Good men doing nothing?


IS FlagThe West doesn’t do foreign policy. Instead, Obama makes slick speeches, Cameron performs PR stunts, the EU issues memoranda of intent then does nothing, while the best that Theresa May can come up with is “Asbos for extremists” – making murderous terrorists go stand in the naughty corner for half an hour. That should really put the wind up the savages in Islamic State. I used to think that the fate of the West will be to die of political-correctness and pre-emptive self-abasement. After last week’s events in London and Washington, I think we shall die of muddle instead.

I mean, last year Obama was talking tough about “red lines” which he would not permit Assad to cross without intervening. Cameron agreed, re-calling parliament to seek support for his intention of taking up arms against the Assad regime. This policy has been stood on its head by both the USA and Britain. Now we are waging war – albeit in a tepid sort of style – on Islamic State. But if Obama and Cameron had got their way a year ago we would have been fighting on the same side as Islamic State who are the main opponents of Assad!

So what should the West do in the face of the threat from these well-organised, extremely wealthy and heavily-armed barbarians? The usually reliable Frederick Forsyth surprised me last Saturday with his letter in one of the national papers. Frederick said we should be worried about the rise of Islamic State – but not too worried. His argument was that, unlike the Taliban in Afghanistan, IS do not have the backing of a whole nation. Moreover, they are surrounded by enemy states. Their weaponry, largely captured from the retreating Iraqi army, will soon be used up. They are a ragbag gang of fanatics and psychopaths gathered from many countries. In other words, they will run out of steam.

I wish I could share Frederick’s optimism, but I can’t – because I can recall another gang of fanatics and psychopaths who began with very small support but became so powerful and successful that they caused the Second World War: the Nazis. In 1923 Hitler was in prison for attempting a putsch. By 1933 he was in charge of all Germany and wildly popular among his countrymen. By 1940 he had overrun and subdued most of Europe, was waging the Blitzkrieg on Britain and preparing to invade Russia. Hitler inherited a nation that was down and out, following its total defeat in the First World War. But he rose to the summit of power and authority because he promised to restore the pride of the German race. He promised them Lebensraum, living space, through conquest. And it took the combined might of Britain, the USA and the USSR to overthrow him – and even then it was a damn close run thing.

All this is now being repeated in the emergence of IS. Its leaders, like Hitler, are good at propaganda. They play on a widespread resentment throughout the Islamic world that Muslims have for so long been exploited and downtrodden by the imperialistic western powers. Like Hitler, the gangsters in IS are promising to restore the pride of their people and so thousands are flocking to their support. It was often stated that most Germans were not Nazis. True, only they didn’t need to be. But they went along with Nazism.

As they make their speeches and perform their stunts, Obama and Cameron should re-read Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”

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