“No side in a war has ever surrendered on grounds that too many innocent people were dying”
– Sterling Pound, ©2016
In the wake of the Brussels atrocity the smoke had barely cleared and many of the victims had not yet been identified before the Eurosceptics were jumping on the bandwagon to blame the entire European project, with added immigrants – and the le Pens and Wilders had started banging on again about ‘de-Islamicising’ the continent – and, I suppose it had to be, Adele, who has used her immense celebrity to say something or other.
You will not be surprised to learn that in my view, it is not too much Europe that is killing innocent citizens, it is too little. It is not the ambitious policy of open borders that has led to IS cadres moving around freely – they would do that anyway, possibly more successfully because clandestinely – but the witholding of co-operation between the various State organisations responsible for internal security in the member countries, whose national independence and hierarchies are still too jealously guarded.
It is not ideological Islam that is blowing up trains and airports, it is people with nothing to lose. Le Pen and Wilders both, and Merkel and the other leaders who have risen to condemn the outrages, seem conveniently to be ignoring (others aren’t, notably French Prime Minister Valls) that we are in a declared state of war with the terrorists, and should not sound so surprised every time this happens. From that point of view, their actions are legitimised by our actions. We bomb them, they bomb us. We kill their civilians collaterally, they kill ours. It’s what happens in wars. No country nowadays sends an army into the field to fight another army, it’s too expensive. Armies are only for rattling sabres, for keeping young men off the streets.
And the more adventurous the IS becomes, the more their underground network of resisters grows, shielding their principal actors from detection. Perversely, the immigrant populations of France, Belgium and who knows where else are coming to see themselves as the ones living under enemy occupation.
IS has arisen as a proto-State precisely because we let it. Our failure to deal comprehensively with its forerunners, notably al Qaeda – our colonial obsession with regime change – our too-frequent ignoring of tribal relationships and religious divisions in the Middle East – our rapacious energy policy over the past hundred years – our political incompetence in regard to Syria – our failure to engage the hopes and aspirations of millions of young Muslims in their parents’ adopted countries. These and many other historical factors including, yes, recrudescent militant Islam – together with the corruption and cynicism of our Middle Eastern clients, which we tolerate, and their failure, by and large, to raise their societies up; the incontinence of the global arms trade, have created a Hydra over which we have no control.
So either we have to take the bully by the horns and win the bombing war as quickly and decisively as possible: putting in overwhelming force on the ground, hunting down and eradicating every last one of the beardy little bastards and their deranged, fascist ideology; and then try somehow to winkle-out their established pan-European networks (IS knows no borders either) – or we have to use our centuries-worth of political, diplomatic and commercial acumen to find another way out of the mess. The longer we wait, the harder it’s going to be to do either.
My bet is that in under ten years, if we do not act more decisively and with unity we shall have to accept that there is a de facto rogue nation state, a North Korea in former Syria/Iraq, whose geographical reach extends to the borders of Israel, India and the former Soviet Republics; but whose ideological extremism extends to the interior of Bradford and Leeds, with whom we shall be forced to do business or fight an eternal war. It’s the thirteenth century, with shopping.
IS is hitting back currently because they are losing. Losing territory, losing leaders, while their ability to finance jihad is bit-by-bit being cut off. To some extent persuading your most fanatical adherents to blow themselves up for the cause is a self-defeating tactic. But their ability to play the PKK off against Erdogan’s government by bombing civilians in Turkey and blaming the Kurds, on whom the West is relying to combat IS on the ground; while seeming free to strike at soft targets anywhere in Europe, driving the deeply divisive refugee crisis and sucking in Russia, is successfully entangling all the West’s main lines of defence against the expansion of the so-called caliphate.
As they appear to understand multi-player global strategy far better than we do, with our anachronistic idea of bipolarity, they may not be losing for long.
You don’t win a war without paying a price on both sides. The random slaughter of defenceless commuters and children in playgrounds will eventually come to be considered a price worth paying, no doubt. It always does. The question is, at what point does it become intolerable?
And I’m afraid the answer is, never. No side in a war has ever surrendered on the grounds that too many innocent people were dying. The longer a war goes on, the more ‘evil’ the enemy becomes, the more willing the leaders are to fight to the last man, woman and child. They will only make peace when it is in their strategic interest, or they run out of bullets.
Trumping the GOP
An interesting analysis of The Donald by BBC World News’ Katty Kay has him marked down as the working man’s Democrat: socially soft-left on abortion, unemployment benefit and Medicare, uninterested in ‘abroad’*, but sound on immigrants, blacks and journalists. Keep ’em out! Send ’em home! String ’em along!
No wonder traditional Republicans fear and loathe Trump. He’s outboxed them, cunningly identifying and capturing the working-class Republican vote, those disaffected blue-collar workers who for some bizarre reason have always voted Republican – turkeys for Thanksgiving – and have therefore gotten left behind: their precarious jobs, diminishing pay and bedrock, beer-drinking, moose-hunting values subverted by the Smart revolution, environmentalists and wine bars – their cherished arsenals under threat.
Archie Bunker may soon be putting his steel-capped Caterpillars up on the desk in the Oval Office, dreaming of a first-strike on Pyongyang. But to identify Trump as the working-class hero de nos jours is just bizarre, id’n it? A man who inherited $200 million from his dad and makes his dough as a rapacious property speculator? Just because you have a face like an angry mole-rat carved from Spam, a hairpiece spun by fairies out of dime-store nylon, and talk dumb like someone who never got past fourth grade doesn’t automatically make you working-class.
Attributed originally to a C17th French religious reformer, Jacques Abbadie, and later to that other self-made mythical Common Man, Abe Lincoln, it certainly seems you can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time. But I don’t suppose we can hope that Trump ever sets foot in a theatre.
*Trump is today (Monday 28th) quoted as warning his poor, terrified boobies that Europe is too dangerous to visit, because of what happened in Brussels.
Other factoids indicate that the USA has four times the number of traffic fatalities than the UK per head of population, and over 30 thousand gunshot fatalities, as compared to precisely 44 in the UK last year. No-one was killed by terrorists inside the UK in 2015. Traffic fatalities in Spain were slightly higher, I cannot even be bothered to lookup the number of gunshot fatalities and no-one in Spain was killed by terrorists last year, or in Bulgaria, or Italy, blah blah.
(Other countries are available.)
From a terrorism point of view, as well as traffic fatalities (the number-one killer of tourists worldwide) Europe was far more dangerous in the 1970s than it is now.
They say ignorance kills.
Irony in the bowl
“A man has been arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred after allegedly posting a tweet in response to the Brussels attacks. The tweet read: “I confronted a Muslim woman yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said ‘Nothing to do with me’. A mealy mouthed reply.”
“Police confirmed a 46-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday night in Croydon. He remains in custody at a south London police station.”
Hearteningly, a flurry of tweets, if that’s the right metaphor, has greeted the story of this Pinteresque exchange, with people confronting imaginary Irish women to ‘explain’ Bono and housewives to ‘explain’ shredless marmalade.
I can’t help commenting, at the risk of being sent to prison for decades, that theirs is probably the more hopeful approach to race relations, while the police appear to have gone mad. Do Muslims not eat porridge?
Far, far worse are the vile slurs and incitements to violence among the sofa-dwelling Commentariat on Yahoo! News and such sites, who are never arrested.
No doubt someone can ‘explain’ it.
Who’s an ugly android, then?
After only a few hours of online interaction with tweeting members of the public, Tay, a Microsoft experiment at persuading a programme with Artificial Intelligence to discover for itself how to communicate with humans, has learned to swear, make racist jokes and support genocide.
Naturally, Microsoft’s kneejerk reaction (as they do most days to my li’l laptop without even asking) was to precipitately yank Tay offline for a spot of ‘reconfiguration’; something that must now pass for political re-education in the AI world.
I’m not sure whether to congratulate MS for designing a machine with the intellectual capacity of a parrot – they have to start somewhere – or to despair of the human race entirely.
One or the other.
Surely one can do no right?
I stopped for two minutes across from the butcher in town to pick up a leg of Easter lamb.
Before I had even got out of the car, after struggling to parallel-park while a stream of impatient motorists built up behind, a woman shop assistant who had popped out for a smoke, having nothing better to do, was complaining that my back offside wheel was stationed two inches outside the white line and thus I was preventing other drivers from using the road.
As white lines are specified by deeply conservative town planners, any visually impaired person could still have driven several buses past my car, at high speed. Meanwhile, the Land-Rover behind me was parked with both wheels a foot outside the line.
It’s something we do.
But you have to applaud the public spiritedness of the Boglington-on-Sea retail community: their willingness to take responsibility for other people’s lives in the service of the town’s noted civic pride; their ceaseless quest for the moral high-ground, their healthy detestation of shoppers (see Posts passim).
(Uncle Bogler is away over Easter. Any complaints should be addressed somewhere, I forget where.)