Scottish Daily Mail

We need a strat­egy stronger than the Left’s ‘hope it goes away’ to beat terror

- CHRIS DEERIN chris.deerin@dai­ly­mail.co.uk

‘Be­tween the idea And the re­al­ity Be­tween the mo­tion And the act Falls the Shadow…

Be­tween the con­cep­tion And the cre­ation Be­tween the emo­tion And the re­sponse Falls the Shadow’ TS Eliot, The Hol­low Men

WHAT saves us again and again is the Shadow. Be in no doubt: across the coun­try to­day there are would-be ji­hadis de­vis­ing out­landish ways to in­flict death and terror on fel­low Britons.

Of­ten, the Se­cu­rity Ser­vices will get to them in time. Of­ten, they won’t, and what will save us is the Shadow.

It’s a psy­cho­log­i­cal im­ped­i­ment that is not eas­ily over­come: tak­ing an­other hu­man’s life and know­ing that you are al­most cer­tainly end­ing your own. It’s one thing to watch grisly videos and in­flam­ma­tory speeches that make you burn with rage; to hunt around the in­ter­net for the meth­ods of ef­fec­tive mass mur­der; to feel your breast swell with ex­cite­ment as the charis­matic older guy at the mosque sug­gests you visit a train­ing camp over­seas.

But the gap be­tween the thought and the act, the the­ory and the re­al­ity and the con­se­quences, re­mains. Es­pe­cially if you live a rel­a­tively com­fort­able life in, say, Lu­ton or Brad­ford and you like Coca-Cola and Adele and Grand Theft Auto.

But what if you don’t – or don’t any longer? The Se­cu­rity Ser­vices be­lieve that at least 700 peo­ple have trav­elled from our shores to sup­port or fight for ji­hadist groups in Syria and Iraq. Most are thought to have joined Is­lamic State. Around half have since re­turned to Bri­tain.

Th­ese are facts that po­ten­tially change the game, that re­move the Shadow from the equa­tion – the pres­ence in our so­ci­ety of in­di­vid­u­als who hate us, who are now bat­tle-hard­ened, who have seen or risked or in­flicted death and who have shaken off the ‘soft­ness’ of Western ex­is­tence. They have han­dled weapons and feel the loy­alty that ex­ists be­tween those who go to ‘war’ to­gether. They have put the­ory into prac­tice and now ev­ery­thing is dif­fer­ent.

Th­ese are the ones who would take ma­chine guns into a shop­ping cen­tre, or grenades into a foot­ball sta­dium. Re­mem­ber: Mo­ham­mad Sidique Khan, leader of the 7/7 sui­cide bombers, trained at Al Qaeda’s Malakand camp in Pak­istan.

We will learn as the days pass whether this process of Is­lamist bru­tal­i­sa­tion and de­hu­man­i­sa­tion played a part in Fri­day night’s aw­ful events in Paris. From early re­ports, it would seem so. Omar Is­mail Moste­fai, a French-Al­ge­rian gunman iden­ti­fied via a fin­ger found at the Bat­a­clan con­cert hall, where 89 peo­ple were mur­dered, is said to have been rad­i­calised in 2010. The au­thor­i­ties say that be­fore Fri­day, he had ‘never been im­pli­cated in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion or a ter­ror­ist as­so­ci­a­tion’. They are now in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether he took a trip to Syria last year.

Lu­di­crous

Bel­gian po­lice have ar­rested sev­eral peo­ple over al­leged links to the at­tacks, all in the Brussels dis­trict of Molen­beek, which has been linked to sev­eral other terror plots in Europe. Re­turnees from Syria are known to have made their home in Molen­beek in re­cent years.

Un­til re­cently, Is­lamic State hadn’t of­ten pur­sued the kinds of at­tacks on for­eign shores which were the trade­mark of Al Qaeda. The Paris at­tack, with its mil­i­tarystyle co-or­di­na­tion, care­fully se­lected tar­gets and lust for death (both the vic­tims’ and the mur­der­ers’ own), would seem to be clear ev­i­dence of a change in strat­egy. It is lu­di­crous to sup­pose it will be a one-off or that France will be the only coun­try to suf­fer. The ques­tion is: what do we do in re­sponse?

The West re­mains pro­foundly trau­ma­tised by Iraq, its con­fi­dence wholly un­nerved by Afghanista­n. The lim­its of our mil­i­tary power have been ex­posed to us, the will­ing­ness of our pop­u­la­tions to sup­port the use of force hugely re­duced. The seem­ingly un­shake­able taint at­tached to the rep­u­ta­tions of Tony Blair and Ge­orge W Bush serves as a warn­ing to their suc­ces­sors that ad­ven­tur­ism in for­eign pol­icy car­ries a heavy risk.

This is one rea­son for the act of self­hu­mil­i­a­tion com­mit­ted by Bri­tain in 2013, when Par­lia­ment forced the Gov­ern­ment to aban­don plans for mil­i­tary mea­sures against Syria’s Pres­i­dent As­sad, de­spite his sus­pected use of chem­i­cal weapons. At that time, Ed Miliband (re­mem­ber him?) said the Com­mons had spo­ken ‘for the peo­ple of Bri­tain’, and the UK ‘doesn’t need reck­less and im­pul­sive lead­er­ship, it needs calm and mea­sured lead­er­ship’.

The con­se­quence was that Barack Obama (among the least reck­less and im­pul­sive po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in history) was made to step back from ac­tion. The West’s rep­u­ta­tion has never re­cov­ered and our en­e­mies are em­bold­ened like never be­fore.

As Ge­orge Os­borne said at the time: ‘I hope this doesn’t be­come a mo­ment when we turn our back on all of the world’s prob­lems.’ It seems to me this is largely what hap­pened – and hap­pens still.

The rise of Jeremy Cor­byn and his gang of dim ex­trem­ists, whose grotesquel­y naïve view of for­eign pol­icy seems based on lachry­mose sym­pa­thy for even our vilest en­e­mies and a loathing of any at­tempt by the West to de­fend it­self, is a tragedy. The smug com­pla­cency of the Left in the face of the chal­lenges we face – in short, ‘show tol­er­ance and it’ll all go away’ – de­fies be­lief.

The mur­der­ous Is­lamic State is grow­ing in strength, reach and am­bi­tion. It ex­ists to de­feat the val­ues on which Western democ­racy is based – free­dom of ex­pres­sion, equal­ity be­fore the law, pros­per­ity and op­por­tu­nity.

Our re­treat to what might be de­scribed as spooked ner­vous­ness, to a pos­ture equiv­a­lent to watch­ing a scary movie from be­hind a cush­ion, does us no credit. Even if we choose not to care as men, women and chil­dren are en­slaved, raped, tor­tured and killed in North Africa and the Mid­dle East, will our spines re­main un­stiff­ened when the killing hits closer to home?

We would all pre­fer to live in a world in which dif­fi­cult choices – even sit­u­a­tions in which there are no good op­tions – did not ex­ist and peace and tol­er­ance reigned. But as much as we might wish it, that is not our world. There is no peace­ful way out of the con­flict with rad­i­cal Is­lam. They mean to de­feat us. If we are un­will­ing to fight back in any mean­ing­ful way, to stand up for that for which our an­ces­tors died, we will soon be con­fronted by a very dif­fer­ent and much darker shadow in­deed.

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