War on Terror
As a colleague put it: “They could be watching a porn movie for all we know.”
It was written in response to the decision to ban Islam4UK.
And also the LA's condemnation of it, ie the decision.
I suppose the point is that if you are fighting a war, then the time for talking and debate is over. So banning organisations like this sounds sensible.
I suppose it begs the question why we (or should that be the state?) didn't ban pro-IRA propaganda during the Troubles.
I mention this because that was the question I found myself asking the other day when listening to a radio discussion on civil liberties - specifically about what to do with terrorism. The discussion was between a "civil libertarian" on the one hand - all against snooping - and an authoritarian on the other - all in favour.
I found it a rather confusing debate because while I was in theory rooting for the civil libertarian - a bunch I've never particularly liked - I found myself agreeing far more with the authoritarian.
So, I asked the magic question. What would happen if there were no government?
Answer? Simple. Roads would be privately owned and road owners would have every incentive to ensure their roads were terrorist free. Therefore, they would simply ban anyone they suspected of harbouring terrorist sympathies - not unlike the way the Bluewater Shopping Centre banned hoodies a few years ago. My guess is that this would lead to some lookism plus and ad hoc system of passports and people vouching for one another.
But not a lot of snooping.
So, the news blackout on Prince Harry’s deployment in Afghanistan has been broken. But, I wonder, should it ever have been there in the first place?
The argument seems to be that if the Taliban knew that he was there they would make a special effort to try to kill him and that, therefore, his men (who are apparently much more important than him) would be put at risk.
Maybe, maybe, but should the Taliban rise to the bait wouldn’t it put their men at risk too? And isn’t getting the Taliban to bend their whole strategy out of shape exactly what we want?
From Theo Spark
Actually, no. The French were winning. So too, according to this article by Arthur Herman, were the Americans in Vietnam. And the strategy used in those two wars is pretty much what is being tried out in Baghdad.
Will it be third time lucky?
(Hat-tip: Pajamas Media)
It’s taken a while but at last people are starting to put up some serious challenges to Mark Steyn’s Europe-is-doomed theory. Johnathan Pearce had a go last week. This week it’s the Social Affairs Unit’s Marc Sidwell.
He takes the view that numbers don’t really matter all that much:
The triumph of the West is one long refutation of [Steyn’s] argument. As Exhibit A, just take a look at 300, the new blockbuster remake of the Battle of Thermopylae as envisioned by graphic novelist Frank Miller. Once more, we see all the slave armies of the East marched out upon tiny Greece - and humiliated by the sacrifice of three hundred free men.
Don’t think it quite happened like that. Thermopylae was, after all, a defeat. But point taken. And with Trident you don’t even need 300 men - one index finger will do just fine.
So long as someone has the will to use it, that is. And you’re not aiming it at your own major population centres.
I don’t think I’ve ever used one of these round-ups to link to Samizdata before. My guess is that anyone who comes here also goes there. And also because - for various technical reasons - Samizdata articles tend to slip through the net, round-up wise.
But I think there is a principle here. If this is to be any good as a round-up I should be giving space to articles I like even if every single reader has already read them. This is where to find the best articles in the Blogosphere, n’importe quoi.
Anyway, Samizdata is always good but this week I particularly liked:
...as people get richer and no longer have to rely on big families to support parents in their dotage, birth rates fall. It seems to happen pretty much everywhere, including in those countries with very different religious and cultural traditions.
Right, enough of Samizdata. Now for what has been going on elsewhere:
- Adriana doesn’t think much of television:
I stopped watching TV a few years back soon after I started blogging on Samizdata.net [did I speak too soon?]. These days when I switch it on for whatever reason, it feels oddly one-way and restrictive. You can’t choose what and when you are watching something you are interested in, the controls are pathetic compared to what I am used to online.
That’s exactly how I feel about television these days. Who else one wonders?
- Christopher Hitchens writes on Ayaan Hirsi Ali and “bogus equivalences”.
- Douglas Murray reviews Nick Cohen’s new book and picks out this gem:
I feel like a class traitor when I say it but the first lesson from the “heroic” age of the Left in the Thirties is that it never works like that in a conflict in which your own society is involved. You can be a critical friend of one side or another, a very critical friend as often as not, but you have to choose which side you are on, and those who don’t usually end up as the biggest villains of all.
- And finally… Latvia: they do things differently there
- Harry Hutton considers the issue of smoking inspectors:
If we can raise a fighting fund of £500,000 we can probably drive many of them into exile, arranging for gangs of hoodlums to break their windows, drag them from their homes and tar and feather them.
Ha! Unlikely, for sure, but looking to the future, is it really beyond the bounds of possibility?
- Just when you thought it was safe to surf free of pop-ups, WordPress (of all people) bring them back. Jackie isn’t too impressed either.
- Free market think tank sets up school. Or does it?
- The standard version of the Madrid train bombing is that the government tried to pin it on ETA when, in fact, it had been carried out by Islamists. John Chappell begs to differ.
- A photo of Roman Abramovich from the 1980s. Seems there’s nothing new in the blank expression, even when, as it would appear here, he has plenty to smile about.
- Helen Szamuely feels the need for a German national identity. Which begs the question, if they don’t already have one, what is it that is keeping them together? Also check out Helen’s article on Willi Munzenberg - Josef Goebbels’s propaganda nemesis.
- France’s Socialist Party has selected a good-looking woman to be its candidate in the up-coming Presidential election. This has implications. But only an economist can tell us what they are.
- Don’t fancy yours much… Mark… Anthony.
- I know this item is called: “If you haven’t already...” but I have never made it clear what you may not already have done - read it, or seen it. For instance, while I have read this article on bullying in the Russian Army I haven’t seen it and I am not sure I want to. The British Army, of course, is so much better. While we’re on the subject of English Russia don’t forget to check out, well… everything.
There was no round up last week due to that sodding talk which took up rather a lot of my time.
- Laban reprints Paul Dacre’s Hugh Cudlipp Memorial Lecture. I am far from a fan of Dacre’s Daily Mail but anyone who points out that:
...when The Times’s Ms Sieghart, the very embodiment of modern free-thinking women, holds forth on feminism, she does so courtesy of the topless girls in the still vastly profitable Sun.
...can’t be all bad.
- At risk of turning this into a Crozier-Micklethwait Appreciation Society I would recommend that you take a look, if you haven’t already, at Brian’s first piece (there will be more) on the French anthropologist philosopher Emmanuel Todd. Anyone who, in 1975, predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade or so later deserves attention.
- “Anti-Americanism has acquired the status of Western Europe’s lingua franca."According to The Chronicle. To paraphrase Fred Boynton: I think it’s well-known that anti-Americanism has its roots in impotence, at least in Europe. (Hat-tip: A&L Daily)
- It would be far better to lower - rather than raise - the school leaving age, argues Theodore Dalrymple. ‘Nuff said.
- Don’t learn Japanese. No really. I can say this from personal experience. It’s as mad as a box of frogs. (Hat-tip: Rob Fisher)
- Can we really compare Iraq’s insurgents with the Werewolves, the Nazis’ attempt to start an underground campaign against the Allies? Michael Ledeen thinks we can.
But I have to do it.
I am doing this solely because some people are trying to stop me. If freedom of speech were secure I wouldn't bother. But it isn't, so I will.
Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of modern Western civilisation. Without it, Western civilisation (which I think is a good thing) is doomed. But that freedom is currently under threat. It is, therefore, up to me and anyone else who values freedom, to show what we will not be bullied.
For the past three decades and more, many of the leading opinion makers in our universities, the media and the arts have regarded Western culture as, at best, something to be ashamed of, or at worst, something to be opposed.
Meanwhile Eric S Raymond talks about the damage done when the Soviets stated reading Gramsci:
The Soviets consciously followed the Gramscian prescription; they pursued a war of position, subverting the “leading elements” of society through their agents of influence. (See, for example, Stephen Koch’s Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals; summary by Koch here) This worked exactly as expected; their memes seeped into Western popular culture and are repeated endlessly in (for example) the products of Hollywood.
And RottyPup (noting how Gramsicians and Islamists seem to be best buddies nowadays) supposes that:
To most Gramscians, the bearded crazies are simply next in line for an extinction-event after all those pesky rich, white males have been dealt with.
(Though he thinks the crazies may have other plans)
A few thoughts:
- I am pretty sure there is a conspiracy out there and that it is aimed at the destruction of Western civilisation. It helps explain a lot of what the left say and do.
- I don’t think it’s the sort of conspiracy carried out in hushed tones in dark, smokeless rooms. No, it’s more one where the actors, having read a bit of Gramsci don’t have to be told what to do and when to do it.
- I am never quite sure whether to mention it or not. It’s really for internal (right-wing) consumption only. I rather feel that arguments have to be won on their merits. I am also aware that the Gramscians get a lot of support from people who have never read Gramsci - people who are convinced by the arguments - or whatever it is that they are convinced by. I am not sure it’s helpful to tell these people that they are nihilist cat’s paws.
- Gramsci was jailed by Mussolini. Say what you like about the bald Italian dictator but he knew a bad ‘un when he saw one.
Oh , it’s essential to me, of course, but then I am a libertarian. But what about Western civilisation in general? I ask because it occurs to me that freedom of speech has had a hard time of it over the years. If one thinks back to the Medieval period it was not pleasant to be a protestant in a Catholic country. And then, during the Reformation, it wasn’t so hot to be a Catholic in a (by then) protestant country. Hey, it wasn’t so great to be the wrong sort of protestant. During the 1820s all sorts of efforts were made to suppress seditious publications. And, as recently as the 1970s, Gay News was prosecuted under the blasphemy laws.
And yet, despite all this Western civilisation has gone on.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am four-square behind the publication of the Danish cartoons. I think this is likely to be the defining moment in the clash of civilisations. I very much hope that someone will explain to me that, yes, in fact, freedom of speech, or something pretty close to it, really is essential, but, well, you know, sometimes it’s worth playing Devil’s Advocate.
I guess just about everything that can be said about those cartoons has already been said but I think this article by Medworth is well worth taking in.
As he says:
Many people, in this country and elsewhere, seem to have grasped on some level that our response to this issue is the latest in a series of defining moments for the future of civilisation.
He goes on to say:
Showing backbone ... would have many good effects: it would renew the confidence of our people in their rights, and it would show our enemies that we have the moral confidence, as well as the physical power, necessary to win the battle in which we are currently engaged.
Before putting the boot in:
What the militants realise, which the moderates may not, is that once you inject any Enlightenment values into religion, its days are numbered.
I would like to point out that I don’t particularly like either of these schemes it’s just that I can’t see an alternative.
Talking of alternatives Natalie proposes one of her own. A couple of questions: a) what if people don’t declare themselves and b) what if they lie when they do?
Natalie and I have been arguing about internment. She doesn’t like it and was against the government’s proposals for detention without trial. One of her reasons for opposing internment is that she believes that we haven’t needed it in the past. I e-mailed her to let her know that we have used internment rather a lot over the years.
That it has been used, of course, does not prove that it has been needed. Natalie certainly makes a compelling case against its use in World War II.
She may be right, though I think had I been German at the time I would have been rather grateful to have been removed from the native population. From what I know there was a lot less of the sort of anti-German mob violence that we got in the First World War.
Anyway, this is all rather by the by. My central point was that internment is essential when dealing with terrorist groups who can find refuge in unassimilated populations such as the Ulster Irish or (as may turn out to be the case) British Muslims. In the case of Ulster the rule seems clear enough; if you use internment (resolutely) you win: if you don’t you lose.
That does not mean I like internment. But given a choice between losing a few liberties and becoming part of the Caliphate ie losing them all, I know which I would pick.
That is, of course, assuming that that is the choice. There are others. Unassimilated populations tend to be, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, geographically concentrated. One could give these areas a choice: either assimilate eg don’t harbour terrorists, don’t allow pro-terrorist sentiment, accept the status quo OR have your area removed from the UK. The area would then become a separate sovereign state and would be subject to the same arrangements that all sovereign states are subject to ie the border remains closed until we’re happy.
Incidentally, I was against the government’s proposals. Not because I am against internment (clearly) - I would have gone much further - but because I have doubts about Tony Blair’s commitment to the cause. If you are going to use something as draconian as internment you’ve really got to mean it.
Over the last few hours I have heard it said from several quarters how Britain will stand up to and defeat the perpetrators of yesterday’s atrocities in London. Which staggers me. I find myself wondering what on earth makes them think that. All, and I mean all, the evidence is that British politicians will talk tough before conceding. Here is a list (by no means complete) of British acts of weakness in the face of the IRA, every single one of them made after earnest speeches championing the virtues of democracy decrying the vileness of terrorism and claiming how we would never, never give in:
- the creation of no-go areas
- the abolition of the B Specials
- 1972 talks with the IRA
- the abolition of Stormont
- the weakening of internment
- the abolition of internment
- the introduction of religious discrimination laws
- allowing the Irish government a say in Ulster affairs
- concessions to the hunger strikers
- 1993 talks with the IRA
- negotiations without disarmament
- allowing the IRA into government without disarmament
- the release of IRA convicts
- the rerouting of Orange Order parades
- the abolition of the RUC
- the destruction of army bases
- the abolition of the right to self-determination
The last few were all made by Tony “we must never give in to terrorism” Blair.
It is, of course, possible that for once the British government will demonstrate some backbone. There are significant differences between the IRA and al-Qaeda. The IRA’s aims are limited - as yet it has no claims on the British mainland. The IRA’s propaganda is more effective. The IRA has never done something so outrageous that the government has had to act. But that can change. Al-Qaeda can learn.
The British government has a lot to prove.
Mark Steyn seems to agree with me.
Update 09/07/05. Bearing in mind the comments a couple of further points:
1. You should never make concessions to terrorists even if those concessions are perfectly sensible. It only encourages them.
2. We would all like to live in a world where we can be nice and win - just like in Hollywood. But what if that isn’t an option? What if the options are a) be nice and lose and b) be nasty and win? Me? I’ll take b) every time.
I see internment/house arrest/detention without trial is getting a bum rap. Can’t say I like it that much either, but I am always mindful of one killer fact:
When you are confronted with a terrorist organisation that is able to hide itself amongst a distinct and separate community, you cannot hope to win without internment. This has been proved time and time again, in campaigns against the IRA in the 1940s and 1950s, in the Malaya Emergency and in Kenya. It’s not the full story - you need a few other things like good intelligence and robust defence of your borders - but it is an essential part of the story.
When you ditch it (as we did in Ulster after 1972) you lose.
The bizarre thing is that people are kicking up a fuss now. It’s not as if it’s a new thing. It had been on the statute books for yonks. I am pretty sure that it was only repealed shortly before 9/11. I don’t seem to remember finding it particularly repressive.
Until recently, I hadn’t been back in the US for about 2.5 years. But when I did return, I was awed and very appreciative of the attitude most Americans have to their rights. Whereas people here largely seem to have an “Oh well, what can do you?” resignation about these things, the Americans I know - of every political stripe - take a very strong “Screw you and the horse you rode in on, Big Brother” line.
Which almost had me going until a good friend told me today that in the US hairdressers have to be licenced. A licence to crimp, so to speak. Statism is pretty bad everywhere.
Jackie also asked me whether I would be tempted to emigrate. I think if I were convinced that Britain was doomed and the US was not I would start to think about it. For the time being we’re both doomed so the question doesn’t arise.
...but that doesn’t mean he’s happy:
It’s an open question whether the West will survive this twilight struggle: Europe almost certainly won’t, America might; on the other hand, the psychosis to which much of the culture is in thrall may eventually reach a tipping point into mass civilizational suicide.
For what it’s worth, I think it’s both or none. When Perry announced that he was leaving the UK for America, several commenters pointed out that the situation there was almost as bad as it is here. Similar cultures give rise to similar debates and similar outcomes. But I think we will turn ourselves around. Bush’s re-election was a turning point. And for that reason I am optimistic about Europe.
Haven’t been going a bundle on this half as much as, well, everybody, but I did spot this:
Reporter Caroline Hawley said “The Iraqis have spoken, but we don’t know what they said”. Well, we know part of what they said - it was “Up yours, left-wing Western media”.
Scott Campbell for B-BBC.