Sunday, September 14, 2014

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Rationality, proportionality and the latest war on terror

I will continue Saturday Morning Musings - the use and abuse of the term business, but other things have been happening. In Monday Forum – the Ukraine, a new war on terror and corporate investment, I went back in part to an old post of mine and said in part:

I am not saying that Australia should not be providing a degree of military support against the Islamic State. I am concerned about the proportionality and common sense of some of the rhetoric and of the domestic measures that the Government is proposing to protect us all from home grown jihadists. To my mind, the side-effects from the preventative medicine are likely to be worse than the cure.

I do not share the views expressed by the Greens or some others on the left that Australia should not be involved. I think that we should. It’s the language that is now being used that scares the living daylights out of me Again, we are likely to create the enemy that we fear. To illustrate this, let me make just three points.

First, the West cannot defeat the ISIL by direct military action. That has to be done locally. The West can use power to hold the line and to buy time. That’s about it.

Second, the best way of containing ISIL is by marginalising it, letting it destroy itself, treating it with contempt. The more credibility ISIL is given by extreme language, by presenting it as a supreme threat, the more power it gathers.

Third, ISIL cannot actually damage the West in any real sense. Assume a worst case scenario with terrorist attacks in Western centres. Life goes on. The IRA couldn’t bomb the UK to its knees. They did damage, but didn't have the power. I am not equating the IRA to ISIL. I am simply making an observation about the reaction of the civil population.

ISIL is a disease like Ebola, just less dangerous outside the epicentre. I am only guessing, but I imagine that the most that ISIL could kill in Australia in any one year with maximum effort and effect is significantly less than the number of road deaths in the same period. I wonder, then, why we are treating ISIL as though it were a case of bubonic plague in the days when we didn’t know what that plague was? 

We have to be careful about our cures. When the Australian Government raised the threat level to high, Australians did not know how too respond. What did it mean? What could we do?  The answer, of course, was nothing. And yet, at the same time, ASIO wanted more powers. So a heightened threat level added to the apparent case for those powers.

Am I being too cynical?  Maybe. I live in a world where a few deaths leads to silly swimming pool restrictions, where the narrow risk of a septic tank leak leads to what has been called a poo tax.I fear I put the the latest security proposals in the same class.

i wonder. We do tend to create our own devils.

9 comments:

marcellous said...

The thing I'm not yet getting over is that it is said there is a national security threat (from returning Jihadists) and sending 600 troops to Iraq is then claimed to be the necessary response to it.

Unlike you, I don't see why we should be involved. We were in a hole; we extricated ourselves from it. We're not in the hole now so why are we digging ourselves into it again? I demonstrated (twice) in 2003 but Mr Howard wasn't interested, thought he knew better because of of lies (to him or by him, what's the difference?) over WMD; it suited him to wrap himself and hence us in the flag (the stars n stripes as well as ours).

Then, as now, there was the literal truth but substantial lie that a decision has not been made.

I'm angry but pretty despairing of anything better.

Meanwhile, whilst money is thrown at problems we are ill-equipped and not required to solve, wages are being forced down and the ratchet tightens on all manner of welfare recipients.

marcellous said...

Correction: for "literal atruth" read "literal not untruth (according to usual deniability principles)."

Jim Belshaw said...

I can see your point, marcellous. I support a limited response because of ISIL's barbarity.

Listening to the news as I write, ISIL is being presented as a threat to the entire world. That's unbalanced and an example of the point I was trying to make. We create that which we fear.

Anonymous said...

No clear premise or reasoning behind our military intervention; no specific strategy for our conduct of same; uncertain timeline with no exit indicator; a political opposition in lockstep; an ill-defined, shape-shifting 'enemy' whose sole unchanging attribute is religious fundamentalism - which, by its nature, can never actually be 'defeated'.

More young Australians fighting old men's wounds and fears and slights.

kvd

Jim Belshaw said...

Not so much the old man thing, if you don't mind kvd! This is a straight (is that the right word?) case of political leaders in lock-step drawing support from quite a wide spectrum Beyond that, I thought that your first para captured things rather well.

Anonymous said...

Well I would welcome your links to reports of any 70 year old suicide bombers or 65 year old active SAS troopers, Jim. It Is always the young who bleed for the old who plot. There is nothing exceptional or even political in stating that; it's just a simple sad truth.

kvd

Anonymous said...

We are essentially fighting Iran's war here!

DG

Evan said...

This is one lefty who mostly agrees with you.

Jim Belshaw said...

Good evening, DG. I can see your point. Evan, we might be both wrong!