International Affairs

A Firmer Hand

February 20, 2015

As for Cecil: he dealt with and foiled Guy Fawkes and the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605—the world’s first potential terrorist spectacular.

So you see, neither religion-based and home-grown extremism nor external danger is anything new. The trick is how to counter them effectively. Lack of reaction will ever lead to eventual overreaction. You have to admire the robustness in the approach of men like Walsingham and Cecil.

I remember when political scientists like Francis Fukuyama proclaimed history was over, and we had entered an era in which management ruled and nothing much happened. How wrong they were. Never has true leadership been needed more, and rarely has it been so lacking. Concluding a report in 1990 that was picked up by the Guardian newspaper, I wrote that anyone who believed in the concept of a post-Cold War peace dividend, or imagined a fragmented world order presented a safer option, was a sheer fantasist.

Wind on a quarter-century and the threats have multiplied and mutated, and the wishful thinking and willful negligence of politicians remain. The Danes still do not prosecute jihadists returning from playing their monstrous games in Syria and Iraq. They are pussies. As for the rest: America might have little stomach to act the global policeman, yet the world requires some kind of watchman to tread the international beat.

Lie down before a threat and you will surely be kicked in the head. Whether it is a critic of Russia being murdered in London or shots being fired at Jews in Copenhagen, it happens because we have created permissive conditions and allowed our foes to go unpunished. One day, if we are not careful, when all those who have displeased varied despots, Islamists, or the Kremlin have been culled, then the bad people will come for us.

It was not simply a downed Jordanian airman being set alight in a cage. The platitudes, complacency, and drift of Western political elites too have gone up in smoke.

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