Monday, January 24, 2005

Terrorism Scrutonised and the Trouble with Cats

Soon after 9/11, Bush was ascribing the attacks to the fanatics' jealousy of the western way of life. More recently, the philosopher Roger Scruton has been retailing this view on the openDemocracy site.

He argues that since the targets of terrorists are more successful than the terrorists, their motives can be ascribed to simple jealousy and resentment.

There is an underlying reason for this success, however, since the terrorists' targets are economically and politically dominant. Look at the actual examples of recent and current "terrorist" campaigns. The inverted commas are there because some may object to the label being applied to some campaigns. Many Americans, for instance, back the IRA. Ironically.

The Palestinians, the IRA, Basque, Chechnyan, Tamil Tiger separatists and Iraqi insurgents all share the common feature of a desire for self-determination for their people. In Rwanda, the Hutus were attacking the dominant Tutsis. Al-Q'aeda have as one of their goals the removal of US bases from the soil of Saudi Arabia. The Acheh militants presumably want the same - although i have never seen a "news" item covering their aims.

Resentment may be present, but there is a cause for the resentment, namely domination by an identifiably different (yes, successful) set of people. Self determination is an important aspiration for all peoples, and if it is denied, the result is resentment and violence. Resentment is not the disease, Professor Scruton: it is an emotion caused by the perception of living in a non-free (non-free, Dubya - get that!?) subject status. Domination and oppression is the problem, and to correct it we need good governance.

The trouble with cats is that if you try to point something out to them, they come over and sniff your finger.

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