Vulnerability March 29, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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.
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.