The extraordinarily incompetent Nigerian underpant bomber somehow seems a fit conclusion to the year. The debate on my last post has garnered 235 comments already. What comes over most strongly is the absolute desperate, psychological need of the right for the “War on Terror” to be real.
Given the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, of course there is huge resentment towards the West in much of the Islamic world, and a small fringe willing to carry that resentment into violence. That is an unavoidable consequence of the hundreds of thousands of deaths for which US, UK and Israel have been responsible.
But for the right, it is not enough that they have created a threat which is real; it must be not only real, but enormous. John Reid famously described the Islamic terrorist threat as being as great as the Second World War, whereas Tony Blair described it as an “existential threat”. Both are massive, incredible exaggerations.
The armaments, oil, and security industries, and the politicians they fund, of course make massive profits from the government policies, including wars, enacted in response to a massive exaggeration of the threat. But many on the right have a psychological rather than merely material need for an enemy, for an embodiment of evil, and for the idea of being involved in a gripping life or death battle.
This is difficult to sustain, as the actual battles involve merely our use of absolutely overwhelming power to devastate weak nations. Hence the disproportionately weak reactions must be hyped to sustain the narrative. The sad truth that a pathetic Nigerian wannabe terrorist singed his own gonads must be buried beneath a raft of stories that the explosive was powerful enough to blow a hole in an aeroplane.
The right are desperate to hear that the plane would have been destroyed, hundreds killed, and probably could have ploughed into a big building and killed thousands. In their fantasy world they are fighting off these disasters. In the real world, a Nigerian man singed his own gonads. That is not to excuse him. He planned to do harm and may be a very horrible person indeed. But he just singed his own gonads. It is also worth noting that, if he had destroyed the plane, he would have killed only one third of the innocent civilians who died on just day one of “Shock and Awe” in Iraq.
There is no existential threat to the Western world from Islam. Sorry.