Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The greatest threat ever (since the last one)

Now/more than a decade ago is/was a good time to panic, because we live/lived in uniquely terrifying times:
"Why now?", people ask. I agree that I cannot say that this month or next, even this year or next, Saddam will use his weapons. But I can say that if the international community, having made the call for disarmament, now, at this moment, at the point of decision, shrugs its shoulders and walks away, he will draw the conclusion that dictators faced with a weakening will always draw: that the international community will talk but not act, will use diplomacy but not force. We know, again from our history, that diplomacy not backed by the threat of force has never worked with dictators and never will.

If we take this course and if we refuse to implement the will of the international community, Saddam will carry on, his efforts will intensify, his confidence will grow and, at some point in a future not too distant, the threat will turn into reality. The threat therefore is not imagined. The history of Saddam and weapons of mass destruction is not American or British propaganda. The history and the present threat are real.
Tony Blair, September 2002
What we’re facing in Iraq now with Isil is a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before.

In Afghanistan the Taliban were prepared to play host to al-Qaeda. With Isil we are facing a terrorist organisation not being hosted in the country but seeking to establish and then violently expand its own terrorist state.

We could be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean bordering a Nato State.

We are in the middle of a generational struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology that I believe we will be fighting for years if not decades.
David Cameron, end of August 2014

The endless note of urgency reminds me of those never-ending sales out-of-town furniture stores used to keep having. 'Hurry! Crazy bargains! Get your new existential threat while stocks last!'

If there's anything real behind the current rhetorical panic, it probably has more to do with the Ukip* insurgency than the Isil one. After all, finding a respectable-sounding excuse for getting tough on scary foreigners/non-white Brits might be Dave from PR's last best hope for plausibly ingratiating himself with the restive 'kipper-leaning wing of his party.

But maybe some things have changed in a slightly ironic direction. Where the ostensibly liberal-left Tony Blair looked embarrassingly hungry for the approval of his new best friend, George W, Tory Dave might not actually care about how much he's impressing right-wing Americans right now, so long as he can get Mr Angry of Clacton back on side.

*From now on I'll have to type "Ukip", rather than "UKIP", as the former spelling apparently offends some of the party's more paranoid supporters. Since choosing not to offend people would clearly be political correctness gone mad, which as any fool angry Ukip voter knows, is a contemptible form of tyranny, I am therefore obliged to uphold my freeborn birthright by being as casually offensive as possible, whenever possible. Nothing personal, you understand.