guilty of putting commas before ands, but...

Would a hundred million dead be justified if it were to the advantage of the British nation? (Yes or No will be fine). How about forty million?

Duff Jr. seems to argue from a far more 'moral' position than Duff Sr. (see the computer monitor analogy). Can we expect to see a Duff vs Duff showdown about this?

Yes and yes!

Well, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I consider both Morrisons and Carlsberg Export to be decidedly mediocre. Each to their own!

“I am a nationalist”

“It is incumbent upon those older and wiser and in places of responsibility not to waste young lives for the sake of an idea!”

Isn’t the notion of ‘Nation’ an idea?

To paraphrase Karl Popper: “You can take the perception out of an idea, but you can’t take the idea out of a perception.” Without the ideas of red, a circle, an arrow (indicating direction ‘left’), and a line (through the arrow), I would bump into a ‘no left turn’ sign-post before perceiving it. How then do we perceive Britain without the idea of it - that we might then act in its best interests?

Once we’ve decided which idea we would like to fight for - acknowledging that we are always fighting for an idea - we can then decide the best way of doing it.

I don’t deny that a ‘raid’ is sometimes called for in warfare. All I’m saying is that any prince or generalissimo from history fighting on behalf of an armed power, who was presented with our circumstances already mentioned in the war on Islamo-fascism, namely, a war that:

(1) Has saved, and is saving, an order of magnitude more middle-Eastern lives than it has taken and is taking,

(2) Caused us probably the lowest casualty rate per soldier per unit of time in the history of warfare,

(3) Destroyed our enemy’s munitions factories, namely the Islamo-fascist training camps in Afghanistan with their human ordnance production lines,

(4) Drawn the asymmetric forces of our enemy away from our backyard to fight on a battle field of our choosing, namely the shit-hole desert of Iraq that is their backyard,

(5) Placed our armies, probably the most powerful forces ever deployed in the history of warfare, in a double-Cannae on the flanks of our soon to be most deadly enemy, namely Iran, just in the nick of time,

would have to say that they’d probably never been presented with such an obvious opportunity for a committed and conclusive endgame in their military careers. A ‘raiding party’ would be the last option on their mind. With the morning’s work done, the afternoon shift at Cannae consisted of finishing the job; Hannibal would no more have considered a ‘raiding party’ than we should, and so he chopped and sliced his way through the Roman army he’d surrounded in the morning and achieved his grand-tactical victory.

To understand what happens to princes or generalissimos and the spineless or witless (or both) powers they unfortunately sometimes represent that don’t allow them to finish the job, you need only follow Hannibal and Carthage after Cannae. By failing to sack Rome and achieve the strategic endgame they secured their own destruction 14 years later at the vengeful hands of the Romans at Zama.

Don’t you think history is trying to tell us something here!

Son of Duff (back from long weekend in Czech Republic)

Lawrence, stop picking nits! You're getting as bad as 'NIB'. Having read it yourself and then given me a copy of "Wittgenstein's Poker" you should know what convoluted crap can emanate from philosophers who, paraphrasing the words of my old drill instructer (addressed to me on the basis that I actually had an 'O'-level), have loadsa' brains and fuck-all commonsense!' However, I will amend my English and write that it is not worth going to war for a *dogma*.

Nor should you be too dogmatic on strategy. The west has no chance of conquering and then destroying Islam. Nor should we attempt it because it will simply produce recruits to the cause at a faster rate than we can produce dead Muslims! It is enough that we show ruthless ability to take out militant Muslim *leaders* 'pour encourager les autres'. We have, in the wonders of modern weapon technology, the means, but I do agree that we lack the will and that weakness will result in even greater dangers to come.

Also, as you raise the subject of Cannae, can I remind you of another famous (or infamous?) general who was fixated on the battle of Cannae and determined to execute just such a battle of annihilation against his 'perceived' enemy. So fanatical was he in instilling this plan into his nation's command structure that the entire army down to the last reservist was drilled in the concept, so that even when he retired and then died, the 'Plan' remained sacrosanct and was eventually used. It failed, and led to four years of horror, death, starvation and defeat for his nation. What a silly German sausage von Schlieffen was!

"However, I will amend my English and write that it is not worth going to war for a *dogma*."

Unfortunately nationalism is dogma. And when augmented by realpolitik, it's a whopping great piece of prime sirloin dogma.

"It seems to me that certain states are harbingers of terrorists whose hatred of the west makes them a threat to us."

Teabag's prediction: the more Muslims we slaughter, the more will hate and wish to kill us.

Similar remarks go for SoD's points:
(1) is unproven (to put it politely, recalling your attempted statistical "proof" of this assertion)
(2) is an irrelevance (even if it's true we're still taking a lot more casualties than if we weren't at war)
(3) is a premature celebration that we've cut off one of the hydra's heads
(4) strikes me as total rubbish. You really think the risk of terrorism in Britain is lower now than pre-Iraq war? Well I don't.
(5) see below.

Talk of a "conclusive endgame" strikes me as naive nonsense too. What is this endgame? We hang around indefinitely in Iraq trading casualties with the insurgents. We try and hope to set the Iraqi government up in a position where they can take care of themselves, and then we leave. But there's nothing "conclusive" about any of this, success is by no means assured, and it's not simply a matter of a military victory.

In any case, if you're right about (5) and we move our troops into Iran, do you really think there can be much hope what good we've achieved in Iraq will remain, without us there to fight the insurgency? If you want (5) you've got to sacrifice (1)-(4).

"spineless or witless (or both)"

Any chance that just for once we could try to have a sensible discussion rather than a slanging match?

No. Thought not.

Larry writes: "Unfortunately nationalism is dogma. And when augmented by realpolitik, it's a whopping great piece of prime sirloin dogma."

Tosh, as usual! To prefer one's own to outsiders is to be human, indeed, it is to be part of the animal world. Don't tell me, Larry, that I have to teach you Darwinism! Real-politik is simply the political expression of that human imperative.

Then he writes: "Teabag's prediction: the more Muslims we slaughter, the more will hate and wish to kill us."

True as far as it goes but it fails to mention that considerable numbers of them hate us and wish to kill us irrespective of *anything* we do, up to and including, waving a white flag. Even conversion to Islam is unlikely to satiate their hatred of us.

If that last proposition is true, Larry, tell us how you would face this threat.


It's also normal, in the animal world, for a pack or 'tribe' to have an 'Alpha Male'. So there you have it - we get the likes of Stalin, Mao and Hitler because, well, that's just nature's way!

And your point is, 'NIB', ...?

A very boring, nit-picking* point about the 'appeal to nature' being one of the classic fallacies, because it can be used to 'prove' anything you like. Just like I did there, in fact!


*We're all monkeys after all...

But what you wrote was true according to all the history I have ever read. Nor was I talking of 'proof', only describing the 'actualite', as they say. The more important point is what to do about it.

"considerable numbers of them hate us and wish to kill us irrespective of *anything* we do"

Care to back up this assertion?

Yes, 'Planeshift', I would like to. If a ruling clique, such as the Taliban, who are even by Muslim standards counted as fanatics who murder and torture their own people for the most trivial of infringements of Islamic law; and if those same people offer help and encouragement to other fanatics to attack our cities and murder our people; and all this *before* 9/11 when the west had little or no interest in Afghanistan, then I would suggest that there is more to their hatred of us than anything we might have done, or not done, with respect to, say, the 'plight' of the Palestinians. Certainly they gave us no benefit or credit for rescuing their co-religionists in Kosovo - they still helped the people who wished to murder us.

Let me turn the question and ask you, 'Planeshift', whether or not you think that militant Islamists will stop killing us if we toss Israel to the dogs and even pay all Muslim countries 'Danegeld' to atone for our supposed past sins?

I was more referring to the phrase "substantial numbers", so I'll rephrase the question slightly. What percentage of the global muslim population do you think support terrorist attacks against the west regardless of what the west does or has done? what evidence would you use to support the figure you arrive at.

Well, immediately, of course, you beg the question as to what you mean by "support". I would *guess* that the majority of Muslims are passively (or perhaps 'weakly' is a better word) in support of Islamic attacks against the west. This very diffuse and generalised 'support' is no stronger than, say, my support for the England football team in the forthcoming competition - I don't really care that much but I'd rather they won than lost. It is similar to the sentimental 'support' evinced in Eire by most of the population for the IRA - none of them would get out of bed to help the bombers but they pitied them when they were shot or jailed and anyway they dislike the Brits.

As to the number of militant Islamic activists, I have no idea as to their exact percentage in the Muslim populations of the world - *and it doesn't matter*! If these fanatics are only 1% or even 10%, their *real* strength depends on their power within their nations. If, as was the case with the Taliban, they were the government, then that makes them potentially very powerful indeed; but for example, in Pakistan where they are kept under considerable pressure by their government, they are that much less danger.

I've done my best to answer your question, what about mine to you?

Pater:

“However, I will amend my English and write that it is not worth going to war for a *dogma*.”

Nationalism, Socialism, National Socialism, Liberal Democracy – they’re either all dogmas, or ideas, or neither; but none stands out as different from the others in this respect.

“Nor should you be too dogmatic on strategy.”

“Also, as you raise the subject of Cannae … What a silly German sausage von Schlieffen was!”

Having devoted an entire post on the merits of the military strategy that is the antithesis of the double-Cannae – namely the manoeuvre of the central position as conducted by Bonaparte at Austerlitz (see “Ne titterez pas –la Riposte!” January 2006) – I hardly think it fair to be called dogmatic!

Choosing the right military idea for the task in hand is what made Bonaparte a genius and von Schlieffen a sausage. I don’t rate the ‘double-Cannae’ intrinsically above either the ‘manoeuvre of the central position’ or the ‘perpetual raiding-party’ strategy (which won the North Vietnamese the Vietnam War) per se. What I am saying, is that of the various military options that were available to us in the situation we found ourselves in the Middle East, I judge the “Afghanistan and Iraq first, Iran second” strategy better than “Iran first, Afghanistan and Iraq second” or “perpetual raiding-party” strategies. Why?

(1) Because in Afghanistan we destroyed our enemy’s munitions factories and their human ordnance production lines permanently by using our troops on the ground (rather than by raids or air-strikes which have been unreliable in all prior conflicts). This did leave ‘buffer’ ammunition in transit in the enemy’s supply chain, but in the long term it will starve them of the most effective weapon they have. As early as last year reports started appearing in the media describing how terror cells in our ‘backyard’ were being recalled to Iraq for ‘martyrdom’ missions; this would not have been the case if the steady supply of ammo had been flowing from Afghanistan. And this year there are explicit reports that the insurgency in Iraq is starting to run out of suicide bombers and is being obliged to switch its strategy to more “conventional” asymmetric tactics (apparent contradiction in terms intended) – see: -

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2158068,00.html

In assessing the situation of Islamo-fascism’s asymmetric forces we can joyfully quote from one of the less than joyful annals of our own beloved Regiment, Pater, when faced with similar circumstances: “Out of ammunition. God save the King.”

(2) Because in Iraq we drew the ‘buffer’ ammunition that was in our ‘backyard’ - where it could really hurt us – in to Iraq - where it is no where near as potent. The 800 ‘martyrs’ mentioned in the above article have all detonated themselves in the least effective place their endeavours could have made their impact felt.

In falling for this ruse the enemy has made the same mistake the IRA made in the early seventies by choosing to focus its violence in Northern Ireland rather than on mainland Britain. We could tolerate the paddies shredding each other in their ‘backyard’, but shredding us on mainland Blighty would have been another matter. By the time the penny dropped in the mid-eighties the IRA was finished – super-grassed by British intelligence and with its own grass roots having little stomach left for the fight. Asymmetric Islamo-fascism is heading in the same direction.

Gerry Adams said something like (I think it was him but I can’t find the quote): “I couldn’t have brought the IRA to the negotiating table if they’d been winning”. How true. And while we’re on the subject of knowing who’s winning a war, there’s no better test of who’s losing than observing who is the keenest to ‘parler’: -

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/593298A0-3C1A-4EB4-B29D-EA1A9678D922.htm

Dealing with Islamo-fascism’s symmetric forces – namely Iran’s conventional army – is going to be a whole lot easier with the above two objectives achieved first. Consider the difficulties that would have been encountered by attempting a manoeuvre of the central position here, i.e., an invasion of Iran first, with Afghanistan and Iraq left intact?

The war in Iran will (if it ever happens – see later) be entirely different from Afghanistan and Iraq. Machiavelli observed that: (1) a factious state is easy to take and difficult to hold, and, (2) a united state is difficult to take but easy to hold. Iran is cohesive politically and militarily, whereas Iraq and Afghanistan are powerbase spaghetti junctions. That means that Iran’s conventional forces will come out and fight in the way that Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s didn’t. The symmetric war will truly be the “Mother of battles”, making the afternoon shift at Cannae look like a skirmish. In this way the pattern will more resemble Germany and Japan in WWII (or even Argentina in the Falklands war): a tough struggle up front, but once broken, and the singular ruling elite destroyed, a new regime will be accepted. This is in stark contrast to Iraq and Afghanistan, where there is a myriad of ruling elites you can use to leverage your way to an early victory (the way we used the Shia in Iraq and the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan), but whom you can never placate thereafter.

And the war in Iran (if it ever happens – see later) will see the Iranian armed forces completely slaughtered, probably more decisively than has ever been witnessed in military history, and for insignificant casualties on our part. In this day and age to engage an American and British force symmetrically will guarantee most adversaries this outcome. And now we arrive at the reason why it would have been a mistake to select Iran first: because Western public opinion would certainly not have tolerated a second phase - Iraq and Afghanistan – after witnessing its own spectacular, but unprecedentedly bloody, success. This is the strange nature of civilisations in decline and bearing the self-imposed burden of a spineless polity. Witness what happened after the first gulf war when we couldn’t finish the job in Iraq. Revulsion and guilt at our own superiority, which overwhelms reason and will and leaves the endgame undone. And where would that leave us? Suffering the terror-tourists in our back-yard supplied with an endless stream of ammo from the human ordnance factories in Afghanistan.

The important question is this: even done the right way round, does the West have the bottle to do phase two? As Wellington said at Waterloo: “It’s a damn close run thing”. Fifty-fifty, I’d say. But that is better odds than any other way round would have got us. And what is war if not a calculated gamble?

But if we do finish phase two, then the two symmetric and asymmetric pillars of Islamo-fascism will be, to use your graphic phrase, “reduced to hardcore”. And for Larry’s benefit, that’s what I mean by ‘endgame’.

Son of Duff

Ok I'll play ball.

"Let me turn the question and ask you, 'Planeshift', whether or not you think that militant Islamists will stop killing us if we toss Israel to the dogs and even pay all Muslim countries 'Danegeld' to atone for our supposed past sins?"

The answer to this lies in history. How many westerners were killed by militant islamists in the 1950s?, the 1960s?, the 1970s?, what about the 1750s? etc. It does of course depend on what you mean by militant Islamist (the current brand followed by Osama is less than 40 years old), but I suspect the level has fluctuated depending on circumstance. If you or your community have a good job and future prospects you are unlikely to be persuaded to either kill yourself or risk serious jail time by helping others do the same. If your life is shit, and your people are occupied and humiliated on a daily basis - like the palestinians - it becomes a lot easier to fall for the propaganda of the extremists.

I suspect there will always be crackpots, extremists and the like in any society. The real question is the amount of support they can generate, which is clearly related to external circumstances. If Afghanistan had been a properous democracy the taliban would probably have had the same level of support that the legalise peadophillia party has in Holland.

So in other words even if "we toss Israel to the dogs" (I'd merely sttle for a just 2-state solution but I'll play along) and pay muslim countries protection money (first I have heard of that particular demand but there we are) there would still be an insignificant minority who'd want to kill us. In the same way most pubs in the UK have the drunk idiot who wants to kill the french/whichever group he dislikes the most, and ends up starting fights for no reason. The likelyhood of them ever being in a position to do serious damage is quite remote, chances are they end up as low level thugs.

The key part is the level of active support they get, which is entirely down to the related factors of circumstances, the skill of their propaganda, and resources (If osama bin laden hadn't been from a wealthy family...).

Also quite frankly I find the notion that the majority of muslims "passively support" terrorist attacks against the west to be absurd. Can you cite any evidence for it?

'Planeshift', I will try and take your points in order. It's a busy day today so I will deal with the young 'SoD' later.

As any policeman will tell you, to commit a crime you need the means, the motive and the opportunity. If you go back far enough in history you will find periods in which militant Islam enjoyed all three - and used them! In the last two centuries, by and large, they did not. However, in the last, say, three decades with the ease of modern travel, the influx of immigrants into the west and the availability of modern weaponry, they are again ready, willing and able to do us harm.

You write that "If you or your community have a good job and future prospects you are unlikely to be persuaded to either kill yourself or risk serious jail time by helping others do the same." The 9/11 terrorists were Saudis, an independent country whose religion is scrupulously observed; more-over, they were middle-class Saudis with good educations and excellent prospects. As for the Palestinian suicide bombers who are, apparently mostly poor and ignorant, how many do you suppose would volunteer for their tasks if they were not promised handsome financial largesse to their families by their pay masters?

You imply that if Afghanistan had been a prosperous democracy the Taliban would never have succeeded in seizing control, to which I can only reply that if wishes were horses beggars would ride! Things are what they are. Anyway, I gain the *impression* that you are not too keen on the west attempting to give Iraq a chance to have democracy, indeed (correct me if I'm wrong) but you seem to wish that we had left Saddam in place.

When you mention "insignificant minorities" I would respectfully remind you that the membership of the IRA was to be counted in hundreds! It is in the nature of guerrilla warfare for small numbers, and even tinier percentages of the population as a whole, to inflict damage far beyond their head-count. I would also remind you of Mao's infamous dictum that power grows from the end of a barrel!

You ask me if I have any evidence in stating that the majority of Muslims "passively support" terrorist attacks against the west. I would simply point to the huge majority of 'westerners' who have an instinctive antipathy towards Muslims. That doesn't mean that they would help some-one murder them, but they just don't like them, and they consider them to be alien and a threat. Because I am not a 'racist' in the meaning(less way) it is used by liberals and Lefties, I know that human nature is universal and that provides all the 'proof' I require to know that Muslims have an equal antipathy towards westerners. Those unfortunate enough to actually live in the west and who experience at first hand the disgusting degeneration of life here have even more cause to dislike us. That is why, in my more morbid moments, I sometimes wonder whether a Muslim theocracy would be all bad!

Ok I'll respond in reverse order. Clearly your own instinct that "they" do not like "us" is enough for your own views, but I'd rather prefer it if policy was based upon evidence rather than instincts. Dealing with the threat posed by several hundred fanatics in the UK (which translates as less than 1% of the UK Muslim population) requires at minimum good intelligence. In practice this means the willingness of UK Muslims to act as informers, to report suspicious activity to the police etc. We can't simply rely upon old etonians to learn Arabic at oxford before joining MI5 and infiltrating various groups. In his book on Al Qaida Jason Burke claims the most powerful weapon we have against Islamic terrorism is the goodwill of the vast majority of the worlds Muslims. That goodwill is eroded internationally everytime the military of the United States do what militaries in hostile situations do. Domestically speaking it gets eroded everytime Muslims are singled out as “bad” or a “threat” in legislation that repeats the mistakes of the British fight against the IRA. On an even more simple level it gets eroded everytime a young Muslim male gets spat on by tabloid reading racists. (in fact I am aware of a case where a Muslim youth reported suspicious activity to the police, and was then assaulted by racists who called him a terrorist on his way home). In this respect I’d argue that hysterical media reports about “the Muslim threat” constitute a threat to national security.

As for Saddam, my wish was most certainly not that he remained in power, but neither does that mean I supported the war. I would certainly like Iraq, along with the rest of the Middle East, to become prosperous secular democracies in the same way I would like Wales to win the world cup one day. But there were, and are, serious doubts about the US/UK having (a) the intention and (b) the capability to create such prosperous secular democracies in Iraq and elsewhere. As Condi Rice put it, historically the US had pursued “stability” in the Middle East at the expense of democracy – and achieved neither. Even if we assume it genuinely did have the intention to create a real democratic Iraq, then there were major doubts about its ability to create one.

Besides, as you indicated above, the real hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism stems from Saudi Arabia. Its certainly true that the majority of the 9-11 hijackers were middle class educated Saudis. But in the Middle East having an education means nothing with the unemployment rates as they are. Secondly if you look closely at what I wrote I noted that “you or your community” was an important factor. The most accurate data we have on suicide bombings – Robert Pape’s database of attacks from 1980 – indicates the most important factors behind a groups decision to use suicide bombers are (1) that their national or ethnic group is occupied or perceived to be occupied (Saudi Arabia is perceived as being occupied by the US due to the presence of US troops and the dependence of the Saudi Royals on western arms), (2) there is religious or cultural difference between the occupiers and occupied (it doesn’t matter which religion – merely that a difference exists) so that the group can construct a “them and us” dichotomy.

Your question on the financial rewards offered to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers actually proves my point. They die and their families get to eat. When Palestinians had jobs, were able to move freely and trade, there were no suicide bombings. The circumstances of occupation and more importantly the security controls since 1987 have meant Palestinians lost jobs and cannot trade between towns. In those circumstances it became far easier to recruit people to an extreme cause. Hamas wasn’t even around prior to 1987, and didn’t use suicide bombings until 1994.


Crikey! It gets difficult to cover all the points as these conversations go on but I will do my best.

Referring to the relations between Muslims and the west you write: "I'd rather prefer it if policy was based upon evidence rather than instincts" to which I can only reply by asking if you think that relations are good? Also I might ask how many atrocities do you need before you get the message?

I am happy to aggree with your remarks concerning good intelligence but I would advise against relying too much on 'jolly good chaps' from the Anglified Asian community to act as sources. Offering good money to impoverished ones, and trapping and blackmailing others is likely to be more efficacious, particularly when you're in a hurry!

Indulge me as I paraphrase your remarks satirically concerning Jason Burke's opinion: 'In his book on Hitler's Germany JB claims the most powerful weapon we have against Fascist terrorism is the goodwill of the vast majority of the world's Fascists. That goodwill is eroded internationally everytime the military of the United States and/or Britain do what militaries in hostile situations do. Domestically speaking it gets eroded everytime Fascists are singled out as “bad” or a “threat” in legislation that repeats the mistakes of the British fight against the IRA who were another bunch of Fascists determined to blow us all to hell'. You take my point, I hope, that life, or rather, international politics being what they are, there is always some-one who hates you and it is extremely doubtful if you can ever assuage that passion no matter how hard you wave a white flag whilst simultaneously crawling to them in abject terror. Just like everyone else in the world, we in the west have interests and we are entitled to pursue them.

It will not help my case with you when I own up to skimming (as opposed to reading) the Daily Mail but I have yet to see any "hysterical" reports concerning the Muslim threat, particularly after the July bombings and today's raid in East London. Still, one man's hysteria, is another man's sensible warning.

You write "there were, and are, serious doubts about the US/UK having (a) the intention and (b) the capability to create such prosperous secular democracies in Iraq and elsewhere." I do not doubt the intention and I grant the truth of the proposition that if more states could be turned to democracy the threat of international wars would recede. However, like you, I *do* doubt the capability which is why I propose my policy of hit-and-run raids to throw out terrorist-supporting leaderships leaving the indigent population to pick up the pieces.

No doubt Robert Pape made an enormous effort to tell us all the 'bleedin' obvious', that terrorists come from dissatisfied communities, after all, you don't get many international bankers blowing up foreign embassies! My point is that grievances are probably not enough but the offer of 'loadsa' money' for their family probably does the trick. Also, of course, the 'perps' will be reluctant to admit they're just in it for the money, too, too demeaning; no, if you waste your time asking them, they'll give you a string of fine and noble causes to justify the fact that they are simply hired killers.

I refuse, on the grounds of debate fatigue, to engage on the subject of the Israeli/Palestinian inbroglio except to say that it is essential to western interests to keep Israel in existence. Should the Muslims ever prevail there, it will only be a matter of time before they are back at the Gates of Vienna!

Ok we'll leave Israel/Palestine out for now, even though its security policies and experiences are clearly relevant if we are discussing how to deal with terrorism. Do I think relations between the west and Muslims are good? Not at the moment, but relations fluctuate over time depending on circumstance. Secondly I’d note that the Muslim world isn’t one monolithic block, but one that contains many different political perspectives and interpretations of the religion competing with each other.

You’re paraphrase of my remarks on the burke thesis was a nice try, but flawed in the sense that all fascists agreed with Fascism and wanted it to succeed. Most Muslims do not agree with Islamic fundamentalism and do not want it to succeed, therefore they have as much of an incentive to inform on the activities of the fundamentalists, and are thus their goodwill is a crucial weapon we have that we should not discard.

Secondly I believe the term “straw man” applies to the idea that I want to wave a “white flag” at terrorist. What I am suggesting is that it just might be an idea to stop killing Muslims in massacres, stop occupying their countries either directly or indirectly, and stop treating their lives and liberty as worth less than our own. There is a crucial difference, which you don’t appear to have noted, between 100 fanatics with no support in their community who want to kill us for no reason, and 100 000 people radicalised by seeing their brothers and sisters killed by cluster bombs and motivated by revenge. Clearly the idea that our actions might have undesirable consequences is an unpopular one.

We will probably never agree on intentions regarding Iraq, as the official secrets act means we have to wait another 27 years before the internal record is made public. However its good to see we both doubt the capability of the US and UK to achieve democracy through the use of force. This does raise the issue of how do we spread and achieve democracy, and it is a question crucial to the security of the UK in the future years. I would humbly suggest that a good place to start would be to stop supporting anti-democratic forces in the region such as the Saudi Royal Family.

We appear, 'Planeshift', to be finding areas of common ground. I, too, think we should fight this war against militant Islam with some care, some wit and some sophistication, but fight it we must! We must disagree on my belief that militant Islamists hate us for what we are, not for what we do. Inevitably, some of our actions will go wrong and blunders of omission or commission will produce ill-effects, but that is no argument for doing nothing. We have the military ability to 'take out' governments who displease us with minimal casualties to the civil population. We should do so on a careful assessment of the facts as we know them and in light of our own national interests.

On that subject, Saudi Arabia is crucial. They really do control an unimaginable amount of the world's oil. We have a direct interest in this because without it, our hospitals would close, our industries would grind to a halt, our homes would freeze and our food would rot! Now, you are suggesting that we de-stabilise the Saudi Royal family. You make no guess as to who might take over, and you certainly suggest this course of action without knowing the minds of the Saudi people. Apparently what was all wrong in Iraq is perfectly alright in Saudi! Can't say I follow your reasoning there, 'Planeshift'.

The comments to this entry are closed.