Monday, September 06, 2004

"...these go to 11" (reflecting on Beslan)

Nigel Tufnell: You see, most blokes will be playing at 10. You're on 10, all the way up, all the way up...Where can you go from there? Nowhere. What we do, is if we need that extra push over the cliff...Eleven. One louder.
Marti DiBergi: Why don't you just make 10 louder and make 10 be the top number, and make that a little louder?
Nigel (after taking a moment to let this sink in): These go to 11.
The bloody end to the siege in Beslan, Russia, leaves any decent person reeling in horror. The effect on parents is even worse. Normally, the news scrolls by without affecting me but watching this story unfold left me feeling profoundly depressed.

I've been interested in the reaction to this terrible crime. Many people are agreed: that these terrorist (and all terrorists) must be made to suffer; and that any discussion of dreaded 'root causes' makes you a Chamberlain-like apologist of the worst kind. Any consideration of what drove the terrorists to commit this act is to allow them a 'victory'.

Certainly, its true that any thing done in support of the terrorists' cause jn response to this will incentivize future terrorism.

So where does that leave us? What can we do?

The answer is: hit the terrorists harder, more often, more viciously, in more places and in more ways. Turn it up to 11.

But what happens if you're already at 11? Where do you find that 'extra push over the cliff'?

There is something satisfying on a deep level about talking tough to terrorists such as these. And such language is politically necessary for politicians such as Putin. But what does it actually achieve?

Putin came to office in 1999 promising to turn it up to 11 in Chechnya. Since then the Russians have been fighting a truly nasty, dirty war in Chechnya that has led to thousands upon thousands of civilian deaths. The war there smashed Chechnya into a failed state run by warlords. What more can be done to that place that hasn't already been done? And still Chechnyan terrorists produced this shocking crime.

Never-the-less, the talking heads are pressuring Putin to turn it up to 12. This might satisfy the dictates of machismo but its not going to solve the problem of Chechnya.

Conservatives will tell you that 'negotiating with terrorists never works. The only language these people understand is force.' But is this really true?

Take Northern Ireland. The British under Thatcher tried ever more draconian tactics to stop the IRA. And it didn't work.

The only thing which has brought a period of calm to Northern Ireland is a peace agreement which addressed 'root causes'.

No one feels like addressing Chechnyan root causes right now (and understandably so) but in the a year or two, this has to be done quietly and bravely, without ceasing the fight to bring these perpetrators to justice.

Because the fight against terrorists is not about making right-wing pundits feel good about their manhood. It's about saving lives.

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