Alan’s published a heart-warming compilation of reaction to the London bombings, which reflects my own attitude. Sure, it’s easy to be blasé when you’re 400 miles away – and I won’t pretend I wasn’t mildly concerned by the pairs of policemen on seemingly every street corner in central Glasgow yesterday – but… put it this way:
In recent history, London has seen not just bombings, but sustained campaigns. When the news was coming in on Thursday, I found myself skimming back through that history, and discovered, to my astonishment, that I’d been living in London right in the middle of that IRA campaign. I suppose I must have been aware of it at the time, and presumably I rationalised the risk as being, say, lower than that inherent in crossing the road or whatever, but – get this – I lived right in the middle of a ‘terror campaign’ and I’d clean forgotten about it.
I’m sure I’d sing a different tune had I been more closely-connected, but I’m still heading towards the conclusion that, by inspection, terrorism plain doesn’t work. I have two caveats to that. Firstly, 9/11 wasn’t the same sort of event at all. If anything, post-London I have even more sympathy for New Yorkers.
My second caveat is more subtle. Another search I was constantly running on Thursday, skimming websites and flipping between broadcast media, was for words like ‘vengeance,’ ‘retribution,’ and ‘retaliation.’ To my surprise, relief, and – bluntly – national pride, I didn’t hear it. Not once.
Until Friday, when I read The Sun. And you know what? Those guys scare me more than al-Qaeda. They’re having more impact on my way of life, and I don’t like it.
2 thoughts on “Terrorism”
I’m not sure I’m in full agreement here. It seems to me that by and large people are reacting by shutting down and pretending, or maybe just hoping, it will never happen to them. What we interpret as bravery is often just the pretty normal human response of partitioning off anything that is too horrible to fully contemplate.
But I suspect that the horror that does filter through will eventually be enough to bring about some changes to policies in the US and the UK, particularly with respect to those Islamic countries with oil or those who have a beef against Israel. Which suggests that terrorism might work.
It’s hard to judge by looking at history. I believe they had suicide bombers in Cuba before the revolution, but clearly that was combined with an army of resistance and a clear goal. Irish republicanism now has a lot of influence in London and Dublin but it’s hard to say if that’s because of bombs in London, the demographic pressures in the north of Ireland, or just times changing.
I don’t know if terrorism works. I do know that we don’t get bombed by people from Sweden or India. Why is that? Surely the one thing terrorism does achieve is that it makes us wonder why these communities hate us so much? What is the root cause of this anger? And it’s worth noting that many Muslims find it hard to condemn these attacks without also pointing out the injustices commited by the West against their own countries.
Terrorism does not begin unless people feel deeply aggrieved, and it does not continue without the support of a wider community.
After a while, you realise that locally you’ve no option but to live with it, the way you live with falling pianos and lottery winners drunkenly driving Maseratis. It could be you, but it’s better not to organise your life around the prospect.
The fact is, terrorism does work. Brighton Bomb 1984; Anglo-Irish Agreement 1985. The traditional (and entirely sensible) way to deal with extremists is to run around looking for moderates to be kind to. Invent them if you have to. The success of the Irish peace process has been to lure people previously beyond redemption onto a political track.
It’s like this: a terrorist tells you to stop being an idiot; so you’ve got to keep being an idiot until you can find someone who isn’t a terrorist to tell you to stop being an idiot; but at least you (a) start looking for them and (b) eventually stop being an idiot.
I’m also reassured by the way most people favour retention of both rag and bottle. Now would be a very bad time to shell the crap out of Fallujah, but an equally bad time to bring the troops home. Domestically, any suggestion of ID cards bears a whiff of caughtshortness.
It’s good to see that there’s some momentum in Israel/Palestine these days. Sharon seems to be Dr Jekyll at the moment, and there seems to be some post-Arafat sanity. We can help that by more than just nodding sagely: rebuilding Palestinian economic activity is crucial to establishing a
socially benevolent source of young male self-esteem. And we’ve got to figure out how to declaw, not destroy, Hamas. Hint: you can’t turn extremists into moderates without a virulent outbreak of blindness, amnesia and hypocrisy; these things save lives.
But the wider trouble is still there. Does anybody really think we’ve changed our spots since the Iranian coup in 1953? I know I don’t.