Britain keeps cool after the Iraq War spills over.
LONDON- It's best when the bomb doesn't go off. That way you get all the excitement of war without any of the boring stuff, like bodies, orphans, widows, and universal misery. The three botched attacks of a fortnight ago - two in London's West End, one at the Glasgow airport - were noisily seized upon by the Churchillians in our midst to drive home the old story: never in the field of human conflict, except perhaps briefly in 1940, has this nation faced a more deadly enemy. This time, however, to make matters even better, there was evidence of an international Islamist conspiracy in the soft underbelly of socialist Britain. Seven of the eight suspects were immigrant doctors employed by the NHS, and one was a health worker. If Saddam Hussein was the new Hitler, then these guys were the new Josef Mengeles.
Not everything the Churchillians say is wrong, of course. We do face a ruthless (if incompetent) enemy, and there was and is a conspiracy. The security alert at the beginning of July illustrated, among other things, the desperate recruiting problems of our health service and the lax procedures of our immigration people. But much has changed since the Tube bombings of July 7, 2005, in which 52 people were killed, and the Churchillians are having to adjust to the new realities. The old line that terrorist attacks have nothing to do with Iraq - once Tony Blair's favorite riff - doesn't cut it any more, not least because the Intelligence and Security Committee report on 7/7 found that "Iraq continues to act as a motivation and focus for terrorist activity in the UK." So there is a new line: the latest attacks show once and for all that the departure of Tony Blair was never going to rid Britain of the terrorist threat. That's true, of course, but it tells us nothing about the national debate. No one ever thought, far less said, that the departure of the poodle would bring peace in our time.
But the most imposing new reality facing the Churchillians, and the rest of us, is the new prime minister. The attempted car bombings came on Day Two of Gordon Brown's premiership, and he played the situation brilliantly - by the simple expedient of not being Tony Blair. He avoided the camp, steely-eyed rhetoric Blair employed on these occasions and called for calm resolution. His approach was so laid back that he slept through the first bomb alert because the night watchman at No. 10 decided not to wake him. Why bother? It was 2 am. and the police seemed to have everything under control.
More to the point, though, Brown pointedly abandoned all talk of the war on terror. As far as Her Majesty's Government is concerned, terrorists are now criminals, not warriors. The new prime minister will not abandon the United States, of course, but neither will he cling to it with the almost sexual passion of Blair. There will be no more standing shoulder to shoulder with George W. Bush, no more dancing cheek to cheek.
Dropping "war on terror" was a good (and popular) move, but what followed wasn't: a couple of days into the security alert, Brown decreed that henceforth the Union Jack would fly from public buildings at all times. The thinking was apparently that flying the flag would bind the nation in patriotic fervor and help us to confound our enemies. But Brown, an unsubtle Scot, does not …