Friday, March 09, 2007

Death comes softly

I haven't given Mark Steyn a plug for a while - not that he needs it from me - but his website features a typically waspish article describing how difficult it is to wake up the left to the threat we are facing.

In the course of promoting his book, America Alone, Mark had been doing the usual rounds of TV and radio interviews which seemed to be, primarily, conservative in nature. Wanting to bring his message to the wider audience, Mark asked his publishers to book him some spots on liberal shows.

I explained that we can’t keep preaching to the choir, we’ve got to try and persuade folks of the merits of the case, etc. Well, she promised to do her best, and so I’ve found myself taking the first tentative steps into the hostile territory of various public radio shows.

And a bit dispiriting it is, too. I don’t mind the conspiracy guys and the all-about-oil obsessives. I’m cool with the fellows who say, well, America sold Saddam all his weapons anyway: it’s always fun to point out that, according to analysis by the International Peace Research Institute of Stockholm, for the years between 1973 and 2002 the American and British arm sales combined added up to under 2% of Iraq’s armaments – or less than Saddam got from the Brazilians.

As Steyn says, handling the conspiracy freaks - who, to be fair, hang out on both sides of the political divide - is relatively straightforward. What is harder is dealing with the people who put forward what sound like rational, plausible suggestions in a calm, but assertive way.

Half the time these assertions are such enervated soft-focus blurs of passivity, there’s nothing solid enough to latch on to and respond to. But, when, as they often do, they cite Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, I point out that we’re not always as fortunate to find ourselves up against such relatively benign enemies as British imperial administrators or even American racist rednecks. King and Gandhi’s strategies would not have been effective against fellows who gun down classrooms of Russian schoolchildren, or self-detonate at Muslim weddings in Amman, or behead you live on camera and then release it as a snuff video, or assassinate politicians and as they’re dying fall to the ground and drink their blood off the marble. Come to that, King and Gandhi’s strategies would not have been effective against the prominent British Muslim who in a recent debate at Trinity College, Dublin announced that the Prophet Mohammed’s message to infidels was “I am here to slaughter you all.” Good luck with the binding non-violent conflict resolution there.

A lot of the time, what these people mean when they talk about "binding non-violent conflict resolution" is leave it to the UN or the EU. The corporate bodies that they, for some reason, believe are the only ones with any legitimacy even though their track record in resolving conflict through non-violent resolutions is hardly inspiring. They're not exactly the most democratic institutions either - hardly surprising as neither has a demos to be cratic for.

Soft power they call it. But soft power rarely works even when dealing with relatively normal nation states. When dealing with some amorphous grouping of people who share a loosely related obsession which is beyond rational argument, then soft power is going to get you precisely nowhere. Soft power sounds great if you're soft in the head, but the realists of the world recognise that "soft power" is only going to ever enable a resolution to be "binding" if you can back that up with the requisite hard power - military power - and are prepared to unleash it.

Anything else is just bullshit.

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