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“can you win and still retain you integrity? “

This piece began as a comment to this post by Legal Eagle and has sort of grown so I decided to put it up as a post in its own right

I have always thought that we have no choice but to fight against the Islamists like Bin laden given that their ideology will accept no compromise or accommodation. Is Bush as bad? Well I tend to think he is not perfect and he has made some rather bad mistakes but the bar for western success is so much higher than it is for the Islamists. They only have to succeed in a small number of their plots and plans to have a great victory where as we have to win one hundred percent of the time; or our efforts are an abject failure in the eyes of the general public.
And then there is the fact that we as a society impose standards of behaviour and action upon our selves (like our concepts of individual rights and our legal processes) that the other side only sees as weaknesses to be exploited. I was watching survivor the other night and the question was asked in relation to that game “can you win and still retain you integrity “ and that is the real problem in fighting terrorism isn’t it? We could easily win if we were to take draconian measures like the Romans did against those who opposed them; slaughter or expel all of those who might be a threat. But of course such action would, rightly, be unacceptable .The hardened Islamist however have no such qualms about the killing of civilians, in their eyes there are no non-combatants even a babe in arms is a legitimate target.
So we are faced with Faustian choices we can defeat the terrorists if we are indiscriminate in whom we are willing to kill in the process (we do have the technology). We can surrender to their desire to see every human being submit to their vision of the deity (The words of the midnight oil song come to mind “It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees). Or we can keep with the middle path that we walk now trying to preserve the rights and privileges we afford each individual whilst vigorously pursuing those who would do us harm. Personally I have enough faith in our system of law and government to dismiss the more distopian paranoia of the Left on this matter and enough understanding of the realities to know that we will have to change some of our legal regimes both domestically and internationally to suit the new paradigms but we can’t do nothing and hope that the problem will go away.

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4 Comments

  1. Legal Eagle says:

    Yes, the Romans would have had no mercy for Bin Laden or the Islamists. I watched a doco about Carthage and Hannibal the other day, and the Romans certainly wiped them out good and proper! When the Romans decimated, they really did kill every tenth person.

    I agree that we have to tread a careful middle line. I think that we have to uphold the rule of law, but this does not mean allowing tyrants like Bin Laden to get away with terrorising people. I guess the point I was making about Bin Laden and Bush is that they have a weird relationship where they push each other into action. They are seen as equivalent by some, however, Bush is fundamentally different because he is democratically elected and subject to the rule of law.

    Of course, one can be somewhat critical of the way in which American democracy operates, but it is not a tyranny in the true sense of the word. Nonetheless, I don’t approve of measures like Guantanamo Bay, as I have argued previously, and I think they are hypocritical.

    By the same token, I don’t like overreaction to Bush. He may not follow the rule of law properly, but he does so hell of a lot more than, say, Kim Jong-il. I think some who complain of the demise of democracy might have a bit of a shock if they ever really experienced a full on totalitarian rule. I have a Russian friend who snorts every time someone talks about the demise of democracy in the West – she says “When half of your family is sent to the gulag for criticising John Howard, then you can complain to me about totalitarianism.”

  2. Legal Eagle says:

    Further to my comments above, have a look at this excellent post by Damaskinos

  3. Damaskinos says:

    There are, as I see it, two limbs to the war on terror at present:

    1. intelligence gathering to foil specific plots; and

    2. military committments (whether direct or indirect) in the Middle East.

    I think the west has got 1. spot on (subject to legitimate human rights concerns about methods of intelligence gathering).

    Where they’ve got things wrong is with item 2. I have always been of the view that if (as Legal Eagle noted in relation to the Rome and Carthage) one does not decimate one’s opponents (in today’s more enlightened climate, genocide would be utterly repulsive and unacceptable), then one will have to make them happy.

    Now: do you make people happy by biffing them on the nose, and then hit them again on the same spot just as the bleeding is starting to stop?

    The ex-economist in me always says that money talks and talks and talks. I don’t see any issues in the Middle East that a new Marshall Plan cannot fix (though obviously in the case of the Middle East it will take longer and a lot more patience during the transitional period). This proposition might sound a bit shallow in itself – if time permits I might expand on it in a separate post.

  4. iain says:

    Firstly,
    Welcome To my blog Damskinos
    I tend to think that just throwing money at the Middle East will not solve the many problems there. I think that the Marshall plan worked for Europe because the nazi’s had been comprehensively defeated and the entire place was in ruins. so starting from such a low base the people could see the benefits and they essentially they “got with the Plan”. Somehow I don’t think that we could get away with creating such a precondition on the middle east.
    In any case the well being of the middle east people is just an excuse cited by the would be terrorists and the real point of difference is the fundamental fear of the flesh in general and women in particular, that is so central to even the most moderate forms of Islam. A feminist critique of patriarchal societies sees the institution of marriage as a way to ensure that a man does not expend efforts to raise offspring that are not his own. The consequence of this is the cult of chastity we see in all religions of the book and taken to it’s most extreme in Islam. and I think that until we can get the Islamic societies to respect that the west’s relatively open sexuality is not an affront to their god no amount of money is going to be enough to make them accept our continued existence without our complete submission to Islam.

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