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Vulnerability March 29, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I flew out of southern Spain last week and it was a curious and slightly unsettling experience coming shortly after the attacks on Brussels. For a start security was tight, albeit unshowy – but then, it’s always tight these days – though what of the news this morning? Secondly Spain wasn’t untouched by Islamist violence itself in the past so it had certain immediate resonances. And there were the stray thoughts, as is inevitable, what if ISIS upped the ante yet further? The brutality of the attacks in Belgium is not new.

I was in a number of towns and cities and the sheer vulnerability of so many places and spaces was self-evident. One could envisage multiple such attacks impacting very very heavily on transportation links across the continent. The fragility, therefore, of the present age, seems striking.

But – even taking that into account – the threat of the danger is, arguably, overstated, and saying that is in no way to dismiss the genuine horror of what happened.

Simon Jenkins in the Guardian has some thoughts on that here and hard to disagree.

Those who live under freedom know it demands a price, which is a degree of risk. We pay the state to protect us – but calmly, without constant boasting or fearmongering. We know that, in reality, life in Britain has never been safer. That it suits some people to pretend otherwise does not alter the fact.
In his admiral manual, Terrorism: How to Respond, the Belfast academic Richard English defines the threat to democracy as not the “limited danger” of death and destruction. It is the danger “of provoking ill-judged, extravagant and counterproductive state responses”.

This is something that has to be considered very carefully indeed. This is not a war. These are not events that take place on a weekly or daily basis. ISIS cannot – for many many obvious reasons, mobilise anything like sufficient numbers to make it one. This point has been made on this site before, and again it is not made to diminish what happened this week, the number of such incidents are thankfully very very few.

Yet, and the Jenkins piece is particularly good on this, one can easily see populations accepting much higher levels of armed security than we have ever seen before – that that would become the norm as it were. The grim events of the week do engender in many respects understandable if not necessary entirely correct responses from citizens of many states.

And then, here is a thoughtful piece on Slate that suggests that appalling as they are such attacks are actually counter productive for ISIS forcing the organisation (though one has to wonder is that too grand a term for what often seems like a loose conglomeration of entities and small groups of individuals nominally under the one flag) to divide resources between shoring up its position in Iraq and Syria and prosecuting such attacks in Europe and elsewhere. Indeed such attacks may well be an effort to divert attention from loss of territory and influence in Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, curious how the situation in the North tends to be drawn into abstract and depressing exchanges online (check out this thread on Slate for an example of same) where the lack of knowledge of that, or indeed understanding of the present situation in relation to Islamism (as distinct from Islam) is so evident. One the one hand there’s an in large part inappropriate casting of the conflict on this island as a religious one and on the other frankly offensive demands on Muslims to take some sort of moral and political responsibility for actions committed by a tiny unrepresentative fringe.

Jenkins makes a further important point, that these are ‘threats that can never be eliminated, only diminished’. Exactly.

Comments»

1. Phil - March 29, 2016

Something that fascinates – and alarms – me is how permanently heightened our sense of threat seems to be. On this site of all places I don’t need to start talking about how different things were in the 1970s and 80s – how much more pervasive the influence of political violence on everyday life was. But I don’t recall anything like the same sense of capital-T Terrorism as a permanent, existential threat, let alone the casual assumption that the ideas of the terrorists are themselves a threat which must be suppressed. I guess we’re still living in the shadow of 9/11.

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WorldbyStorm - March 29, 2016

I think that’s right Phil, there’s a much more pointed sense of fear which is odd given the disparities between armed campaigns then and now. Nuclear war was an issue though but it waxed and waned, I recall a difference between 70s and the Reagan era in that regard

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2. Gewerkschaftler - March 29, 2016

Keeping people scared is an essential part of a multi-billion dollar business.

The security-military-industrial complex has as the same time to be seen to be ‘keeping us safe’ and ensure that business continues. A cynical balancing act IMO.

Enough said.

The real opponents of the ISIS & co are indeed those who insist on defending citizens’ liberties in the face of the authoritarians.

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3. CL - March 29, 2016

Cruz “called for a “need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” Such statements, coming from a leading presidential candidate, are only the latest examples of anti-Muslim rhetoric making the jump from the firing of hate groups to mainstream political discourse. But such jumps are not random and, in fact, have come after years of planning….
The Center for Security Policy, a hate group that serves as the anti-Muslim movement’s premier think tank, has worked hard to earn the ear of elected officials and has sadly succeeded in this strategy. Of the eight people appointed as advisors to 2016 candidates Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz, all have connections to CSP and half hold ranking positions within the group, including its founder, Frank Gaffney.
https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/03/28/meet-anti-muslim-leaders-advising-donald-trump-and-ted-cruz

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4. crocodileshoes - March 29, 2016

And then – if it’s not too bathetic – there’s the inconvenience. Multiply every fretting minute you spend behind an old-timer removing his belt at airline security by hundreds of millions, all over the world: that’s a knock- on effect that will only get more irksome and never go away.
I was talking to a total stranger in such a queue recently and he remarked that, having no partner or kids to leave behind, he’d like the option of a ‘no security at all, just get straight on your plane and take your chances’ flight. I think I would too – but what would they have to pay the crew?

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5. Michael Carley - March 29, 2016

And then it turns out a flight can be hijacked by a spoofer with a fake suicide belt.

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WorldbyStorm - March 29, 2016

Which leads to all sorts of questions about security. Not sure if I said this before but for years I was really scared of flying, but in the last six years that’s kind of vanished, partly because I’m getting older, partly because the layers of security are oddly reassuring however inconvenient as crocodileshoes notes above. But this is just going to see more layers added.

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6. gendjinn - March 29, 2016

You are quit correct about the resurgence in EU attacks. They dropped off when there were victories, success and glory to be had in the ME.

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