I’ve often commented that of all nations, Britain is the most incompetent when it comes to fighting terrorism. They encourage it, they appease it, and if they do decide to fight it, they inevitably fight it by targeting innocents in a blind, misguided outburst of rage.
They currently believe that appeasing and tolerating Islamist extremism within their borders is a good idea. They believe that this tolerance, plus efforts to win Muslim hearts and minds will have a positive effect in the war against terrorism. They believe that having a favorable attitude towards Muslims will make Muslims love them.
They don’t. Muslims in Britain are the most anti-western in Europe.
Public opinion in Britain is mostly favourable towards Muslims, but the feeling is not requited by British Muslims, who are among the most embittered in the western world, according to a global poll published yesterday.
The poll, by the Washington-based Pew Global Attitudes Project, asked Muslims and non-Muslims about each other in 13 countries. In most, it found suspicion and contempt to be mostly mutual, but uncovered a significant mismatch in Britain.
The poll found that 63% of all Britons had a favourable opinion of Muslims, down slightly from 67% in 2004, suggesting last year’s London bombings did not trigger a significant rise in prejudice. Attitudes in Britain were more positive than in the US, Germany and Spain (where the popularity of Muslims has plummeted to 29%), and about the same as in France.
Less than a third of British non-Muslims said they viewed Muslims as violent, significantly fewer than non-Muslims in Spain (60%), Germany (52%), the US (45%) and France (41%).
By contrast, the poll found that British Muslims represented a “notable exception” in Europe, with far more negative views of westerners than Islamic minorities elsewhere on the continent.
The Brits mean well, but, like creating fine wines and tasty cuisine, fighting terrorism and winning hearts and minds just isn’t something they do well. But they’re such nice people. Why do they always goof this up?
Christopher Caldwell’s article, After Londonistan, has an answer. Patience and forbearance.
MacShane is basically counseling patience, as many in Britain’s government do. A month before the July 7 attacks, Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee made the judgment that “there would probably be a successful attack of some sort in the U.K. in the next five years.” Today, British authorities are not much more confident of thwarting all plots, so they have erected a line of defense that is absorptive, not pre-emptive. It rests on harmony between social groups and on the country’s ability to suffer atrocities from time to time, as it did during the heyday of the I.R.A., without escalating unrest or oppression, or the rise of extremist parties. Britain is now betting that the country will retain its historically bottomless reserves of sang-froid in the face of a threat that is orders of magnitude more dangerous than the threat of the I.R.A.; that there is something in the makeup of Britons that makes them more stoical than, say, Americans in New York about bombs going off; that the quiet tenor of the British fight against Islamist terrorism thus far is a sign of good manners and forbearance, not of abject fright or sneaking sympathy; and that Britain in the age of the Diana funeral is the same country it was during the blitz.
It’s a risky bet.
They want to fight terrorism by tolerating it? That’s not just a risky bet, it’s a losing one.
Many Brits believe that the stoically tolerating abuse is a form of bravery. This is effective in some situations, like during the Nazi Blitzkrieg. But it makes no sense when dealing with terrorism. Stoically tolerating abuse only makes sense when your enemy is larger, smarter or more powerful than you are. It’s an idiotic strategy to use againt an enemy who is smaller, stupider and much weaker, as the Islamists are.
The enemy in Britian is hiding in plain sight, the police know where they live, but instead of adopting a zero tolerance attitude towards extremism, instead of plainly enforcing the rules and expecting everyone to follow them, British politicians tolerate terrorism while demanding that the population accept abuse, death, and mutilation graciously.
This doesn’t lead to “harmony among social groups”.
We learned a few decades ago that tolerating crime leads to more crime. It’s no coincidence that stoic and tolerant Britain also has an over-the-top crime rate, while forebearance-free America’s crime rate has fallen.
We also know that tolerating terrorism leads to more terrorism. I’d guess that, if they continue to follow this course, Islamists will win significant political power in Britain, as the IRA did. Winning political power is extremism’s goal. The IRA was also smaller, stupider and weaker than the Brits, but they won their little war.
When good intentions lead to an inevitably bad result, maybe it’s time for a change.