Saturday 28 November 2015

There are no safe spaces now

When did the SNP last support a war? Was it in 1314 or was it in 1745? They certainly didn’t support “England’s war” in 1939, nor as far as I recall have they supported any war since. Nicola Sturgeon might have pretended that she would listen to the arguments made by David Cameron and the UK Government, but she was listening in the same way as Nelson was seeing when he put a telescope to his blind eye and declared that he could see no ships. There was never any chance that the SNP would support Britain, as once more it looks likely that our forces will go to war. Have the SNP ever supported Britain in anything whatsoever?

The SNP may not be as vocal about it, but with regard to defence they are very similar indeed to Jeremy Corbyn. Whatever side Britain is on, Mr Corbyn appears always to take the opposite. When the IRA were attacking us, he’d have their supporters to lunch. He would have been delighted to hand over the Falkland Islands to Argentina. I’m quite sure he would have preferred being ruled by the Soviet Union as at least that would have brought about socialism. No doubt, he would prefer being ruled by Hamas than the Tory party. In order to make any and all of these things more likely he would have unilaterally given up all of our nuclear weapons without expecting anything in return. It’s the gesture, after all, that counts.

Quite a lot of SNP supporters, especially those who live in the West of Scotland have similar sympathies to Mr Corbyn. They too hate Britain and express sympathy for "militants" whether in Northern Ireland or in parts of the Middle East. This is the trouble with terrorism. Once you go down the route of supporting the cause, whether it’s a united Ireland or the destruction of Israel, you have a tendency to at least in part support the means. Mr Corbyn could never quite bring himself to condemn IRA terrorism without at the same time condemning British terrorism. The UK’s armed forces were always morally equivalent to the people they were fighting. After all Mr Corbyn shared the IRA's aims and objectives, though, of course, he deplored their tactics, or was it that he deplored the British army for provoking these tactics?

Did Mr Corbyn and friends ever condemn terrorism when it was directed against Israel? Or did they rather excuse and explain this terrorism simply by means of the fact that Israel existed. But this is our problem really. The terrorism that has been directed against Israel for the past decades is the same terrorism that is now directed against us.

When all of Israel’s neighbours decided to attack simultaneously in June 1967, they lost in six days. They tried again in 1973 and lost again. It was the failure of these military actions above all that gave rise to terrorism as a tactic. They could not defeat Israel with armies so instead they tried insurgency and terrorism.

Terrorism was rather different in the 1960s and 1970s. There were lots of hijackings. Planes would end up on a runway somewhere and there would be negotiations. This sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore, does it? There were shootings, but those who did the shooting nearly always wanted to get away. That too doesn’t happen anymore.
Terrorism in the 1970s outraged us, but both in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East it wasn’t like today. There were limits. It was almost as if there were rules. But the trouble with terrorism is that if you don’t defeat it, there is the tendency for it to get much worse.

We all remember the hostages who were taken in the 1980s. We were all outraged by the long captivity of people like Terry Waite. But the situation is incomparably worse today. If someone is taken hostage now in Syria or Iraq what are the chances of them surviving?

Terrorists today don’t hijack planes, they blow them up or crash them into buildings. That is precisely why there are no hijackings anymore. Any hijacked plane would immediately be shot down. Terrorists nowadays are not interested in negotiation and they are not interested in survival. This is the fundamental difference.

In the 1970s we were dealing with secular terrorism and for that reason the terrorist wanted to survive. Now we are dealing with religious terrorism and the terrorist doesn’t care if he survives on Earth, for he believes that he will survive and be reward in paradise. If that were not the case, suicide bombing would make no sense whatsoever.

The problem we have though is that someone like Mr Corbyn, understands and sympathises with people who blow themselves up in Israel. He thinks their cause is just and is an understandable reaction to injustice by Israel. There are many people in Britain who agree with him, at least to an extent. But here is our problem, the person who blows himself up fighting against Israel is not in any meaningful sense different from the person who blows himself up flying his plane into the World Trade Centre, who blows himself up on the Tube, or who shoots hundreds of people in Paris and dies in the process. These people will all agree with each other and think each of their causes is just. No doubt, this is because it is the same cause.

Barbarism if left unchecked leads to ever greater levels of barbarism. We know this from the conduct of the German Army in World War II. Once you go down that route there is practically speaking no limit to what men will do to other men. We have now reached a level of barbarity in the Middle East that no-one could have imagined in the 1970s. What will it be like in twenty years’ time if it is not stopped now? What new methods of torture will these people find? What new methods of attacking us will they discover? If they use Kalashnikovs today, who is to say that they will not use chemical weapons tomorrow?

Some people think that pacifism will defend us against terrorism. In this respect both Mr Corbyn and the SNP are in agreement. They think that if we leave the terrorists alone, they won’t attack us. They think that Middle Eastern terrorism is caused by injustice in the Middle East. They think the solution therefore is to address this injustice. They think moreover that it is our fault that there are terrorists. If we had not taken part in prior wars, if we had not been imperialists, then no-one would want to hurt us. They explain terrorism and to an extent therefore justify it.

Pacifism is a nice ideal. It’s easy to admire Gandhi’s passive resistance. It can work too. But what do you think would have been the result if the Soviet Union had responded to Operation Barbarossa with passive resistance? If Gandhi had tried to fight the Imperial Japanese army with pacifism, they would simply have crushed him on the first day. Pacifism only worked because Gandhi was up against a reasonable opponent, the British, who had a conscience. Does anyone seriously think that our opponent today has a conscience?

The SNP’s only response to military threat is to unilaterally get rid of our nuclear weapons and to promise never to attack anyone ever. Pound for pound we get more deterrence out of Trident than out of all of the rest of our armed forces put together. None of this much mattered before when the SNP only had a handful of MPs, but now they actually have influence.  The UK and the West in general is faced with a dangerous threat that is going to get worse if we don’t do something about it. Far too many people on the Left sympathise too much with our enemies and would do all they can to undermine Britain.  Now is not the time for division. We cannot afford weakness and break-up any more than France can.

We will not defeat terrorism in the Middle East by air strikes alone. But the fact that it will not be enough is not a reason for doing nothing. The wars we have taken part in recently have not gone well, but the fault was not so much that we fought, but how we fought. If Iraq were prosperous, democratic, free and peaceful today, no-one would remember anything else about that war. The problem is that we have lost the will to fight like we did during World War II. We have become decadent and unwilling to do what is necessary, above all unwilling to take even light casualties. In our universities some students talk of “safe spaces” where they won’t be able to hear anything they disagree with. They want to be given “trigger warnings” in case they read something unpleasant in Ovid or find prejudice in the plays of Shakespeare. Many people in the West are unable even to think or speak the truth lest it causes offence. We each have a little censor saying don't write that, don't think that someone might call you a nasty name.  

I’m sorry folks, there are no safe spaces after Paris. You won’t be given a warning if someone pulls the trigger. It is time, above all, for us to tell the truth about the threat we face.

Don’t sympathise with terrorism. Don’t try to justify or understand it. Don’t sympathise with the causes of those who hate us. Fight them.

Pacifism will not help us. Our enemies will simply laugh at our weakness. Now is the time rather to do what our enemy least wants and make him cease laughing and thinking of us as weak. It is always difficult to fight against people who don’t care if they live or die. The United States Navy discovered this in 1944. Religious fanaticism is a powerful force that can motivate and boost morale, but we have defeated fanaticism before and we can do so again.  

Scottish politics and the attempt to divide our country appear ludicrously parochial now. What would it take for Scottish nationalists to realise that there are more important things than hating the UK, Westminster and Tories? They are stuck in a 1980s time-warp endlessly debating nuclear disarmament and re-fighting the battles of the Middle Ages rather than those of today. Really what would it take for the SNP to wake up and face up to the threat of 2015 rather than 1314? If Paris isn’t enough, what would be? It's all very well being insular, but there are no safe spaces now.  Not here, nor anywhere else.