Friday, December 16, 2005

General Incompetance

Tony Blair is endangering the lives of the citizens of this country. I firmly believe that. He does not understand terrorism and he does not understand how to combat terrorism. The "war" on terror is not really a war in any meaningful sense but I'll adopt the war analogy to try to explain what I mean.

Consider the terrorists to be attacking enemy soldiers and the British public to be our infantry. Blair can be considered to be the commanding officer in charge of our efforts to defend the country. When the enemy kills our soldiers they are the moral agents for their own actions and are directly responsible for them. There is no doubt about that. This is true even when our soldiers are under the command of an incompetant general who doesn't understand the strategies of the enemy and has no workable plan to defeat them. It is true even if the C.O. repeatedly sends his troops into traps and ambushes and sees them slaughtered in huge numbers as a result.* The enemy are still the ones doing the killing. Does this in any way excuse the general for his incompetance? Of course not. Only a fool would argue that it does. Does the direct moral agency of the enemy in any way lessen the urgent need for a change of leadership? Again, only a fool could seriously support that rationale.

This is, in effect, the position Blair finds himself in today and this is, in effect, the argument he and his supporters are using in his defence. It is utter drivel. He does not understand the problem and has made any number of serious mistakes in the "war" on terror. He continues to hide these misjudgments using the moral agency of the terrorists as cover. Forget the politics of it. The fact is that Blair's leadership is making us less safe.

Yesterday brought yet another example of the difficulty Blair has in understanding terrorism. After the July attacks, he announced a 12 point anti-terror plan. Most people will know what happened to his infamous 90 days imprisonment proposal and a good thing too. And the fatuous proposal to outlaw "the glorifying of terrorism" was watered down to almost nothing after it was pointed out that it was, in fact, totally unworkable. The 12 point plan was not a spectacular success.

Another of the 12 points was the proposal to close down "extremist" mosques. It is another of those suggestions which could only seem a good idea if you don't understand the way terrorism works. Yesterday, Charles Clarke was forced to admit as much in the face of overwhelming opposition to the plan. A quiet climbdown is what the government are after here.

But. The fact that this was ever suggested is a clear demonstration of the fact that the Blair government doesn't have the faintest idea what it's doing. Terrorism, even, no, especially "this new" terrorism, is entirely about what people believe. It is, if you like, a state of mind. You can legislate to outlaw a state of mind to your hearts content but it's fairly obvious that it's not actually going to have much effect. Even regimes prepared to use the most brutal methods are unable to control what people think. It just isn't possible.** Anyone who thinks it is has a serious problem understanding reality. And that's where we get back to Blair.

The man is a a danger to the country. His approach to the whole "war" on terror has been based on a simplistic, dare I say Hollywood, attitude towards terrorism. He is very much the incompetant commander and his command is made secure only by the countinuing loyalty of his equally incompetant lieutenants. If I could pass one word of advice to those lieutantants it would be this: Mutiny! The time is fast approaching when it'll be too late to save your own sorry skins. It may already be too late. If you don't want to go down with the general, you'd better do something about him. Now.

* It's an analogy. It's not meant to be directly comparible.

** It's not all doom and gloom. There are anti-terrorist strategies which might be successful. But not these stupid ones adopted by Blair.

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