Monday, September 06, 2004

Oh, Beslan...

Three years on from September 11, 2001, and it is now Russia's turn to confront the grinning face of homicidal insanity. I hope they learn from the experience of others, and decline to retaliate in kind.

Not that they can be blamed at this time. I imagine it's almost impossible for the bereaved not to feel vengeful themselves (I can well remember my angry reactions when it was only my house that was robbed: how it must feel when it is your family? To lose children like this...?!)

I can also remember my reactions to 9/11: one of the earlier queries in the confusion was: who has done this? No one was claiming responsibility, and what that implied to me was this:

'There is no need for a face, for we have nothing to say to you: we simply mean you HARM!'

This sentiment rises from the doctrine of despair:
'We have nothing to lose. You have everything. Go figure!'.

Faced with an attitude like this, no amount of arms will prevail. What you have to do is go after the root causes: remove the environment that nourishes this sort of desparation.

It's the only way and no, it's not easy. It will be a long and at times painful process to learn why people, many people it seems, are willing to fly fully laden passenger jets into office buildings, or blow up nightclubs, or mow down school children.

It will be long, because the root causes run very deep, and are very old, and will not be soon forgotten. (We're talking generations, I'm afraid)

It will be painful because the West must be willing to accept responsibility as and when necessary.

And, I'm afraid, we're not doing it. Not even starting to. Three years on, the US seems to have reacted in as wrong a way as it possibly could. Bush has been following bin Laden's script to the letter. The script presented to every dictatorship by just about every geurilla freedom fighter since... whenever.

And that is this:
  • irritate, and annoy the rulers intolerably
  • provoke reaction, but do not present a clear focus for it
  • instead, let the peasantry feel the clumsy displeasure of their masters
  • let the peasantry rise up in outrage and displace their masters
  • ...and then step in to fill the void
Do you really think that every Afghani is a Taliban extremist? Every Iraqi a hater of 'liberation'?
Every Chechnyan a homicidal lunatic?

There is a better way of dealing with the new world order. It is one that does not require overwhelming force of arms (indeed, they may be a burden). It is the one practised by the British during the Malaysian emergency:
  • learn to gain people's trust, not their fear
Mr. Putin, please consider.


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