Sunday, July 01, 2007

It's about ideology, stupid....

After yesterday's suicide attack in Glasgow there will undoubtedly be, as there is, instant reaction and analysis in the Sunday press. However, it is not today that matters but the next and the next. After any attack there is always an instant and for the most part consensual outrage, but, if past history is to go by it will be the analysis on Monday and Tuesday where the consensus will begin to break down in the commentary.

It was already starting to happen yesterday on the BBC prior to the Glasgow incident. The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who has happily shared a platform with an Islamist extremist and bizarrely called him a moderate voice, was on the Today programme saying, predictably, that it was all because of Iraq and unemployment.

The problem of course with this analysis, is that it implies that if you solve unemployment amongst young Muslims and you pull out of Iraq it will all just go away. The doublethink required to hold this position ignores suicide attacks that happened prior to Iraq. In those cases the argument is shifted to Afghanistan, or the Palestinian issue, and crucially in all cases the blame of the attacks does not lie with the perpetrators but with the West.

Our actions, you see, make them do it, don't you understand? This can actually be quite an appealing argument the first time it is presented to anyone. Much as the first time you read a Robert Fisk article you might be forgiven for thinking its argument was sound and concise. However, the problem comes when you realise the shifting nature of the argument as each of the previous ones no longer applies.

Hence we go from 9/11 being America's fault because of troop presence in Saudi Arabia and support for Israel; the next attack is because of Afghanistan; and the next is because of Iraq, so on and so forth. The sophists and unthinking side of this argument will always, without hesitation, find a reason that attacks are of our own making, and every time they do it, at the core will be a self-loathing of Western values. A postmodern position that says that our values are not worth anymore than the medievalist values of the perpetrators of the attacks.

Some people have never liked the language of the "war on terror" and consider that to be part of the problem too. We are not at war they say. Or we cannot have war with a concept. However, in both cases the mistake is to think of war in the literal militaristic sense. We are at war, but it is an ideological one. A battle of ideas that is little different to the one that stemmed from 1917 to 1990. The only difference this time is that it is not an internal battle of the Enlightenment. That battle was rational actor against rational actor where death was not considered as an end in itself. Hence mutually assured destruction (MAD) was, in its own bizarre way, a guarantor of it not tipping over the edge.

Now though it is a battle of the Enlightenment against, as a friend once said to me, Endarkenment, and this time the other side isn't rational. It thinks nothing of its own death in achieving its ends. It's also acutely aware that the dominance of Western self-loathing is our greatest weakness. Is our way of life under threat? No. Our number is too great for that to seriously happen in any immediate sense. But does the other side want to fundamentally change our society, our way of life, and our values? Undoubtedly.

As long as we continue to see attacks as merely reactions to our own actions (thereby "our" fault), then the potential of our society changing more in line with their thinking grows ever greater.


Alastair Stuart said...

But didn't you get the memo? We are all Hezbollah now!

You are of course, completely correct. We are at war with an ideology of hate. The real question is this: how do we win it? Currently I'm favouring bribery, it seems so much less costly (and is safer) than war.

Anonymous said...


Unfortunately, the trouble with Danegeld is that the Dane always returns for more. Unless by bribery you mean buying them out as a one-off - unaffordable perhaps?

We are at war as Dizzy describes (and more) and we are not winning. A good start would be the exposure of "Useful Idiots" like Livingstone. Sadly, however, the emperor's new clothes that are the stock in trade of the useful idiots, while apposite, remain trapped inside a fairy-tale. And in the modern world fairy tales are not remembered as they once were - teachings of morality and warnings of consequence of foolish actions.

Alastair Stuart said...


What else do you propose we do?

Richard Havers said...

Liningstone is part of the problem, not the solution.

Thor Holt said...

Guys.. so cynical... how about we all just turn the other cheek as the Christian Theology of george W and Tony B would have them do? I think you may find that the "War" is already lost.. did you know that after Jack, Mohamed is the most popular boys name in the Uk? 1.85Million of our Islamic Brits will out breed anyone else and bring a Muslim State within 50 years maximum.. so just relax.. the War On terror will become meaningless soon enough as Muslim Youth will not feel so disafected with Britain once they are running it. No more unemployment for them!

guido faux said...

It's funny how when the new bad guys come along, the old bad guys are restrospectively granted 'rational' status when previously they were portrayed as madmen who could not be bargained with.

We're just marking time with the current bunch of amateurs until a credible 'historical' threat emerges in the form of China and/or resurgent Russia which is why we still spend billions on military technology only useful against conventional enemies.

ps I wouldn't have said Nazi Germany and the USSR were particularly 'enlightened', although obviously they thought they were.

pps I believe the Al'Qaeda leadership are in fact rational. Recruiting suicide bombers is a perfectly rational move on their part - of course they wouldn't do it themselves.

Anonymous said...

The 'unemployment' and other economic arguments are clearly b0llocks - you just have to look at the background of the 9/11, 7/7 and car bomb terrorists to see that. It is, as you say, about ideology. The really tricky part is moving from that and a principled, but sterile, position of 'we must stand firm', to imaginative steps to reduce the likelihood of future steps will not giving in to terror.

Incidentally, I loved Gorson's 'all terrorists are evil' line. Were the ANC evil? Was the French resistance?

AntiCitizenOne said...

Were the ANC evil?

Yes, next question.

Anonymous said...

How about this for a scenario:

In a few years the number of militant islamist attacks in the UK starts to really piss off the locals en masse. They decide to take some action to try and kick them out but obviously this is not appreciated by the majority of 'moderate' muslims who then side with the islamists.

Things get a bit heated and end up in a little tiff called a civil war.

Then another country, lets say china for arguments sake, decides that the UK is mistreating one of its minorities. To stop this it sends a massive task force to the english channel. The shit is then bombed out of the UK and with the threat of ground invasion suceed in preventing the 'ethnic cleansing' that is taking place as part of the civil war where muslims are being forced from their homes.

To bring the situation to a close China decides that the Muslims should have their own area within the UK to rightfully call their own. Their own homeland. Lets say Birmingham.

Sound a bit unfair? Who's right and who is wrong? If this sounds familiar then just replace 'UK' with 'Serbia' and 'Birmingham' with 'Kosovo' and you might get a rough idea of why.