LONDON—Early Saturday morning, police authorities in the center of London defused two car bombs which had been found purely by happenstance. One of these was located outside a popular nightclub — Tiger Tiger, near Piccadilly Circle — in which 500 revelers were drinking the night away. Investigators are reviewing volumes of photographic and video evidence to identify the would-be bombers. A scary incident – but thus begins Gordon Brown’s tenure as Britain’s newest prime minister.
Brown, who last Wednesday ended a decade as Chancellor of the Exchequer, takes over for Tony Blair, one of modern Britain’s most successful prime ministers. Blair, who arrived at No. 10 Downing Street in May 1997, will now become special peace envoy to the Middle East. He leaves Britain – and its crucially important counter-terrorism efforts — to Brown.
Ever since Blair announced a few months ago that he would step down at the end of June, there has been intense speculation over the kind of leadership that Brown would provide – and, in particular, of the kind of approach he would take to the War on Terror. To his credit, Brown recently said, in the pages of The Independent, that it was not wrong to invade Iraq and that counter-terrorism efforts would continue.
Unfortunately, his recent naming of Jacqui Smith MP as home secretary doesn’t instill much confidence. In fact, it’s a shock. Smith may have a reputation for toughness, but she is a 44-year old former school teacher. Her public sector experience has been in health, education and women’s issues. What will she do with suspected terrorists? Organize workshops to build up their self-esteem?
I keep telling myself this must be an aberration. Brown is said to be a highly intelligent, thoughtful man. He’s expected to bring political sobriety and seriousness of purpose to a government formerly headed by Teflon Tony, one of the great “confidence-tricksters” of all time.
More than anything, Brown’s going to have to take the threat of domestic terrorism very seriously – especially after finding the two car bombs. If intelligence-gathering and domestic security aren’t made absolute top priorities by his government, Britons may end up seeing a Tory victory during the next general election – or, God forbid, another tragedy.
The center of London is the most photographed place on earth. Innumerable security cameras along the streets make up the city’s so-called “ring of steel.” But what about preventive measures to fight terrorism? What about tackling the social breakdown of Britain, already widely documented in the news dailies? As journalist and publisher Andrew Neil writes in the recent Spectator: “It’s the broken society, stupid.”
British society, writes Neil, is “increasingly fragmented, boorish … violent.” With shootings, rapes, muggings, and burglaries, Britain is “blighted by a feral youth,” writes Neil, “which is out of control and beyond the law.” It is an underclass that has been allowed to take root, grow and fester, Neil adds (inviting comparisons with France, Holland, and Denmark).
The link that Neil fails to make is the one between this social breakdown and the rise of homegrown terrorism. Many of these feral youths in Britain (and across Europe) are immigrant youths – or, rather, the children of immigrants — who have been shuffled off to live in Muslim ghettoes, have found very few employment opportunities (due to uncompetitive labor markets) and have been made to feel like victims by a bleating liberal media. More importantly, as a consequence of multicultural policies, they have little sense of what it means to be British (or Danish, Dutch ,or French, for that matter) and simply don’t feel like they belong to anything greater than their local neighborhood posse. Becoming part of the global jihad offers them a way to belong to something.
But social breakdown doesn’t just help breed terrorism; it also debilitates the polity, incapacitates Britons from defending themselves and contributes to the decline of the realm. “A general societal, moral and cultural collapse,” says Neil, “extends well into the comfortable middle classes and is reflected in manners, dress style, violent demeanor and foul and sloppy language.” He points out that 42% of British children are born out of wedlock, 45% of marriages end in divorce, 24% of kids are brought up by a single parent, 26% of children take drugs and the country itself has the highest teenage birth rate in Europe.
If this is the state of British society – rotten from within, promiscuous, ignorant and rootless, crude and base – then how can it even begin to hope to stand up to terrorists who have a very clear idea of who they are and what they believe in – and who are willing to die for their beliefs? On what principles or values does British society stand today? Does it even matter to anyone anymore?
Brown has given some indication that he does think it matters. “[I]t is Britishness,” he told The Independent, “British institutions and British values which have brought about our greatest achievements and which bind together our different regions and nations into one country.”
Well, that’s certainly sounds nice. The statement shows a modicum of understanding of the importance of social cohesion, cultural identity and the need for strong values. But whether Brown will actually do anything to bring about a renaissance of the British mind and a rebuilding of the moral fabric of society remains to be seen. Sadly, under Brown, I simply expect the “suicide of the West” to continue.
Alvino-Mario Fantini is Europe correspondent for Brainwash. He is currently an Erasmus Mundus scholar through the European Union.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Emma Elliott Freire