MICHAEL STEAD FROM NEW ZEALAND WRITES...
...and he sounds none to happy about this blog. But he raises the real issues of peace, war, co-existence and What Is To Be Done, which is entirely fair enough.
I’ve read (what I assume is) your page – complete with self-professed ultra-right views...
Hold it right there Michael, I have to give you a foul there. I don't believe I've ever described my views as ultra-right wing. My personal political position for most of my adult life was Moderate-to-Left. I certainly despise extremists of any sort, preferring to apply the only real test to any ideology - does it work? If it doesn't, then it's useless.
In 1935, at the height of the Depression, I would have voted for Mickey Joseph Savage and the Labour Party without batting an eyelid. Socialism was what was required under those circumstances. It was neccessary. So it was worthwhile supporting it. But times change, the world changes, and there are always fresh challenges, which we need to respond to.
In fact, lets take the example of the first Labour government as a case in point. Many in the Labour cabinet when WWII was declared had been conscientious objectors during WWI, but it was those very same men who had refused to fight that
war, who instituted conscription for the new one, and set up labour camps for anyone who followed their earlier example and refused to fight.
On one level you could accuse them of hypocrisy. But they argued that that was then and this is now, and things are different. This isn't an imperialist war which the working class has no interest in, this is a war of survival. Should they have sacrificed the national interest simply to appear consistent? Of course not.
I hope the same is true of me. My new-found "conservatism" is based entirely on the situation we now find ourselves in - subjected to massive terrorist attacks by a savage and inhuman enemy which is driven by a genocidal religious ideology and utterly immune to negotiations. In political terms I find myself sympathetic to those forces which will actively work to enhance the West's ability to survive. Right now that's US President George Bush, the Republican Party, Tony Blair, and Israel.
I find myself repelled by forces which see the West as responsible for terrorism, forces which will not seriously address the root causes of the problem, which see the world through their own cultural perspective and willfully project their own preconceptions onto the enemy. Broadly speaking, that would be the Left, although there are exceptions. Tony Blair of course, Christopher Hitchens, and Salman Rushdie are examples.
The Right also has some despicable people, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson of course, Pat Buchanan, the mad West Bank settlers, American conservative isolationists and the anti-semitic forces even further to the right. In no way am I connected with them. And what sort of "ultra-right-wing" person believes in gun control, abortion as a womans right to choose, and more public spending on education? I think you've got the wrong end of the stick Michael.
...and I’d like to ask some questions, seeing as how I’m still in the dark about how 1,000lb bombs will stop some nutter blowing up a minivan of C4 at my next holiday spot...
It won't Mike, that's the whole point. In order to constitute a threat, terrorists need to posess two things - the desire to do us harm, and the means. In the modern world, it is becoming relatively easy for the means
of mass destruction to be acquired. Explosives, secure communications, even nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are now within the reach of what Tom Friedman calls "super-empowered individuals". The resources once only weilded by states are now at the disposal of individuals and groups who often have severe grudges, no electorate to keep them in check, and no territory they need to protect.
So the means to attack us will always be there.
Which brings us to the desire.
how will dropping a 1,000lb bomb on someone’s family or countrymen stop them wanting to blow up a minivan of C4 at my next holiday spot? I.e. Has the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan done a damn thing, apart from replace one oppressive misogynistic regime with a bunch of even more crazy religious drug lords?
Okay, you're right to pinpoint the problem as being someone wanting
to blow you up. Take that away, and there's no problem, regardless of how many nukes someone has. If they aren't going to use them, they're not that much of a threat are they? On that much. both the Right and the Left are actually united. This war isn't about killing people in mass quantities, it's about getting them to change their ideas. Only then will we be safe.
Of course, it does become harder for a terrorist to kill you if we've already dropped a 1,000lb bomb on his head, scattering him over a wide area and making him kinda dead. If we can
do that, don't you think we should
But this is the point at which the disagreement sets in. Your side, lets call it the Left for want of a better term, feels that the best way to get the enemy to like us is to do....well I'm not exactly sure what really. Sign the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions? Increase the proportion of GDP devoted to overseas aid to 5%? Pass a few more anti-Israel resolutions at the UN? What?
Certainly what I AM hearing from the Left is what we ought NOT to do, and that consists largely of doing anything at all to defend ourselves. Which, oddly enough, is pretty much what the enemy wants us to do as well. As George Orwell would say, that makes the Left objectively pro-terrorist.
I think this is a clash of world views. The Left sees the world largely through it's own rather narrow western cultural perspective, while the Right seems more likely to see the world for what it is - a Hobbesian struggle. I keep hearing anti-war speeches which talk about the war as somehow being waged entirely against innocent civillians. I hear constant references (you make them yourself Michael) to houses being bombed, as if war consisted entirely of slaughtering innocents families in residential suburbs. In fact this war so far has been fought with greater concern for civillian casualties than any other in history.
The US military has displayed exemplary restraint, although of course there will be errors and confusion. It's a war, these things happen. Do you know how many French civillians died during D-Day? Quite a few. Did that mean the liberation of Europe should have been aborted? Of course not. And as a citizen of an Allied country Michael, you realise your country was part of a coalition that had no compunction whatsoever in firebombing Hamburg, Leipzig, Dresden, Tokyo and Yokahama, and dropping atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is that what happened in Afghanistan? Of course not, and I think you know that perfectly well.
And as for replacing one bad regime with another, wasn't it the Left that was pissing and moaning for weeks beforehand about "the brutal Afghan winter" and how the "mighty Pushtun warrior, slayer of empires" would ambush our troops in the snow-filled mountain passes, and how the "Arab street" would rise up from Morocco to Indonesia, and why if a single bomb fell during Ramadan, it would instantly unite the entire Islamic world in a global Jihad?
happen to all those "facts"?
Here's one fact. The United States and its allies (including our country I would point out Michael) successfully fought a campaign which brough regime change to a country that had been ruled by fear and repression, at pretty minimal cost, enabling women to walk freely in the streets again, girls to attend school, children to fly kites, and music to be heard in the streets. It also robbed our main enemy organisation of a secure base from which to attack us.
Your problem with this is what, exactly?
Unless we ban the sale of diesel, fertilizer, minivans and clocks, there will always be the ingredients for carbombs. I fail to see how anything the US or its ‘coalition (of terror?)‘ has done in the last year makes it any less likely that some nutter will decide to spend the $2000 needed to make said carbomb up & use it. (Timothy McVeigh was a non-Arabic US citizen. How will bombing anything stop the likes of him?)
Arabic is the language Michael, the ethnicity is Arab. As I've just said, the means to commit terror will always be there - they key is to remove the desire. What has happened so far in the war on terror (note, I don't use sneer quotes for the term) is that Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been routed from power in a country which had been a safe haven. They are now scattered, and probably leaderless, although it's very likely they are regrouping as we speak. This is a useful first step, and makes it more difficult, although not impossible, for Al Qaeda to operate. Insisting on 100% prevention or nothing is a good way to ensure that the enemy will be able to mount attacks against us with no fear of reprisal. Not a good policy Michael.
Try to understand the enemy's point of view. The Wahhabis, Islamists, Islamic Fundamentalists, Islamofascists, call them what you will, are not motivated by anything you can relate to. They don't care about fossil-fuel depletion, the ozone layer, Third World debt or World Bank lending policies. They're not interested in you boosting foriegn aid, voting Green, or visualising world peace. They want you do do one of two things.
1) Convert to Islam, or
Here's what they want Michael, and they're not interested in compromise solutions, meeting anyone halfway, or discussing our differences in a calm, rational manner. Thisn is a package deal, take it or....well, just take it.
They are waging Jihad, the expansion by force of the Dar el-Islam, the House of Islam; and the diminution of the Dar el-Harb, the House of war, controlled by the kuffar. This is the divinely expressed will of Allah, as revealed in the Holy Quran, first to the Prophet Muhummad by the Archangel Gabriel, and then to the Muslim ummah, and through them to the whole world.
All humanity must make submission to Allah, and bow to Mecca and the holy Ka'aba. Unbelief must disappear. Any who cling to unbelief after having heard the message of Islam are worthy of death, for they defy the will of Allah.
That's it. I'm not making this up or exaggerating it in any way.
So how can the West combat this attitude? How can we remove the desire of people like this to destroy us? It won't be easy, and it won't be quick. But I can tell you right now that attempting to "negotiate" will simply encourage them. Asking ourselves if we are to blame will make them believe we are weakening. And they'd be right.
Part of the fight lies in the West looking inside itself and realising that we are in fact a great civilisation with a perfect right to exist and proclaim our values. Our origins lie in the religious vision of Israel, the political thought of Greece, the administrative genius of Rome, the flame of learning that the monks of Ireland kept flickering through the Dark Ages, the human values rediscovered by the Italian Renaissance, the thousand year struggle for freedom waged between the English Commons and the monarchy, the spirit of sceptical inquiry of the Enlightenment, the triumph of the cause of freedom in the great 20th century struggles with Fascism and Communism...all of this is part of who and what we are.
Our values are incresingly seen as universal values, aspired to by everyone. Free speech, democracy, neutral rule of law, free markets. All are the result of many strands of history, from many cultures, combining to create a culture which has swept the globe. Not because the West seeks to conquer the world militarily - we already did that, and withdrew when we became convinced it was no longer tenable to pretend that it was for the natives own good. Western culture is so universal because it is attractive.
And that is our undoing, because the enemy knows they cannot compete or coexist with us. Their religious world view is already doomed, and I think deep down they know that. From their point of view, the growth of a modernist Islam, at peace with its past and its future, with equal rights for women and coexisting with a secular state in which non-Muslims have equal rights, is the worst thing that could happen. It is literally unthinkable. Allah has guaranteed victory to the Muslims, so how can it be that Muslims are deserting Allah by twisting the true faith, allowing girls to go to school and get jobs, obeying their own consciences rather than a rightly-guided Caliph (and that's another thing that ticks them off, no Caliph).
Michael, try to think like them. These are desperate men, who see their entire world starting to collapse, and all they can do to prevent it is lash out as hard as they can at the percieved enemy. They cannot just sit there and allow evil (as they see it) to triumph over God. They MUST attack with all their strength, and Allah MUST grant them victory over the kuffar.
In a sense, all we have to do is wait them out. Our cultural victory is, I believe, already assured. The Arab world is, it has to be faced squarely, moribund. It reached its apogee around the 12th century, but it's been sinking into apathy, obscurantism and sour rejection of the non-Muslim world ever since. It contains within itself the seeds of potential greatness, and it may be that they can germinate once again, as they did once before. But I'm convinced that this will only happen once they have made their final peace with Western ideas.
The question is, how long will it take for this acceptance to take place, and how bad will terrorism get in the meantime? I personally think it could take as little as 200 years, but I was always a optimist. And the terrorism will get worse. I fear entire cities will go up in mushroom clouds before this is over.
Our military options are essentially part of a holding pattern. The invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein will be a signal that nowhere is safe for our enemies, and not even the strongest leader can protect them. It will get rid of a particularly vicious tyrant, and replace him with something infinitely better, It certaibly couldn't possibily be any worse. And an Iraq that's even semi-democratic will be an example of what's possible to the youth of the Muslim world.
Iran's reigime of mullahs is already tottering and could collapse under pressure from it's pro-Western youth at any time. Other dictatorships in the region such as Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be hard-presed to keep their own people ignorant of the benefits of the western system if it can be seen to be successful in Iraq. Freedom can spread. The Revolution will
This war, like all wars of the modern era, is essentially one of ideas. Weapons systems are all very well, and can help us keep the enemy at bay to a certain extent (and why should we make it easy for them?), but in the end, it's the side that can inspire the most people that will win. Michael, we beat the Nazis by shooting them. We beat the Communists by containing them and waiting for them to drop dead of natural causes. Do you seriously think that a bunch of medieval religious lunatics are going to destroy us, no matter how many weapons they have?
I have a Pakistani workmate. The British are remembered by him, his family and countrymen, not for the brutal oppression, not for slavery, colonialism or for anything else bad they did, but for the fact that they built schools & hospitals. The cost of feeding, housing, clothing, medicating and educating every person in the 3rd world has been estimated at about 1/100 of the annual US defence budget (or some fraction similarly tiny). Why not give that a try, and see if people will be grateful for their child/wife/mother not dying in a ditch for lack of clean water while $100 Million warplanes drop $25,000 LGB’s on them? I know if my kid had just been blown apart as a result of a military ‘accident’ causing ‘collateral damage’ I’d be on the first plane over, looking for an easy target...
We're already doing that Michael! Western aid to the Third World is massive, and has been for decades now. It hasn't done a lot of good because governmental systems are inefficient, corrupt and useless by and large. Only when countries have followed a more western model are they more successful. Latin America has by and large pulled itself up by its bootstraps and done just that. What was once wall-to-wall Generals-with-Sunglasses teritory is now largely democratic. Heck, the other day I saw a socialist elected President of Brasil and the army didn't
drop by his house and shoot him!
It's not our money they need, it's our political and economic systems and the beliefs and values that underly them.
And we're not going to be dropping laser-guided glide bombs on starving peasants for the love of Pete! We'll be dropping them on terrorists, when we can find them. Imperial Probe Droids like the one that took out the Al Qaeda boss in Yemen the other day are going to help make life very difficult for the Jihadis.
When people in Muslim countries see that the West is in fact good for them, when they see that Afghanistan and Iraq are infinitely better off after having been liberated, when they see that the West has no designs on their territory, when they see that Muslims in the West live perfectly free and happy lives and are not
being rounded up and herded into camps, in short, when they see that our way of life will make them richer, happier and above all freer, then they will choose it rather than the path of Jihad.
And if we're sending Jihadis to Paradise with Hellfire missiles launched from remotely-piloted drones, doesn't that make it a slightly less attractive career option?
Peace just might be worth a try. Won’t make for good TV, but god knows the current plan isn’t working.
Yes Michael, I do believe in peace. Peace through a combination of a superior culture AND superior firepower. I certainly don't believe it discourages terrorists if we just bend over and say "I deserved that, please sir, may I have another?" And who says it's not working?
I’m actually interested in responses to these questions, as every time I hear people talking about ‘bombing everyone back to the stoneage’ I’ve asked them the same 3 things, but never heard a reasoned, rational answer.
Enough of them are already living in the intellectual stone age. The trick is to get their attention and help them change their minds. The occasional loud bang is in fact quite a help in this regard. The carrot is fine Michael, but it works a lot better with a stick as well. I think it was the eminent philosopher Al Capone who once said "You get a lot further with a kind word and a gun, than with just a kind word".