Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Our Response to Paris Plays Straight into the Terrorists' Hands; London Should Remember How It Reacted to the IRA and 7/7 Rather Than Feed Fear with Over-the-Top Security

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Our Response to Paris Plays Straight into the Terrorists' Hands; London Should Remember How It Reacted to the IRA and 7/7 Rather Than Feed Fear with Over-the-Top Security

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Jenkins

HOW will a Trident submarine or an aircraft carrier add one jot to London's safety? The offer of "billions more" for defence hardware as a response to the Paris terrorism outrage is so absurd as to be unbelievable. Knights in armour and vats of boiling oil would be more use. Britain's defence is in the hands of lunatics.

We have just watched two great European cities, Paris and Brussels, react in the worst possible way to a terrorist attack by showing how much it hurt. They, along with the rest of us, have awarded the terrorists publicity and status beyond their wildest dreams. Nations go into mourning, statesmen are summoned, football matches cancelled, theatres shut, Metro stations closed, curfews imposed, troops put on street corners.

Islamic State criminals have been awarded global warrior honours. All the nations on Earth have formed a grand alliance to fight what is openly called a third world war. To do what? To drop pointless bombs on distant cities in a frenzy of eye-for-an-eye revenge. The bombs will certainly kill more innocents than died in the original attack. If these are Western values, count me out.

I have not read a single coherent justification for Britain joining the twoyear bombing campaign against IS in Syria. There is not a defence analyst, hawk or dove, who believes bombing "alone" or possibly bombing at all can defeat an enemy or recapture territory. It is all machismo, virtue signalling, to cover the raw fact that neither the West nor the Arab world has any intention of doing the one thing that might defeat IS, which is to wage real war on it so as to dispossess it of territory.

This is now London's issue insofar as Britain bombing IS in Syria must increase our vulnerability to retaliation. Every Muslim family bereaved by a British drone will want revenge. There is no military purpose in such bereavement. As long as we intervene in the Middle East, we must expect atrocities in return. Bombing will not stop them.

Londoners expect their government to defend them from criminal acts of all sorts, so far as is plausible and proportionate. No sensible person would argue against the policing that might have stopped the terror attacks of July 2005, which means meticulous human intelligence within Muslim communities. No state, democratic or not, can stop a madman with a gun or a bomb, any more than it could when Joseph Conrad ridiculed the idea in The Secret Agent a century ago.

Terrorism's potency is one per cent slaughter and 99 per cent reaction, the magnifying of horror that lies in publicity. That is why dictatorships rarely experience terrorism, as they can control reaction to it. London has been here before. In my view it reacted well to the bus and Tube bombs of 2005, prime minister Tony Blair included. …

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