Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Simon Jenkins... again

You know. His opinions aren't exactly original as they add up to the standard lefty line: 'Terrorism isn't the problem it's those neo-cons using it to advance their sinister security industry agenda or foist their American stupidity on us'. The contradictions are not what frustrate me; I have heard the same from many others but something about the god awful preachiness of Simon Jenkins drives me to distraction.

His latest effort, for the Guardian's repository of awfulness over at Comment is Free, is to celebrate a speech from Mr. Cameron that he appears not to have any interest in actually listening to.

"Bush is wrong. My parents endured one life-or-death struggle, against Hitler's fascism, and I grew up during another, against Soviet communism. Both were real threats. When Bush was dodging war service in Vietnam and Tony Blair was a supporter of CND, I had no qualms about backing nuclear deterrence. Foreigners did not just want to conquer my country and change the way I lived, but they had amassed sufficient state power to make that ambition plausible. I call that a threat to the security of the nation. It required massive defence."

Really? So Simon Jenkins believes that Stalin was planning on marching to London? Or Hitler? Both fought or confronted us on foreign fields. While they may have dreamed of invading us on some far distant day our defence against that was the navy. We did not invade Europe on D-Day in order to stop Hitler invading the UK; his Soviet entanglement had made that an unlikely prospect. We invaded because his regime was an evil one, its power hurt our interests and we could release millions from the horrible fate of being under his dominion. It is the lot and fortune of a nation of our power and geographical security to fight wars without the simplicity of an enemy on our doorstep.

The Bush 'dodging war service in Vietnam' bit is the most ridiculous of ad hominems for someone who is not in the army and is not pretending to be a pacifist. I suppose old Simon Jenkins is a veteran of every 20th century war he's supported.

"Putting Osama bin Laden (or Saddam Hussein) in this league is ludicrous. No force they could command could possibly have ranked with Hitler or Stalin as "a threat to the future of civilisation"."

Compare our military casualties in WW2 with our casualties in the War on Terror and it should be apparent that although Al Qaeda et. al. may be less of a threat to us we are also spending far less in our military confrontation of them.

"'the massive [$100bn] homeland security apparatus ... may be persecuting some, spying on many, inconveniencing most and taxing all to defend the United States against an enemy that scarcely exists'."

9/11 was not the only attack that the US or its allies have suffered at the hands of militant Islam. There have been others throughout the world before and after. Scarcely existing is a description that is easy for a commentator but would irresponsible of a leader.

"That Nato members are this week refusing to send more troops to die in Afghanistan is a measure of the gap opening between fine words in the White House and Downing Street and reality on the ground."

That the War on Terror is hard places it within that huge category of thing that are both difficult and necessary.

"The Taliban had bowed to western pressure (and bribery) in 2000-01 and briefly curbed poppy production."

This sentence forms the worst part of Jenkins' case for why the Taliban weren't that bad. Never mind that in terms of repression they were as awful a regime as could be found even before 9/11, the Economist described them as such. They were actively sheltering the bases in which men had trained to attack us. When we went to war with them the war on drugs could wait.

"The west was not threatened when it was notionally "undefended" before 9/11 and is not threatened now. Most western countries are healthy democracies with entrenched liberties, near invulnerable to military attack."

Again, complacency. States that are full of fear are created, not by hysteria as he would have us believe, but by a state which cannot guarantee the security of its citizens. The tired old cliche that citizens have most to fear from their own states ignores the stage before where insecurity undermines faith in that state.

"On Monday the Tory leader, David Cameron, lectured Bush, Blair and his putative successor, Gordon Brown, on moderation. He deplored the naive language of counter-terror and pleaded for more humility and patience in dealing with Muslim states." [..] "For an advocate of the Iraq war this is something of a U-turn. Cameron declared himself a born-again "libcon", a sanitised, semi-demilitarised neocon."

No he didn't. He called for a subtler approach, no doubt, but he also described the need to be able to respond more rapidly than the UN machine allows for, that pre-emptive military action can be necessary, how the avoidance of further attacks has been thanks to our security services and not thanks to the threat always having been in our heads. Cameron's was a call for moderate changes in how we do things not an abandonment of the War on Terror.

"It means cancelling Eurofighters and Trident submarines and investing in
infantry and field armour. It means engaging with Iran rather than threatening
to bomb it."

Earlier in this article Simon Jenkins clearly accepted the need for a nuclear deterrent in the Cold War. Strategic nuclear weapons are not something you turn on and off like a tap. Our deterrent is maintained as part of the long term defence of the United Kingdom against threats of which we are not yet aware. Yet again, he is taking risks acceptable to lazy columnists but not elected officials who must consider our security in the long as well as short term.

Engaging with Iran as a friend will only convince them that they can ignore their commitments and be treated as if they had not. The threat of violence is the stick which can make engagement productive. The surreal idea that we can expect much from engagement alone goes nowhere.

"The stupid party in foreign policy is in retreat. Perhaps, at last, the intelligent party is returning to power."

When an ending is this inspired you know it's been a good column.

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