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.