October 1, 2001

10 Bad Reasons for Joining a Holy War

It's a shame that they don't teach logic in schools any more. More people would be able to spot a conclusion that does not follow from a preposition. Take the following example: "America has been attacked. Therefore, she should respond to the attack. And Britain should join her." What is most depressing is that everyone seems to agree with the non-logic of this statement. If America has been attacked and if the accepted response to this is to counterattack, then America should counterattack. British debate seems to be focused on whether America should respond, or respond in a certain way. To be honest, this is pointless, as America's counterattack is a done deal -- and both just and prudent. What some members of the British wittering classes have to say to this is pointless in the course of history. What needs to be examined is whether Britain should be involved. What is in it for us? So far I've found a number of remarkably unconvincing arguments (a remarkable collection of them are in an article by the new leader of the Conservative Party):

1. More Britons were killed in the WTC than in any other incident.

So what? The attack was on an American target on American soil. If it had been a British army base or embassy then it would have been a different matter. The British people who worked at the World Trade Center were working under the protection of American laws on American sovereign soil. That's what that war at the end of the eighteenth century was about.

2. The British know what terrorism is like.

Tell that to NORAID. Northern Ireland means that we can extend our sympathy to America, as the Spanish could in the same way. Britain really did feel America's pain. However, that is no reason to get involved whenever some losers at the ballot box want to use guns to achieve their political means. That would mean that we get involved in places like Sierra Leone or Macedonia, and which person in their right mind would want to do that? One thing I will predict, though: the present American revulsion with the IRA will prove short-lived and shallow. The IRA is in no way attacking America, and when America comes to its senses on a war on terrorism (see point 3) it will hardly matter that the IRA are terrorists.

3. We must all defeat terrorism.

We cannot defeat a method of warfare. We can aim to defeat Islamic fundamentalism or al-Qaeda, as they are human entities. Terrorism is a method, and it cannot be defeated. Which sane man starts a war that is impossible to win? It is as silly as starting a war against drugs.

4. America saved us from Hitler.

The prospect of America's support meant that we did not sue for peace, keep our Empire and remain the World's biggest creditor nation. It also meant that the best available escape route for Jews escaping the holocaust was cut off and that the Soviet Union was handed an invitation into the heart of Europe. This is not to blame America's noble sacrifice for Britain's woes (after all it was Britain's decision to fight a war it had already lost on its stated aims). It is just to point out that an unconquered Britain could have saved itself from Hitler with the small matter of a truce and no humiliating Vichy style occupation.

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5. It is a clash of civilizations.

I have some sympathy for Berlusconi's statements that European civilization is plainly rooted in Christianity and it does do a better job of looking after civil rights and democracy. You may think that civil rights are a blot on Western civilization, I don't, and I do think that this makes us superior. However, the clash of civilizations thing is a bit too far. Bin Laden wants to take over the Arab world for his blend of Islam, and rightly sees America in its way. America does not want Bin Laden, or any other type of zealot, taking over the oil supplies of Arabia or attacking Israel. This is a matter of foreign policy and not of civilizations clashing.

6. Israel is our fight.

Why? We no longer need the Suez Canal to get to India, so we have no strategic interest there. As far as protecting every democracy from each neighbouring despotism, is that really a sustainable task?

7. We have a large Muslim population and fundamentalism is therefore dangerous to us.

Surely, it would be better not to finance them through social security, and to crack down on any domestic terrorism as the organized crime it is. The best response to violent fundamentalism (and most fundamentalism is nonviolent) is to deal with it as a domestic matter.

8. We are a terrorist target.

That's because we support America, and being seen as her main ally is not going to help here.

9. It could affect the oil.

So what? We export the stuff; high prices are good for us.

10. NATO means an attack on one is an attack on all.

This shows the open-ended nature of NATO, and the folly of any expansion. Due to the doctrine that an attack on one is an attack on all, we are now drawn into a war with no strategic significance for us. NATO has outlived its purpose and needs to be disbanded. The recent invocation of NATO doctrine shows that instead of an insurance policy we have a blank and undated check.

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