Where Is Hercules When You Need Him?

I landed yesterday in the mother country, i.e., Britain, which thank God we can still call “Great” following last week;s silly referendum of Scottish so-called independence. The bookies here called it precisely: the Scots, in an access of what one friend called a a wave of temporary sanity, rejected the offer of permanent immiseration by some 10 points, thus demonstrating that the country of David Hume and Adam Smith has not gone entirely soft in the head.  Some clever chaps were quietly hoping that the Scots would finally go through with their threat to divorce England.  Since Scotland is these days a socialist wasteland — I haven’t looked it up, but I believe there is only one conservative minister from Scotland in the House of Commons — their departure from the 400-year-old union would have transformed English politics overnight. Absent the dozens of politically immature leftist ministers, England could finally have gotten on with the business of restoring prosperity to the country.  And since Whitehall sends something like £5 in welfare payments to Scotland for every pound they collect in taxes, the English taxpayer would also have been better off.

I see these advantages of devolution, or divorce.  But on balance I have to say that it would have been a disaster for all concerned.  For Scots, it would have spelt an instant lowering of the standard of living. “What about the North Sea oil,” you say?  I happened to sit through a financial briefing about Scotland a couple days before the referendum.  The bankers in charge of the presentation had some admonitory information about Scotland’s economic situation, including an alarming chart depicting oil production from the North Sea.  It started fairly high up on the left side of the chart and worked its way steadily downwards as traveled right. There is also the international situation.  Scotland’s recurrent fit of adolescent posturing is part of a dangerous trend in the world.  Remember Francis Fukuyama’s book The End of History?  I once gave the palm to that book for articulating the silliest argument in recent memory by a serious academic.  Fukuyama predicted that liberal democracy, which he denominated the final, and best, form of government, was set to break out the world over. That was at the end of the 1980s.  The ink wasn’t dry on Fukuyama’s book before we saw that, pretty much wherever we looked,  something closer to the opposite was happening.  What we were seeing was not the triumph of liberal democracy but the retribalization of the world. The restless Scots are part of that distressing, anti-civilizational imperative, and the world must be grateful that they managed to save themselves from their self-generated folly.

What happened in Scotland was a bright spot, made even more agreeable by the instant resignation of Scotland’s first minister, the preposterous, and malevolent, Alex Salmond. (It’s nice that his deputy was called Sturgeon.) Unfortunately, there are not many other bright spots to cheer at the moment.  This morning, The Guardian carries a story about an Algerian group called Jund al-Khilafah. No, I had never heard of them either.  The name means “Soldiers of the Caliphate,” and, yes, they are associated with the group of murderous fanatics formerly known as ISIS. And, yes, the news was that this organization joined the group of amateur internet video makers.  This weekend, they kidnapped a 55-year-old French tourist and promptly beheaded him, memorializing the atrocity on video. Which brings me to Hercules.  I have always liked the story of his 12 labors, especially the one about his cleansing the Augean stables. The rise of ISIS (ISIL, Islamic State, or whatever it is calling itself today) puts me in mind of another labor of Hercules, his confrontation with the Lernaean Hydra.  As you’ll recall, the irritating thing about that menace, aside from its deadly halitosis and toxic blood, was that as soon as you lopped off one head two more sprouted in its place. Pedestrian efforts to kill the beast were therefore doomed to failure. It took a canny chap like Hercules to realize that if you wanted to get rid of it,  something more than random air strikes were necessary. You need not only to cut of the many heads of the beast, you need also to cauterize the stumps instantly.

The West, alas, has yet to screw up its resolve in this matter. How could it?  Just yesterday, the president of the United States — that would be Barack Hussein Obama — stood before the United Nations and heaped praise on Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, a Muslim cleric who has endorsed a fatwa calling for the murder of U.S. soldiers. Yep, Bin Bayyah is Obama’s candidate of the week for the prize of being a “moderate Muslim.”  After all, he has had critical things to say about Islamic State and the charmingly named Boko Haram. Obama particularly liked this quotation: “We must declare war on war, so the outcome will be peace upon peace.” Nice, eh?  But Bin Bayyah has said lots of other things. Not only has he supported murdering U.S. soldiers, he also, in 2009, issued a fatwa “barring all forms of normalization with Israel.” No matter. The White House under Barack Obama likes “moderate” Muslims like Bin Bayyah.

ISIS is just a junior league threat. Islam shares "common principles" with the West, “principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” Except infidels. And Jews. And white girls in Rotherham. And French tourists.  And American journalists.

What we need now is a new Hercules.  But what we have is Barack Hussein Obama. How I wish he would just resign and take up Donald Trump’s offer of free golf for life.