Fighting Islamic terror – who knows best?

One of the leading nuclear powers has a great deal of experience in fighting Islamic terrorists and occupying Arab lands. Indeed, as a young man, the country’s leader served as a soldier fighting a bloody military campaign against terrorists in an occupied Muslim land.

Does the paragraph above describe Israel? Well, yes. But (and I’d forgotten this) it also describes France. This National Journal article points out that France’s 1960s occupation of (and withdrawal from) Algeria is the closest analogy we’ve got with the US occupation of Iraq. And the lessons it taught the French might well explain France’s attitude to the Iraq war.

I’m not convinced the two are entirely comparable – after all, France occupied Algeria with the aim of making it French, whereas the US merely intends to make Iraq an Iraqi democracy. However, it’s certainly a more convincing explanation for the French stance on Iraq than “they’re evil crooks who like selling arms to bad people”.

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Give the sub a beating

There’s a interesting if unoriginal article in the Times (sorry for the semi-functional link…) by Stanford professor Victor Hanson. Like many people, he thinks that Europeans are opposed to the war on Iraq because they’re jealous of America.

While I’m not sure this is right, the article is reasonably well-argued, and avoids crass generalisations and untruths. This effect is rather spoilt by the Times subeditor who decided to headline the piece “If it weren’t for America, you wouldn’t be free to protest”.

The ‘but for us you’d be speaking German’ crack is approximately the most trite and stupid thing any American can say while arguing with Europeans. Mostly because it ignores the people Western Europe most needs to thank for its freedom from Hitler – the nine million Russian soldiers sent to certain death on the Eastern Front, fighting the nastiest war of attrition ever. And also the evil, vicious bastard who sent them to die, a certain Mr Stalin.

I’m glad Mr Hanson didn’t fall into this trap, although annoyed that the Times’ sub did. It’s also always worth remembering that while good leaders with honourable motives are often important in safeguarding freedom, the mean bastards with horrible motives can be even more important. Not quite sure what this means in the context of GW Bush…

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Roger Scruton is not a man I have much respect for – I’ve always thought of him as a conservative, academic equivalent to Michael Moore (well, actually I held this view of Mr Scruton before Mr Moore was anything other than the director of a niche film about General Motors, but you know what I mean).

Like Mr Moore, Mr Scruton occasionally has interesting things to say. But also like Mr Moore, Mr Scruton’s disregard for facts is so dazzlingly cavalier that it’s hard to see how anyone can take him at all seriously.

I managed to avoid studying Marxism in any depth during my university philosophy course, which is a source of lasting joy (even if it does prevent me from joining the exciting discussions at Crooked Timber). As a result, I can honestly say that Mr Scruton’s essay “Photography and Representation” was the modern text I read over the whole three years that showed the least regard for fact or truth.

Mr Scruton effectively claims that the process of photography is equivalent to making a photocopy, with no room for artistic representation on the photographer’s part. In response to putative criticisms that this is absolute horse’s arse, Mr Scruton says that any photographic process which does involve artistic representation is a “painterly technique” and therefore doesn’t count.

This was brought to mind by an old article I happened to come across today, on a libel case between the Pet Shop Boys and Mr Scruton. Mr Scruton claimed that PSB didn’t write or perform their own songs; since they very much do, he had to give them a large suitcase full of money.

It’s pretty clear from the context of Mr Scruton’s quote (“Sometimes, as with the Spice Girls or the Pet Shop Boys, serious doubts arise…”) that the libel came out of his limited regard for facts. He tried to think of bands that are mostly brands for studio-based musicians, successfully thought of the Spice Girls, and word-associated to the Pet Shop Boys to create a nice sentence.

All well and good, but (as Oliver Kamm is always happy to point out), fact-checking is a must if you aspire to be taken seriously in any discipline. Having coined the neat sentence about Girls and Boys, Mr Scruton should have taken five minutes to confirm that both groups met his decription – just as he should have asked a photographer how one takes photographs before writing an essay on the subject.

The fact that Mr Scruton has not (to the best of my knowledge) been tarred, feathered and run out of town is a stain on the reputation of philosophers everywhere.

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Credit where credit’s due

I’m not a big fan of David Blunkett, in rather the same way that I’m not a big fan of having my sensitive body parts sandpapered. However, this is very sensible. Immigrants work hard, do jobs that nobody else can be bothered to do (digressing rant: the rate of involuntary unemployment among able-bodied Britons who haven’t been to jail is zero. Literally anyone can get a job for £4.50 an hour in London or Manchester doing something unpleasant and boring. Whether it’s fair to expect people to move to a different part of the country to take on something so unrewarding is another question), and make everyone better off.

So, one cheer for Mr B…

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Nice to be reminded

As Labour becomes more objectionable, and the Tories more electable (or at least, no longer so busy destroying themselves that nobody else needs to), it’s good to be reminded that some of their views are disturbing and unpleasant.

On the plus side, the death penalty is decreasing in importance as an electoral issue (in February, only 60% of UK people supported execution even for terrorist murderers, even in the context of a “let’s all panic about terrorists” poll).

Still, I’m not enthused that a guy who holds such views is the top opposition candidate for the Home Secretary’s bench.

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Kings of convenience

I’ve read this Weekly Standard article about alleged Saddam-Osama links. The pro-war right, unsurprisingly, is going mad about the piece. I’m extremely sceptical, partly based on timing (not necessarily Bush’s timing… the best-placed to benefit would be any anti-Dean Democrat, maybe one with high profile intelligence connections), and partly on content.

Content why? Aside from obvious questions over the source (and the kind of partisan gloating at the end that’s entirely uncalled for in a news piece…), it’s based on combining existing allegations with either uncredible or unremarkable new stuff – going for volume over quality.

Ho hum. Let’s see how it all pans out…

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Win hearts and minds: murder the mayor

I supported the war, albeit reluctantly. I’m aware that America and her allies now owe a responsibility to the Iraqi people to rebuild the country we screwed over for 30 years and then bombed the remnants out of existence.

It’s unfortunate, then, that the US army features people so incompetent and/or terrified that they happily shoot their own puppet officials when they dare disagree with them… wow, what a big improvement on the previous regime. I hope the soldiers responsible are court-martialled and jailed for a very long time.

Meanwhile, Ken Livingstone should probably watch his back.

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PBUH? Pah…

Apparently, the picture below of Mohammed and some naked girls is highly offensive to Muslims, who believe it should be banned.

I’m posting it here on the principle that people who think things should be banned are idiots who deserve to be thoroughly offended – whether they’re Mary Whitehouse or MPAC.

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