This is the weekly newsletter from Iain Martin, editor of CapX. To receive it by email every Friday, along with a short daily email of our top five stories, please subscribe here.
Another day, another attack by Islamist fascists in their war on innocents who do nothing more provocative than check into a hotel, go out for a meal, or attend a concert. After the mass murder by ISIS in Paris last week, terrorists from another similar group have launched an assault on a hotel in Mali.
Remarkably, listening to some of the public debate in Britain and elsewhere, it seems as though significant numbers of people – including the pacifist, anti-Western leader of the Labour opposition in the UK – think we have a choice here. As though if we take no meaningful action against ISIS, and pull back from the limited military action underway in the region, then it will all simply go away. As though if we surrender, we’ll hear no more from the Islamist Scumbags of IS, as my friend and former boss Andrew Neil called them in a magnificent monologue at the beginning of his BBC political talkshow This Week. Supposedly, they will quietly agree to not venture outside the parts of Syria and Iraq they hold, and stick to murdering anyone there they choose and enslaving women by the thousand, leaving us to get on as normal like nothing has happened.
Those who say we must not fight back robustly are pushing a dangerous fantasy. There is no credible choice here. ISIS has declared war on the West and a bunch of Islamist fascists mean to destroy us, no matter what we do. Short of that they mean to cause the maximum number of deaths or at least to die trying. They are fanatics. The West has to destroy or degrade ISIS, or we lose our way of life, our freedom, our prosperity, bit by bit.
The danger is that the West may even now, despite all the evidence of the extent of the threat, lack the moral fibre and stamina for the fight. Anyone who has followed the complaints recently in American campuses, and in some British universities, about “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings”, could easily conclude that the liberal West is disappearing up its own backside. Some illiberal student activists regard their right not to be offended as the defining cause of the moment, leading them to organise bans of anyone who disagrees with them, or even anyone who asks legitimate questions. The protesters stand around hugging each other, whining, emoting, in a ludicrous fashion that suggests they have been indulged since childhood. They’ve had life too easy, not too hard.
The “safe spaces” that really matter now, after Paris and Mali, are the concert halls, restaurants, cinemas, hotels, workplaces and transportation systems of the free world. The ISIS-held towns and villages in the Middle East need to be liberated so that they might be safe for families to live in peacefully. The real “trigger warning” comes from the guns of those who shot peaceful people in Paris.
Those students immersed in a self-indulgent merry go round of protest need to go back to their dorms, turn on the television, absorb what’s happening in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Europe and engage their brains. It is time to put away childish things. We are up against people who don’t want there to be any colleges, who want women to be clad head to toe in black, to barely if ever go outside and to be slaves of men.
That being the case, the advice of the leave it alone brigade is not much use. The it is all our fault crowd miss the point. Just because diplomatic or military mistakes have been made in the past – such as the deal cut with Saudi Arabia in the 1940s for example, or the lack of planning to rebuild Iraq after the 2003 invasion – does not validate doing nothing now. Learning the lessons does not mean sitting there inert, grumbling that the world is a complicated place. Of course it is. Foreign policy is as messy and problematic as it has been since the birth of pre-modern states that had arguments over territory, money and ideas. This latest challenge will require Western unity, unpalatable compromises with Putin, judicious intervention and investment in military and intelligence capability, particularly by countries such as Britain who have chosen to make excessively deep cuts in forces.
But there is good news. The West is going to win, eventually. As Tim Marshall explains in one of my five picks of the week from CapX below, ISIS are a bunch of losers. That is not to underestimate the threat they pose, but they are a Jihadi death cult that appeals to radicalised, angry men who hate the modern world and kill and rape to boost their esteem ahead of what they imagine will be a starring role in causing Armageddon. For all that they have supporters, their nihilistic credo will be deeply unappealing to most people on the planet. It’s evil and it’s niche.
The West – with democracy, the rule of law, free speech, capitalism and the widespread prosperity that is the result of those freedoms – has the best ideas. But unfortunately they will have to be fought for.