The Niceties Lose to the Necessities

Civility, like anything else, requires resources. U.S. troops in WWII generally did not have to loot to avoid starvation, often had enough manpower to guard POWs, and could afford a training mechanism that instilled and maintained discipline in the ranks. This made it feasible for them to observe a higher standard of humane behavior than most armies, inasmuch as such things are possible in war.

But kindness is a luxury on the battlefield, where survival takes priority over everything else, and first to be jettisoned in resource starvation.

The UK is running low on counter-terror resources. The Times of London reports:

[I]ntelligence officers have identified 23,000 jihadist extremists living in Britain as potential terrorist attackers ... about 3,000 people from the total group are judged to pose a threat.

The British police simply don't have enough men to watch an insurgent army of this size, and have had to cancel famous public events like the Changing of the Guard to release police from duties like crowd security or road closures. "The sad truth about the Government’s decision to deploy up to 5,000 troops on British streets is that it is an admission of failure," wrote Robert Verkaik. In particular, it is a failure to anticipate the threat and to provide enough resources to maintain the required superiority which makes the civilities possible.

Not surprisingly, tolerance has become the first casualty of the new correlation of forces. The smiling British bobby has had to become more peremptory in the face of a deadly foe. British PM Theresa May, in a speech responding to the London Bridge attack, not only announced more regulations (including proposed restrictions on the Internet), but warned that things were reaching a tipping point:

We believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face. As terrorism breeds terrorism and perpetrators are inspired to attack, not only on the basis of carefully constructed plots after years of planning and training, and not even as lone attackers radicalized online, but by copying one another and often using the crudest of means of attack.

The Lone Wolves -- emboldened by success -- are forming a pack, and the lurkers are coming out of the woods to pull down their larger but helpless victim.

When that happens, it's No More Mr. Nice Guy.

May's plan to regulate the Internet has the advantage of being easier to implement than watching 23,000 jihadis. When you can't do what you should, then you do what you can. The West is in the "Three Stooges" phase of terrorism policy: if Larry can't hit Moe, he hits Curley Joe. Later they may in despair all hit each other. To be fair, it's forced upon them by a relative lack of resources. Europe is beginning to admit it has doesn't have enough hard force to deal with the new threats. Hence the reliance on candles, tweets, dimmed lights. It's not virtue, it's necessity. But when the candles stop working they will be forced to Plan B.

Feckless politicians have let things get to the point where all the remaining options are bad. By allowing the margin of superiority to slip, they are making the descent from the Marquess of Queensberry Rules to street fighting inevitable. Perhaps the most revealing illustration of this sad transition occurred during the recent London Bridge attack, when a taxi driver and eyewitness to the London Bridge terror attack described "how he tried to 'ram' the men who were killing innocent civilians":

The driver, only known as Chris, told LBC Radio that he desperately tried to stop the attack.

"I said to the guy in my cab I was going to try and hit him, I was going to ram him.

"I turned around and tried, but he side-stepped me.

"I spun the cab round, I was about to ram one of them, but he side-stepped and three police officers came running towards them with their batons drawn."

The old and the new stand frozen in time, captured by that image. The cabbie, prepared to use his two-ton vehicle as a weapon, represents the sad new.  The bobbies "running towards [terrorists] with their batons drawn" as the cab driver incredulously watches represent the gallant old. It has all the pathos of a First World War cavalry charge against a line of entrenchments on the Western front, of a kindly old order vainly struggling against extinction by a harsh, Terminator-type world of cold repression that governments by slow degrees will be forced to implement. How long before the taxi-ram, not the baton, becomes the new normal?

Yet we brought it on ourselves. An unsustainable program of political correctness killed the very thing it swore to protect.

 

Follow Wretchard on Twitter

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Support the Belmont Club by purchasing from Amazon through the links below.

Books:

The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, This book by Douglas Murray is not only an analysis of demographic and political realities, but also an eyewitness account of a continent in self-destruct mode. Declining birth-rates, mass immigration and cultivated self-distrust and self-hatred have come together to make Europeans unable to argue for themselves and incapable of resisting their own comprehensive change as a society. Murray includes reporting from across the entire continent, from the places where migrants land to the places they end up, from the people who appear to welcome them in to the places which cannot accept them.

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders, by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton. Every page shows how strange and marvelous the world really is. With compelling descriptions, hundreds of photographs, charts, and maps for every region of the world. Tagged as addictive by readers.

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy - What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny, by William Strauss and Neil Howe. First came the postwar High, then the Awakening of the '60s and '70s, and now the Unraveling. In this book, published in 1997, Strauss and Howe apply their generational theories to the cycles of history and locate America on the brink of a crisis. Are you ready for the Fourth Turning?

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres

Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free

The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age

Storming the Castle, why government should get small

No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.

Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific

Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the Belmont Club