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   Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Alright, the last post was harsh. I'm a little calmer now.

The problem here is about methods, I maintain. Most European governments take an essentially defensive view to dealing with terror. Cops, bureaucrats, dare I say it, the European Arrest Warrant. (The EU likes to concentrate on domestic law enforcement, it lets em accrete power with a "good" reason).

The EU's desire to extend its tentacles naturally biases it towards such methods, and European experience with terrorism suggests that it's even the way to go. The IRA and ETA and all the other groups, after all, have been dealt with more or less successfully, on the whole, in this way.

After a while domestic terror groups can be worn down. People get sick of being searched all the time by police, they get sick of their fellow countrymen planting bombs. They want a quiet life. Eventually they start to lose their support, their politics get tarnished - in short, the movement begins to falter. This has happened to the IRA pretty much, its even happened to ETA I believe. European experience suggests this works, Europeans think these methods, concentrated on domestic intervention via police and new laws and such, is the way to go. European experience of using the military has been generally bad. Internment in Northern Ireland and other "hard" approaches didnt work, for example.

What this ignores however is that AQ is not a domestic terror group. It's not the Arabs who are providing tacit or actual support for AQ who are getting worn down by strip searches, bombs, collateral damage, and the intrusiveness of a strong domestic anti terror stance. The 95% of Middle Eastern Arabs who are not nutcases are in the Middle East. They are out of the loop. You can bet that if it was -them- getting stripsearched for their own protection because some of their fellow countrymen just will not give up, that after 20 years, they'd start to get jaded and wonder what the hell its all for, and is it worth it.

But they don't even notice. Its the Europeans getting the police state, the Arabs don't care. This is why we have to go in there and sort them out. Domestic terror can be dealt with by purely domestic solutions, but when the terrorists are coming from Somewhere Else you have to take the fight to them. Assuming you want the problem to end, of course.

Europeans don't get this. Theres a paradigm shift involved here, from domestic terror to an altogether new breed, personified by al-Qaeda. In some ways domestic terror was international, in that the IRA went and trained the FARC and ETA, but thats not quite the same. Their powerbase is still at home, within reach of the laws of the victim country. AQ however, is not.

Again, its not actual cowardice or appeasement, its more like... an incorrect policy. Partly its driven by the fact that most European countries aren't actually capable of acting in force in other countries after idiotically slashing their defence budgets. (What happened to the Bundeswehr is terrible, given that in the 1980s they were probably the best army in the world, man for man). Partly its because of their inability to come to grips with what it is they are facing. Its not the same old IRA here. This is new, and requires new solutions.

As for why Europe can't seem to grasp the thorns, there are probably two major factors here at work. The first is the Europress, which is rabidly anti-American on the whole. Anything the US does is bad. The US should defer to European experience at terrorism. Etc. etc. The message is made all the more powerful by the fact that, on the face of it, the Europeans -do- have more experience dealing with terrorism, though not of the nihilistic AQ variety. The second is the EU itself, which is pushing various political agendas - transnationalism, accretion of power currently held by national parliaments to the supranational EU institutions. Its in the interests of the ruling class to pursue these policies, whether or not they actually work or not.

   Tuesday, March 16, 2004
It's been a long time since I last posted. Still too busy to post really, but theres a phenomenon going around the internet right now which compels me to respond.

Unless you've been living on Mars the last week, you'll know that a series of al-Qaeda bombs killed 200 and injured over a thousand more in Madrid, that the Socialists won the Spanish election, and that the Socialists have vowed that they will pull out of Iraq.

That, however, is merely the backdrop for the phenomenon that compels me to respond. That phenomenon, ladies and gentlemen, is this :-

The people of Spain marched in the streets on Friday. Then they crawled on their knees into their voting booths on Sunday. (

Or this...

Sir, I humbly submit to you, that it is bad form for a nation to advertise its complete pussification. (

Or, perhaps, this...

We have seen the spectacle of nine million Spaniards, demonstrating their grief in the streets, their hands raised and painted white in a poignant gesture of mass surrender. (

Cowards, huh? Let me give you some views from the peanut gallery, as I sit here, in an engineering company's office somewhere in Cambridgeshire. Now, I, as those who've read this blog before and/or know me will know, have long supported the Iraq war, and was optimistic long before the troops even went in. But as you are doubtless aware the British electorate is pretty much on a knife edge on tihs subject. Some agree, some disagree, probably most lie somewhere between the two extremes. Now, lets have a look at the various bodies of opinion which hold sway here.

  • Tony Blair looks like he's been caught telling porkies to the British electorate over weapons of mass destruction. Did Iraq have them, or not? I personally think they are irrelevant pretty much, but when the Prime Minister goes to war, and the casus belli turns out to be at best an exagerration, at worst a deliberate fabrication, that looks pretty bad for the Just War brigade.
  • The other group of people don't really think that Iraq had anything to do with terrorism at all. Maybe it was about oil, but I think most just think it was a mistake (ie, the Americans are wrong in thinking that invading Iraq will make the West more secure). These people are basically isolationist. Good examples can be found over at Airstrip One.
  • Some people just don't like anything the US does, and will oppose it on principle. They are on the Left, the USA is on the Right, and never the twain shall meet. I think these people are just being dogmatic. I so hate closed minds.
  • More people think the whole idea of a "war on terrorism" is hogwash. Terrorism, to these people, is not something you can "war" on. Its not really backed by countries, its more an ideology. I think this attitude is prevalent thanks to the IRA, where such an analysis is pretty much accurate I would say. These people think that the way to solve this is not via soldiers, but police. International terrorism is a different beast I would say, you can't send a few coppers into Syria to serve notices on Khalid the Bomber after all unless the Syrian government lets you, and the Syrian (or Afghan, or Iraqi) governments aren't (or weren't in the case of the Iraqi's) about to do that. But thats an opinion, I suppose, albeit a wrong one in my view.
  • I leave the best till last - there is of course the pro-war camp. Which is itself split, as some pro-war people just love the UN for mystifying reasons, but anyway, there it is.
  • Now, I think that the above camps (along with the pro-war camp) are pretty much replicated, more or less and with some themes peculiar to each nation, all throughout Europe - and indeed, all throughout America. There are differences, of course, in the number of people in different countries who support each position, but they are, essentially, the positions people take. They are, in short, political opinions that people hold.

    Now. Take a closer look... you will find something to disagree with in that spectrum unless your a political weathervane. What is missing in those options?

    Simply, whats missing is cowardice. You may disagree with whats going on but that's not indicative of a yellow belly, necessarily - it could be simply because someone disagrees. I know a significant number of people who fit into the "You can't fight terrorism as if it was a war" category, and most of these people are "We should arrest all the IRA and through them in the jailcell, while deporting every Muslim in the country" category. These people patently are not different from the pro-war people because they are cowardly and the hawks are brave, but because of political difference.

    I dare say there are a few cowards, but I've not met anybody who is so scared of being blown up on the Tube tomorrow that it will influence their vote. People here are pretty fatalistic about terrorism. Al-Qaeda, IRA, *shrug*, same bombs, new names. The apolitical don't really care about the stripe of the bomber.

    And thats the rub, ladies and gentlemen. Cowardice? I'm not an expert on Spain, but lets see if they are a people likely to be fatalistic, or cowardly, about terrorism.

    In Spain, every MP not belonging to the political wing of ETA must have a permanent escort lest they be attacked by ETA. Every non-Basque Nationalist Basque city councillor, and even some of the nationalist ones, also have similar escort. ETA managed to shoot the prime minister of Spain in 1973, they tried and failed to kill the Spanish king, they had a go at Aznar and failed, they've been trying to kill Spanish politicians and agents of the Spanish state - judges, policemen, soldiers - for the best part of 20 years.

    The Basque Country, you may notice, despite this 20 year long terror campaign, is still a part of Spain.

    And you people have the gall to accuse them of cowardice, simply because they disagree with you? If the USA wants other countries electorates to back them up, really back them up, you guys need to do some convincing. It's not that people are cowards. Its that people disagree with you. You've got a tough job, mind. The Europress isn't exactly favourable to the US. But cowardice? These bloggers are not convincing anybody. If the people who make these opinions actually want allies, I suggest they either say some more positive things, educate themselves about how the Spanish have been staunch against terror since before the average US citizen even knew what terror was, or if they can't manage that, bite their damn lip and shut up. Because I have read some crap in my lifetime, but the above posts? Reek of arrogance, ignorance, intolerance, and probably a dozen other negative words I can't be bothered to think up right now.

    I will repeat - Someone who does not agree with you about how to deal with terrorism is not necessarily a coward. When that someone has been enduring a terror campaign which is probably beyond American comprehension, to be blunt - I'm not talking about the US army who do have counterterror experience, I'm talking about US society which, pre 9/11, was blissfully and happily ignorant about what real terror is while Spanish officials were getting car bombed - having a few armchair warriors on the internet fulminating like this because another country has the temerity to disagree with you, well, to be honest it makes me sick.

    Also, your not going to win buddies with that attitude. Steven Den Beste for example (Who likes to say the French - the guys who butchered Algerians by the thousand, blew up a Greenpeace ship that got in their way, and pressgang nutcases from all over the world into the Foreign Legion - are effeminate, mainly because of their political views - and God knows, I'm no Francophile) makes it very plain that really, he doesn't want European help, and he's proud of that fact. Given that attitude - what do you expect? Instant agreement with every American policy, just because? Scorn in, backup out?

    It doesn't work like that guys. I'm sorry.

    If any Americans read this, I'm real curious what you think, am I way off base here? Email me, I'm curious.