Saturday, September 05, 2015
The Very Pinnacle Of Common Sense
Apologies for continuing to bang on about the fallout from the Labour election campaign, but it really is throwing up some fairly embarrassing examples of the British political class's fucked assumptions.
Here, for instance, we witness an entirely humdrum example of that great British character - Homo Politicus Centralis, with military camo patterning - throwing up his hands in terror to emit variations upon the following argument:
The desire to prevent British military forces bombing, invading and occupying other countries, is a frightful and shameful ideological flaw.
Now, this is the part where I generally point out that any person who claims to be speaking in favour of Britain "engaging with the world" is usually arguing for British warplanes to drop high explosives on large tracts of it.
But let's now take a step further and imagine an alternate dimension, in which the British Government took no part in any of our 21st century conflicts. No involvement at all, not so much as a loaned-out pistol.
How would history have unfolded? What, if anything, would be different?
My by-no-means-exhaustive analysis is that
1) Parts of Sierra Leone might be far less pleasant places to live than they currently are;
2) Lots more American soldiers, and far fewer British ones, would now be dead or injured;
3) Opinion columnists would've written quite a lot of think-pieces about how cowardly and treacherous we are, and
4) The French would've had to bomb Gadaffi's thugs into submission on their own.
We can debate the merits of this one way or the other, but the most obvious conclusion that I draw from this flight of fancy is this: pretty much everything, from Afghanistan to Syria, would've unfolded in almost exactly the same manner that it actually did, and most of the planet would look more or less the same as it does now.
I can see no compelling reason to imagine that a world in which e.g. the Americans occupied Iraq without our assistance would be materially worse for anyone apart from the Americans themselves, and the US military is quite big enough to look after its own interests.
This being the case, the appropriate question for McTernan to ask is not "Why is Jeremy Corbyn such a war-disliking bastard?".
The question is, "Why are constant military hijinks seen as the very pinnacle of common sense in British politics, despite their appallingly poor success-to-failure rate?".
We would not, after all, tolerate hospitals or transport networks that operate with the same success rate as our military adventures. If our schools were regularly exploding and collapsing around the ears of their pupils, few political and media types would step forth to denounce anyone who dared to suggest that we should instead build flame-retardant schools.
And yet, chuck in a few missiles and rifles, and the very idea that we not use our armed forces for deranged military escapades on foreign shores is actively radical, far outwith the mainstream of modern British politics.
In fairness, I do have to acknowledge here that McTernan is something of an outsider these days himself; a dead-ender clinging to the certainties of a more innocent age, or whatever.
Nonetheless, I'd say that his invincible stupidities are far closer to the current government's way of thinking than my own are, and that this is a very, very odd state of affairs to find ourselves in.