Reading List

Universities largely no longer provide a solid grounding in the intellectual, philosophical or theological traditions or history of Western civilisation. Neither do they provide an honest portrayal of more modern history, viewed as it is through the distorted nightmare engendered by the ideological fun-house mirror of intersectionality. This reading list is a small way towards remedying that. Read what you want, as long as you get engaged with what is actually at the foundation of what Western culture is, rather than what the Alt-Right thinks forms the basis of “white Western culture”.

The Western Canon itself is vast, deep, complex and infinitely engaging. This is the main crime of the universities: they have reduced it to the smear of a load of “dead white males”, thus writing off with a snort of derision born of resentful ignorance the accumulation of thousands of years of thought that like it or not has made us who we are.

Some of the categories will overlap. Some books will be appropriate for more than one category. Yet, for ease of navigation, categorisation is necessary, however imperfect or restrictive it can be portrayed as being. I hope this list inspires rather than suppresses your interest. This list will mainly consist of secondary material, designed as an introduction that will enable you to view a world that made us through a window that presents the inheritance of the West with clarity and texture. Once you’ve read some of these books, you will hopefully feel fired to continue on to the texts that these works address and consider.

The rest of the books on the list will be on a variety of subjects that are of interest to today’s present and future world, which you can take or leave as you see fit.

Happy reading and learning.

 

Intellectual History

  • Larry Siedentop, Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, (2014)
  • Anthony Gottlieb –
    • The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance, (2001)
    • The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy, (2017)
  • Richard Tarnas, The Passion Of The Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View, (2010)
  • Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, (2012)
  • Nick Spencer, The Evolution of the West: How Christianity has shaped our values, (2016)
  • Anthony Kenny, A New History of Western Philosophy, (2012)
  • Melissa Lane, Greek and Roman Political Ideas, (2014)
  • Nigel Warburton, A Little History of Philosophy, (2012)
  • Yuval Levin, The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the birth of Right and Left, (2014)
  • Pierre Manent, An Intellectual History of Liberalism, (1996)
  • Norman Hampson, The Enlightenment: An evaluation of its assumptions, attitudes and values, (1990)
  • Roger Scruton –
    • Philosophy, (2016)
    • An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy, (1999)
    • Italo Calvino, Why Read the Classics, (2009)

 

Religion

  • The Bible
  • The Qur’an
  • David M Gwynn, Christianity in the Later Roman Empire: A Sourcebook, (2014)
  • Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150-750, (1989)
  • Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, (2010)
  • Henry Chadwick et al, The Penguin History of the Church, all vols., (1990)
  • Bernard Lewis –
    • Islam and the West, (1994)
    • What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, (2002)
    • The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, (2004)
  • Alec Ryrie, Protestants: The radicals who made the modern world, (2017)
  • Kenan Malik, From Fatwa to Jihad: How the world changed from the Satanic Verses to Charlies Hebdo (2017)
  • Mircea Eliade –
    • A History of Religious Ideas, Volume 1: From The Stone Age To The Eleusinian Mysteries, (1981)
    • A History of Religious Ideas, Volume 2: From Gautama Buddha to the Triumph of Christianity, (1985)
    • A History of Religious Ideas, Volume 3: From Muhammad To The Age Of Reforms, (1988)
  • Robin Lane Fox, Augustine: Conversions and Confessions, (2016)
  • C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (2016)
  • Rodney Stark –
    • Cities of God, (2007)
    • The Rise of Christianity, (1997)
  • Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Lonely Man of Faith, (2009)
  • Richard Elliott Friedman –
    • Who Wrote the Bible? (2013)
    • The Disappearance of God: A Divine Mystery, (2014)
  • Thomas Woods Jr., How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilisation, (2005)
  • David Cook, Understanding Jihad, (2015)
  • Tamim Ansary, Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes, (2009)
  • Simon Ross Valentine, Force and Fanaticism: Wahhabism – History, Belief and Practice, (2010)

 

The Future and Technology

  • Erik Brynjolfson and Adnrew McAfee, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, (2014)
  • Tyler Cowen –
    • The Great Stagnation, (2011)
    • Average is Over, (2013)
  • Nicholas Carr –
    • The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the way we Think, Read and Remember, (2010)
    • The Glass Cage: Who Needs Humans Anyway? (2015)
  • Evgeny Morozov –
    • The Net Delusion, (2011)
    • To Save Everything Click Here, (2013)
  • David Kirkpatrick, The Facebook Effect: The Real Inside Story of Mark Zuckerberg and the World’s Fastest Growing Company, (2012)
  • Robert Levine, Free Ride: How the Internet is Destroying the Culture Business and How it Can Fight Back, (2012)
  • Aleks Krotoski, Untangling the Web, (2013)
  • Clive Thompson, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, (2013)
  • Brigid Schulte, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has The Time, (2014)
  • Adrian Wooldridge & John Micklethwait, The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State, (2014)
  • Andrew Keen, The Internet is not the Answer, (2015)
  • Martin Ford, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, (2015)
  • Robert Colville, The Great Acceleration: How the World is Getting Faster, Faster, (2016)
  • John Palfrey & Urs Gasser, Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age, (2016)
  • Cathy O’Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, (2016)
  • Ryan Avent, The Wealth of Humans: Work and Its Absence in the Twenty-first Century, (2016)
  • Adam Alter, Irresistible: Why We Can’t Stop Checking, Scrolling, Clicking and Watching, (2017)
  • Jean M. Twenge, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us, (2017)
  • Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Everybody Lies: What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, (2017)
  • Franklin Foer, World Without Mind, (2017)

 

The Tragedy and Catastrophe of History

  • Barbara Tuchman –
    • A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, (2017)
    • The Guns of August, (2014)
    • The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World before the War, 1890-1914, (2014)
  • Margaret MacMillan, The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War, (2013)
  • Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, (2013)
  • Max Hastings, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War, (2013)
  • Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War 191 4-1918, (2012)
  • Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order 1916-1931, (2015)
  • William L. Shirer, The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich, (1991)
  • Richard J. Evans –
    • The Coming of the Third Reich: How the Nazis Destroyed Democracy and Seized Power in Germany, (2004)
    • The Third Reich in Power, 1933 – 1939: How the Nazis Won Over the Hearts and Minds of a Nation, (2006)
    • The Third Reich at War: How the Nazis Led Germany from Conquest to Disaster, (2009)
  • Ian Kershaw,
    • Hitler, (2010)
    • The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1944-1945, (2011)
    • To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949, (2015)
  • Andrew Roberts, The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War, (2010)
  • Antony Beevor, Stalingrad, (2007)
  • Patrick Cockburn, The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution, (2015)
  • David Kilcullen, Blood Year: Islamic State and the Failures of the War on Terror, (2015)
  • Jessica Stern & J. M. Berger, ISIS: The State of Terror, (2015)
  • Graeme Wood, The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State, (2016)
  • Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, (2017)
  • Primo Levi, If This Is A Man/The Truce, (2014)
  • Julia Boyd, Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People, (2017)
  • Orlando Figes, Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991, (2014)
  • Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men, (2013)
  • Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird, (2007)
  • Iris Chang, The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II, (2012)
  • John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War, (2007)
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn –
    • The Gulag Archipelago Volume 1: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, (2007)
    • The Gulag Archipelago Volume 2: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, (2007)
    • The Gulag Archipelago Volume 3: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, (2007)
  • Anne Applebaum –
    • Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps, (2012)
    • Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-56, (2013)
    • Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, (2017)
  • Stephen Kotkin, Stalin, Vol. I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, (2015)
  • Timothy Snyder –
    • Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, (2011)
    • Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, (2016)
    • On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, (2017)
  • David Cesarani, Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949, (2017)
  • Laurence Rees –
    • The Nazis: A Warning From History, (2006)
    • The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler, (2013)
    • The Holocaust: A New History, (2017)
    • Horror in the East: The Brutal Struggle in Asia and the Pacific in WWII, (2011)

 

Politics and Political Philosophy

  • Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, (2004)
  • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Utilitarianism and Other Essays, (2015)
  • Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, (2009)
  • Roger Scruton –
    • How to be a Conservative, (2014)
    • Conservatism, (2017)
    • Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left, (2015)
    • Green Philosophy: How to think seriously about the planet, (2013)
    • The Uses of Pessimism & the Danger of False Hope, (2012)
    • A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism, (2007)
    • The Meaning of Conservatism, (2001)
    • The West and the Rest: Globalisation and the Terrorist Threat, (2003)
  • George Orwell –
    • Essays, (2000)
    • Down and Out in Paris and London, (2001)
    • Homage to Catalonia, (2000)
    • The Road to Wigan Pier, (2001)
  • Owen Jones, The Establishment: And How They Got Away With It, (2014)
  • Danny Dorling, Inequality and the 1%, (2014)
  • Daniel Hannan, How We Invented Freedom and Why It Matters, (2013)
  • Ryszard Legutko, The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, (2016)
  • James Burnham –
    • Suicide of the West, (2014)
    • The Managerial Revolution, (1972)
  • Pascal Bruckner, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, (2010)
  • Whittaker Chambers, Witness, (2014)
  • Thomas C. Leonard, Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era, (2016)
  • Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, (2007)
  • Ed West, The Diversity Illusion: What We Got Wrong About Immigration & How to Set It Right, (2013)
  • David Goodhart –
    • The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post-war Immigration, (2013)
    • The Road to Somewhere: The New Tribes Shaping British Politics, (2017)
  • Nick Cohen, What’s Left? (2007)
  • Thomas Sowell –
    • Conquests and Cultures: An International History, (1999)
    • The Quest for Cosmic Justice, (2002)
    • Black Rednecks & White Liberals, (2009)
    • Dismantling America: and other controversial essays, (2010)
    • Economic Facts and Fallacies: Second Edition, (2011)
    • The Thomas Sowell Reader, (2011)
    • Intellectuals and Society, (2012)
    • “Trickle Down Theory” and “Tax Cuts for the Rich”, (2012)
    • Intellectuals and Race, (2013)
    • Basic Economics, (2014)
    • Wealth, Poverty and Politics, (2016)
  • Shelby Steele, Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country, (2015)
  • Mark Lilla –
    • The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics: Revised Edition, (2016)
    • The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics, (2017)
  • Jan-Werner Muller, What Is Populism? (2016)
  • James Bartholomew, The Welfare of Nations, (2015)
  • Edward Luce, The Retreat of Western Liberalism, (2017)
  • Bill Emmott, The Fate of the West: The Battle to Save the World’s Most Successful Political Idea, (2017)
  • Yuval Levin, The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism, (2017)

 

Free Speech and Political Correctness

  • Flemming Rose, The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on Free Speech, (2016)
  • Kirsten Powers, The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech, (2015)
  • Mick Hume, Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech? (2015)
  • Greg Lukianoff –
    • Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, (2012)
    • Freedom From Speech, (2014)
  • Claire Fox, ‘I Find That Offensive!’, (2016)
  • Frank Furedi, What’s Happened To The University?: A sociological exploration of its infantilisation, (2016)
  • Tom Slater et al., Unsafe Space: The Crisis of Free Speech on Campus, (2016)
  • Stephen R. C. Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault,

 

Europe, Immigration and Islam (not at all controversial or anything)

  • Mark Steyn, America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, (2006)
  • Bruce Bawer –
    • While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, (2006)
    • Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom, (2009)
  • Walter Laqueur –
    • The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent, (2006)
    • After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent, (2011)
  • Christopher Caldwell, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West, (2010)
  • Innes Bowen, Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam, (2014)
  • Douglas Murray, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, (2017)

 

Literature: How We Got Here and Where We Could Go

  • Fyodor Dostoevsky –
    • Crime and Punishment, (2014)
    • The Idiot, (2016)
    • Devils, (2008)
    • The Karamazov Brothers, (2014)
  • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, (2008)
  • George Orwell, 1984, (2004)
  • Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, (1999)
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 5, or The Children’s Crusade – A Duty-dance with Death, (1991)
  • Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa, The Leopard, (2007)
  • Joseph Roth, The Radetsky March, (2013)
  • Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities, (2017)
  • Stefan Zweig –
    • The World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European, (2011)
    • Beware of Pity, (2013)
    • Messages from a Lost World: Europe on the Brink, (2017)
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, (2012)
  • Voltaire, Candide, (2008)

 

 

 

 

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Trump’s UN Speech: Make Nation-States Great Again

Trump’s UN Speech: Make Nation-States Great Again

Donald Trump made his UN debut last week with a speech that it is fair to say will be remembered for a long time. To say that people didn’t know what to expect may perhaps not be completely accurate. Many surely expected the usual bluster and bombast, leavened with a dose of the usual Trumpian bon mots and hyperbole. As it turned out, there was more substance to the speech than many expected, whether they agreed with that substance or not. There was also the small matter of threatening to nuke North Korea back to the Stone Age.

Trump opened with mention of the hurricanes that had battered Texas and Florida, thanking those leaders who had aided America or offered to do so. This was the usual diplomatic play-nice language to lay the ground for the rest of the speech. This was followed by a celebration of the successes of the American people and economy since Trump’s election, with mention of the stock market performance, employment growth, companies moving back and another massive increase in military spending to the tune of $700 billion. At least in this regard, Trump is a perfectly conventional US president, as apparently the way to win wars is to buy one’s way to victory.

Trump also covered the positive steps forward in science, technology and medicine that are undoubtedly revolutionising everything about our lives around the world today, whether for good or ill it is hard to know. He then moved onto the obstacles in the way of this Whiggish path of history, describing the threats to the world that include terrorism, extremism and rogue regimes; authoritarian powers getting too uppity for their own good; international crime networks; drug, weapons and people trafficking; mass migration and new technology in the hands of anyone with the know-how and the wherewithal to use it for their own nefarious ends.

These obstacles could prevent the world from moving on to the sunlit-uplands that were possible, and Trump described how “We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realize their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear.” He then paid tribute to the noble founding ideal of the UN as an institution grounded in the ashes of the Second World War. So far, so establishment. However, things then became interesting.

While it is true that one could discern echoes of George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech in Trump’s speech, especially given his identification of Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and North Korea as threats that the world must face, this was no utopian neoconservative paean to the inherent longings for freedom that beat in every breast of men, women and children shackled by the forces of authoritarian rule in the world. Indeed, despite the similar rhetoric of the “righteous many” and “wicked few”, this speech arguably displayed what has been dubbed Trump’s “conservative internationalism” as laid out by Henry R. Nau in National Review.

By repeating President Truman’s message to Congress concerning the Marshall Plan and the UN, Trump was reinforcing the idea that isolationism is not the answer to the world’s problems, as that leaves issues that cannot be solved by any one nation on its own unresolved. However, neither should nations be side-lined or subsumed by massive, amorphous internationalist bureaucracies that leave the voices of the people in those sovereign nations mute before the Babel-like power of international institutions. In echoing Truman, Trump was emphasising that cooperation among sovereign nations was the right and proper way to move forward, as this was the only way to balance the needs of our world with the citizens of those nations and countries within that world. As he said, “Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.”

His reiteration of his core “America First” campaign promise should not have been a surprise then, both in terms of his own and his team’s views of foreign relations, and also in the context of his supporters back home. This more realistic approach to foreign and diplomatic relations was further demonstrated by his next words:

“We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution, and this is foundation for cooperation and success. Strong, sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect.
Strong, sovereign nations let their people take ownership of the future and control their own destiny. And strong, sovereign nations allow individuals to flourish in the fullness of the life intended by God.
In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch.”

This is a complete repudiation of the universal view of the world put forward most assertively by Bush, but also by Barak Obama. No longer would America seek to shove its values down the throats of other countries. This may be seen as a sign that Trump is uncaring for those living in more authoritarian regimes due to a natural affinity he holds for the leaders of those regimes, and maybe he is and does. But lest liberals themselves forget, there has long been a debate within the liberal tradition over whether liberalism, and liberal democracy, are really truly universal institutions and values, or whether they developed in a certain place, at a certain time in history due to a confluence of certain circumstances that allowed for their flourishing. It would therefore be arrogance to assume that these supposedly putatively held ideas obtain in every corner of the world. If nothing else, the last 16 years have arguably shown the liberal universalist assumption to be false.

This is in no way an excuse for those authoritarian regimes still present on the international stage, who undoubtedly immiserate millions of people. However, while a noble ideal, building a foreign policy on this liberal idealism has arguably been a disaster for both those in the countries liberated by America and America itself, and it is important to realise that abandoning the messianic aims of Bush’s time in office in regards to spreading liberal democracy around the world does not mean tacit support for every despot on the planet. If that were the case, then taken to its extreme, the only moral option would be for a global hegemonic empire that installed liberal democracy worldwide. Again, the last 16 years have shown what happens when this path is chosen.

These years are one reason among many why Trump was elected. He re-committed himself to his supporters by again emphasising their sovereignty as citizens of the United States, a sovereign nation. As such, when considering foreign affairs, Trump “will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.” He withdrew America from its role as the world’s policeman, the one whose role it is to engage in endless wars to pursue its idealised view of the world. As Trump stated, the American people, and many of his supporters, have borne the brunt of this role in the sons and daughters killed on far-flung fields across the world. This nod to the sacrifice of his core support base was another nod to the domestic situation in America today.
Another nail in the coffin of the ideological Bush years came with Trump’s statement that:

We want harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife. We are guided by outcomes, not ideology. We have a policy of principled realism, rooted in shared goals, interests, and values.
That realism forces us to confront a question facing every leader and nation in this room. It is a question we cannot escape or avoid. We will slide down the path of complacency, numb to the challenges, threats, and even wars that we face. Or do we have enough strength and pride to confront those dangers today, so that our citizens can enjoy peace and prosperity tomorrow?
If we desire to lift up our citizens, if we aspire to the approval of history, then we must fulfill our sovereign duties to the people we faithfully represent.

Trump then progressed to the need for international institutions to be accountable to these sovereign nations:

“We also thank the Secretary General for recognizing that the United Nations must reform if it is to be an effective partner in confronting threats to sovereignty, security, and prosperity. Too often the focus of this organization has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process.”

Trump also took the opportunity to criticise those who exploit the UN for their own ends:

“In some cases, states that seek to subvert this institution’s noble aims have hijacked the very systems that are supposed to advance them. For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.”

After spending a few more sentences on how the UN must reform and be made more accountable so that it could more easily attain its lofty ambition of preventing or mitigating conflict and disaster throughout the world, a situation which Trump described in dire terms, he then moved onto how America was invested in keeping the Western hemisphere safe. This explained his harsh stance towards Cuba and Venezuela. His point about Venezuela’s death spiral due to socialism was particularly well put:

“The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country. This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried. To make matters worse, Maduro has defied his own people, stealing power from their elected representatives to preserve his disastrous rule.”

And:

“The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.”

Following his criticism of a failed economic ideology, Trump fell back on another key theme of his campaign, that of systems of trade. He criticised what he called “mammoth multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals, and powerful global bureaucracies were the best way to promote their success.” Again, as with foreign policy, Trump emphasised the primacy of each nations’ people and those they elect:

“While America will pursue cooperation and commerce with other nations, we are renewing our commitment to the first duty of every government: the duty of our citizens. This bond is the source of America’s strength and that of every responsible nation represented here today. If this organization is to have any hope of successfully confronting the challenges before us, it will depend, as President Truman said some 70 years ago, on the “independent strength of its members.” If we are to embrace the opportunities of the future and overcome the present dangers together, there can be no substitute for strong, sovereign, and independent nations — nations that are rooted in their histories and invested in their destinies; nations that seek allies to befriend, not enemies to conquer; and most important of all, nations that are home to patriots, to men and women who are willing to sacrifice for their countries, their fellow citizens, and for all that is best in the human spirit.”

Again, Trump made the point that the United Nations is made up of sovereign nations, and that these sovereign nations are made up of people, of citizens, who are loyal to their fellow countrymen and not some far-off bureaucracy:

“In remembering the great victory that led to this body’s founding, we must never forget that those heroes who fought against evil also fought for the nations that they loved.
Patriotism led the Poles to die to save Poland, the French to fight for a free France, and the Brits to stand strong for Britain.
Today, if we do not invest ourselves, our hearts, and our minds in our nations, if we will not build strong families, safe communities, and healthy societies for ourselves, no one can do it for us.
We cannot wait for someone else, for faraway countries or far-off bureaucrats — we can’t do it. We must solve our problems, to build our prosperity, to secure our futures, or we will be vulnerable to decay, domination, and defeat.
The true question for the United Nations today, for people all over the world who hope for better lives for themselves and their children, is a basic one: Are we still patriots? Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and to take ownership of their futures? Do we revere them enough to defend their interests, preserve their cultures, and ensure a peaceful world for their citizens?”

To finish, and to really hammer home the primacy of the nation-state as the base building block of the United Nations, Trump closed by saying:

“Now we are calling for a great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people, and their patriotism.
History is asking us whether we are up to the task. Our answer will be a renewal of will, a rediscovery of resolve, and a rebirth of devotion. We need to defeat the enemies of humanity and unlock the potential of life itself.
Our hope is a word and world of proud, independent nations that embrace their duties, seek friendship, respect others, and make common cause in the greatest shared interest of all: a future of dignity and peace for the people of this wonderful Earth.
This is the true vision of the United Nations, the ancient wish of every people, and the deepest yearning that lives inside every sacred soul.”

This speech had something that would rub everyone up the wrong way. There were those like the Guardian who wailed about how dark it was, how nativist and fearful it was etc etc. Again, the authors of such pieces seem to believe that we live in a world that longs to accord with their ideals; it doesn’t. Trump is not celebrating that, he is recognising that. Meanwhile, the speech also annoyed some of Trump’s more fringe sympathisers, who claimed that it was a capitulation to internationalism and endless war, focusing on the parts where he talked about defeating groups like ISIS and at least trying to deal with the situation in Afghanistan and Syria based on “security interests [that] will dictate the length and scope of military operations, not arbitrary benchmarks and timetables set up by politicians.”

In other words, both sides had found bits they didn’t like, held those up as indicative of the whole and obfuscated those parts which they might have gone some way in agreeing with.

The most controversial part of the speech, however, was Trump’s verbal bombardment of Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean regime. He rightly castigated the regime for its brutalisation of its own population in what has amounted to a state-sized concentration camp. Trump then delivered the words that drew gasps of shock from the assembled heads of state:

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

To many, this seems crazy, provocative and downright dangerous. According to Scott Adams’s explanation of Trump’s method of persuasion, this is all part of Trump’s genius at persuasion in action. By emphasising that “Rocket Man” is on a suicide regime (a personal touch advised against by Trump’s aides), Adams would probably argue that Trump is banking on the belief of the rationality of Kim Jong-Un and his regime, and the knowledge they have that if they were to make moves towards striking anything connected to America then they would see everything destroyed. This potential for walking the threat threshold back based on Kim Jong-Un’s own self-interest is arguably demonstrated by the emphasis placed on the USA’s strength and patience.

However, while Adams’s explanations were undoubtedly illuminating for the election, they fall short here, and with the news of Iran’s test firing of a ballistic missile capable of reaching anywhere in the Middle East, Trump’s persuasive skills now seem to be edging these leaders towards escalation rather than a less catastrophic outcome. It’s been said before, but bears repeating; what worked on the campaign trail is not always suited to the world stage and we are seeing that here.

While Trump’s speech displayed a welcome return to a more realistic approach to foreign, military and economic policy than we have seen for a decade or more, he was still unable to let go of his tendency to label an oppositional force in the current arena of conflict with an insulting nickname designed to put them out of action. That worked in the presidential race, but on the world stage, when dealing with dictators rapidly gaining nuclear capability, it is perhaps unwise to engage in this sort of conduct, particularly when the stakes are so high.

Here we can see the conservative internationalism evident in the Trump administration at war with the personal proclivity of the President’s more unfiltered tendencies. We must hope that some semblance of conservative prudence asserts itself if we are to avoid travelling further down the road of escalation.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Putting terrorist threats in perspective: Numbers and Charts

The far-right group National Action was banned at the end of 2016, after the murder of Jo Cox MP in June by a far-right terrorist. They were your classic neo-Nazis: hatred of Jews, hatred of non-whites, hatred of homosexuals. They paraded around towns in black clothes, (sound similar to a certain US street politics movement?) scarves covering their lower faces, bearing banners that praised Hitler. So, not fine people.

Then came news that a cell of National Action members, all in their early 20’s and 30’s, had been arrested under Britain’s terrorism act. They had been arrested on suspicion of the ‘commission, preparation and instigation of acts of terrorism’. What was more disturbing was the fact that they were all enlisted n the Royal Anglian regiment of the British Army. No one knows if they’re part of a larger network operating under the radar in the UK’s military. Nevertheless, the idea that these men, who believe in the words and deed of Adolf Hitler, were fighting for Queen and Country is unsettling, to say the least.

While bearing in mind the reality that the numbers of far-right extremists who are entered into the government’s Prevent counter-radicalisation programme has recently seen a rise of 30% to over 500 cases, up from a quarter in 2015, it is important to also bear in mind that the numbers of Islamists still far-outweigh those of the far-right.

There are 35,000 Islamist extremists in the UK; 17,393 in France; 24,400 in Germany; 5,000 in Spain; 18,884 in Belgium. That adds up to around 100, 677 Islamist extremists in Western Europe. This is a huge number of people who to a greater or lesser extent believe in a utopian doctrine that inspires them to see their vision of a worldwide Caliphate fall over the earth through separatist and sectarian activism and terrorist action. We have seen the results of this in the carnage over the last two and a half years.

As of United States, the data is far clearer.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Kulturkampf’s inevitable endgame: Berkeley Erupts in Violence

Kulturkampf’s inevitable endgame: Berkeley Erupts in Violence

While Houston and large parts of Texas are under water, there was another rally in Berkeley. The rally was billed as a “No Marxism” rally, mainly attended by Trump supporters despite the official cancellation following the horror at Charlottesville. There were meant to be police there to keep the peace. You can guess what happened. That’s correct, the police disappeared, and so did the peace. Once again, street conflict stemming from political polarisation and identity politics reared its ugly, violent head.

Once again, those wishing to practice their First Amendment Rights in a non-violent manner were prevented from doing so by a black-bloc mob of Antifa thugs. They are almost the exact mirror image of the alt-right thugs we witnessed turn Charlottesville into a vehicular war zone. The only difference between the two groups is that Antifa hasn’t killed anyone yet. Having seen how far they’ve gone in the last couple of months, it won’t be long before they do.

As usual, the apologists for the black-clad anti-fascist fascists called them counter-protestors. They are apparently engaged in noble work holding back the ravening hordes of neo-Nazis unleashed by Donald Trump’s election, rather than being the main cause of America’s further descent into violence, and responsible for feeding the hatred and violence that lurks just beneath the surface of the extreme alt-right.

The Guardian made the counter-protestors out to be peace loving, love-conquers-all happy liberals. And it is true, there were many non-violent protesters there. Still, they were specifically there to prevent others exercising their constitutional rights. The polarisation displayed by these protests is now so bad that it is almost laughable to picture each side regarding the other as fellow citizens of a democratic republic.

The Guardian and other more left-wing news outlets, of course, whitewashed the Antifa violence. There were gangs of Antifa roaming the streets of Berkeley, beating any Trump supporters to hand or that they could reach with their pipes and sticks. One man was chased down by a pack of Antifa and surrounded, while another was beaten to the ground and then set upon far maybe being alt-right with sticks. Meanwhile, a father and son were chased by Antifa members and set upon, narrowly escaping an ugly fate.

A journalist in a red shirt was also attacked as Antifa members attempted to take his phone and his camera, an incident recorded by Lizzie Johnson of the San Francisco Chronicle. She also recorded hundreds of Antifa members marching in formation through the park chanting “Our Park”, and stated that the police were stood down, retreating to” the station and the northern streets at Civic Center Park,” which was not meant to happen.

We have seen this before. The police have stood down before in Berkeley, upon orders from the mayor. Back in June, the pro-Trump free speech rally attendees fought back against Antifa in what is now colloquially known as the “Battle of Berkeley”. There were alt-right members mixed in but they were not the majority. Charlottesville was the only other time we have seen the (far) right-wing go on the offensive, and this time it was in a deliberate manner, and we all saw the consequences.

At the moment, the Left rules the online space, with many centrist and right-wing social media users being cut-off for incorrect opinions. Antifa, meanwhile, rules the streets in places like Berkeley when these events happen. They have undermined the state’s monopoly on the use of force, the foundation in Weber’s view of the state’s legitimacy. What is alarming is that things can only get worse from here if action is not taken soon.

President Trump must clamp down on this mass unrest that is sweeping the nation. Antifa is a law unto themselves and is rapidly resembling a growing Marxist insurgency in America. On the other side, the response from the far-right has so far not been as large as it might be. The offensive at Berkeley in June was haphazard and an instance of good fortune for the pro-Trump side, who despite their numbers were still ridiculously out-manned by the Antifa protesters. In Charlottesville, the far-right were the majority of the right-wing protesters and came prepared for a fight. As such, they came out on top. However, there were only several hundred; again, not a large number especially in comparison with the huge pools of manpower that Antifa can draw on.

The likelihood is though that this situation will not last long. If Antifa is allowed to continue to run riot as they have been, more and more people will either be pushed, grudgingly or willingly position themselves alongside the far-right in response to Antifa’s violence. If and when this happens, and if guns are brought into the equation in substantial numbers, things really will start to resemble Weimar Germany extremely quickly.

As a result of this escalation in tribal street violence, many people will grow warmer to the idea of a more authoritarian use of state power to restore law and order. Should this come to pass, all those liberals who have been fretting about Trump’s authoritarian tendencies will see how far he will go in his use of the police, national guard and state troopers to restore the rule of law. The irony is that they will have helped usher this situation in by their failure to explicitly call out the violence of Antifa whenever it is in evidence, making excuses for it as just part of the “#Resistance”.

To avoid letting the situation slide even further into a war of all against all, all the time, Trump must act now, and enforce the rule of law before it is too late. He must ensure that the police presence is substantial enough to contain and suppress the violence, as happened at the G20 summit in Germany. This is the only solution. His detractors may argue that if he left office, the violence would cease. They are deluded. First Antifa hates all government, given their anarchist nature. Second, that solution will be a victory for Antifa, and for mob rule more generally. That would set an extremely dangerous precedent.

Again, it must be emphasised that the centrifugal forces of tribal political and identitarian violence that are currently tearing American civil society apart is already becoming far too dangerous and widespread for a democratic republic to function properly. We have already seen a far-left terrorist shoot up a Republican baseball game, Antifa rampage through towns and cities with bats, sticks and pipes, the far-right do the same and use a car as a weapon.

The next escalation will be to the use of firearms, in the vein of the Oathkeepers on the right, and Redneck Revolt on the Left. Once that happens, America really will be in a state of war, and the consequences could be dire.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Antifa and Alt-Right: bellum omnium contra omnes – Part 2

We all saw the descent into violence at Charlottesville, with the far-Left protestors and Antifa met with deliberate force from the white identity politics of the alt-Right for the first time. It turned fatal for an anti-racism campaigner attending the counter-protest, and trends suggest that this escalation will continue.

One thing that was noticeable about the alt-Right march and the examples we’ve seen of who makes up the alt-Right was that it was majority young, angry, disillusioned, white men. Sure, there were some older white supremacists and KKK members, but they’re a shrinking component of the far-Right. The white nationalist alt-Right with its younger demographics is now in the ascendant. This is a new wave of white identity politics, that now sees/identifies white college age males as its spear-tip. Many of those who marched the night before the protest that ended in tragedy appeared to be college age. This points to a troubling trend among those in the late-teen/early 20’s age bracket.

As George Hawley states, many of the alt-right are not only college age, but are in some ways even more right-wing and radical than their Boomer and older Gen-X parents, and far more so than the older millennials. Indeed, one pollshowed that white high school students would have voted for Trump by 48%, Hillary by 11%, and that overall Trump would have won 34% of the vote, Hillary 20%. Democrats, if this is your future, you’re virtually dead.

Far from being less racist and castigating their parents for failing to curtail their racist attitudes, increasing numbers of young whites are now castigating their parents for not being racist enough. Indeed, it appears that many are being radicalised while in college, so the old fall back of education as the salve to society’s ills seems, in this case, to somewhat exacerbate rather than mitigate the problem.

This is particularly true in light of the fact that the main cause of this increasing radicalization and raising of racial awareness among some young white men seemingly stems from efforts to inoculate the next generation of leaders against this very thing. Diversity seminars that preach about white privilege may reduce prejudices among most young whites made to sit through them, but they also unsurprisingly have the opposite effect on other young white people, and in fact are likely to increase awareness of the difference between people rather than reduce them. My goodness, I could never have predicted that being constantly reminded of our immutable differences in racial terms with an explicit message of white guilt might have had an adverse effect, feeding into the already toxic atmosphere in the wider culture stemming from racialised identity politics. I mean, who’d have thought?

It is this combination of identity politics and a seemingly bottomless narrative about how generally awful men are that has helped birth the situation we’re now in. The fact is that you can have identity politics for all or for none at all. You cannot have it for most people and exclude one group – straight white men – because of their lack of skin pigmentation, all the while slamming that same group for causing all the ills in history and telling them to shut up and die in a corner, as these few examples, here, here, here, here and here, demonstrate.

I think identity politics is poisonous to the body politic and civil society more generally. I think splitting us all into our own groups, based upon immutable characteristics of skin colour, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability or disability etc, and then ranking those groups by victimhood privilege and oppressor guilt, and smearing anyone who disagrees with this pyramid of oppression as racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic bigots, all the while breaking down the all important dividing line between speech and action, by calling speech you don’t like violence, is incredibly dangerous. It is a recipe for a war of all against all, all the time.

In light of the proliferation and perpetuation of identity politics, as it spreads its malign influence out from the university campus into the real world and shades an increasingly polarised and violent political space, it is only to be expected that young white men will demand their own form of identity politics, and that they will do so with considerable anger borne of resentment at the way they view society as generally hateful of them. If we continue along this path, Charlottesville will be only the opening stage in a very bloody chapter, and we will rue the day that we allowed this monster of our own creation to run out of control.

During this rapidly descending state of affairs, it might be wise to heed the warning implicit in Raskolnikov’s dream in Crime and Punishment about the triumph of subjective values over truth, of nihilism over meaning. Anyone who is alarmed by today’s identity riven politics of resentment and chaos will see this passage’s prophetic nature.

“He had dreamt in his illness that the whole world was condemned to fall victim to a terrible, unknown pestilence what was moving on Europe out of the depths of Asia. All were destined to perish, except a chosen few, a very few. There had appeared a new strain of trichinae, microscopic creatures parasitic in men’s bodies. But these creatures were endowed with intelligence and will. People who were infected immediately became like men possessed and out of their minds. But never, never, had any men thought themselves so wise and so unshakable in the truth as those who were attacked. Never had they considered their judgement, their scientific deductions, or their moral convictions and creeds more infallible. Whole communities, whole cities and nations, were infected and went mad. All were full of anxiety, and none could understand any other; each thought he was the sole repository of truth and was tormented when he looked at the others, beat his beast, wrung his hands, and wept. They did not know how or whom to judge and could not agree what was evil and what was good. They did not know whom to condemn and whom to acquit. Men killed one another in senseless rage, They banded together against one another in great armies, but when the armies were already on the march they began to fight among themselves, the armies disintegrated, the soldiers fell on their neighbours, they thrust and cut, they killed and ate one another. In the towns, the tocsin sounded all day long, and called out all the people, but who had summoned them and why nobody knew, and everybody was filled with alarm. The most ordinary callings were abandoned, because every man put forward his own ideas, his own improvements, and there was no agreement; the labourers forsook the land. In places men congregated in groups, agreed together on some action, swore not to disband–and immediately began to do something quite different from what they themselves had proposed, accused one another, fought and killed each other. Conflagrations were started, famine set in. All things and all men were perishing. The plague grew and spread wider and wider. In the whole worldonly a few could save themselves, a chosen handful of the pure, who weredestined to found a new race of men and a new life, to renew and cleanse the earth; but nobody had ever seen them anywhere, nobody had head their voices or their words.”

What do we do to avoid or mitigate as far as possible the effects of identity politics? A good start would be treating each other as individuals. I know in making that statement that I’m probably showing my own privilege, but as soon as the group becomes more important than the individual, then you’re already on the road to a murderous future.

We cannot allow that to happen.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

Antifa and Alt-Right: bellum omnium contra omnes

There was another free speech rally in Boston on Saturday, August 20, 2017. This followed the horrific events Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, when a car rammed into counter-protestors at an alt-Right, UniteTheRight rally that descended into a riot with the white nationalists and neo-Nazis on the offensive. The car ramming killed one and injured many others.

So, the rally at Boston was always going to go ahead under a cloud of opprobrium. The media portrayed it as being majority neo-Nazi/white nationalist in character when this was not the case. They made much of the fact, both in American and British news media, that the rally saw thousands of peaceful protesters against a few hundred far-right extremists. Except it wasn’t. One of the main speakers is black. I don’t know if you’re over-familiar with the finer points of white-nationalism and neo-Nazism, but they don’t tend to like black people very much. Also, as John Podhoretz said, given the disparity in crowd size, it doesn’t exactly reinforce the idea that America’s about to be overrun by Nazis.

Nor did it stay peaceful. Antifa and the violent hard left once again started violence that saw police have rocks and urine thrown at them, something which Jim Acosta of CNN among others seemed to ignore when they said all was quiet and that Trump was showing his incipient fascism yet again for praising the cool professionalism of Boston PD as missiles rained down on them, a reality that was tweeted out by the department’s official Twitter feed.

It was not only the police that were assaulted and attacked. Rally-goers were also beaten, abused, and assaulted by Antifa and the hard-left protestors. This included a woman who had her American flag torn from her hands and was instead dragged along by the thug who had hold of it. She later collapsed with emotion, as seen on Fox News, which Antifa celebrated. There was also a liberal to who was decked by a hard-Leftist for having the wrong opinion.

Antifa Boston’s Twitter page was rife with vile tweets about how free speech was suppressed and is deadcentrists and conservatives should leave Boston, talking about how the Nazis were overwhelmed, how Democrats are stupid for supporting them (hint: Democrats, these people will bite your structural and party throat out, stop covering for them when they do this) and how the normative #Resistance should grow a spine, calling veterans defending free speech today’s Nazis, various anti-cop tweets, and finally adding a dash of anti-Semitism into the mix for good measure because as we all know, Jews are responsible for the oppressive patriarchial structure of Western civilisation and are really just Nazis perpetuating apartheid and genocide against the Palestinians. Funny, these sentiments remind me of something… can’t think what it is though.

None of this is new. Joey Salads, disguised as an Antifa member at one of the Berkeley free speech rallies, witnessed Antifa black bloc members beat an older male unarmed Trump senseless for supporting Trump. He hadn’t done anything beyond supporting the wrong candidate, and by that supreme act of proclaiming his membership of a free democracy, he was thus a fascist, and fair game for righteous retribution. Salads also witnessed Antifa burning an American flag and agreeing to throw it at Trump supporters, a Trump supporter who attempted to call for peace but failed. Antifa also threw rocks, and one member described her assault on a Trump supporter and her intent to repeat her actions.

Before that, the major eruptions were at Donald Trump’s inauguration, where Antifa proceeded through DC smashing Starbucks windows, ATM’s, set bins and cars on fire, threw missiles at onlookers and punched the alt-right leader Richard Spencer in the face because he happened to be standing on a street corner talking to reporters. Following this, there was the eruption at UC Berkeley where Milo Yiannopoulos’s final talk on his Dangerous Faggot Tour was prevented because of Antifa violence. There have been other upsurges of Antifa violence throughout the USA and Europe since January, emboldened by Trump’s victory and the Democrat along with left-wing media’s covering for them. The violence escalated until April when the second free speech event at Berkeley saw a different outcome to the violence-filled filled free speech rally, with the Trump supporters in the free speech rally crowd retaliating against the Antifa violence and chase them virtually out of town.

Then, last weekend we had the Far-Right rally in Charlottesville, and the white nationalists and neo-Nazis came prepared for real violence. This had been growing increasingly evident for months, with the Berkeley rallies being guarded by men in increasingly heavy body-armour, with the final rally being guarded by the Oathkeeper militia, who also showed up at the Charlottesville rally. As we know, what happened wasn’t pretty, and had a horrific and tragic ending. As a result of this and Trump’s frankly pathetic bungling of his response and the laxity of his condemnation of the white nationalists, the media and many in the commentariat rightly lambasted him for his “many fine people on both sides” comment, and what they called his equivocation on the “violence on all sides” at the Charlottesville rally. The fact that the violence leading up to this rally has been coming mainly from the hard-Left and Antifa as well as from some on the Right doesn’t seem to register, and if it is raised, that is taken as a sign that you’re also guilty of equivocation, and that by condemning violence on all sides you’re de facto implicitly condoning violence on the Nazi side.

As Ben Shapiro often says, this is asinine. And it is counterfactual, narrative-cleaving, blinkered, self-serving, cowardly BS.

I’ve been writing about the consequences of the increasing levels of this damn polarisation for months. Anyone who adheres to any degree of truth or objectivity could have seen this damn violence coming over the horizon. When one side starts beating the other side, it only worsens from there. It’s pure and simple conflict escalation, combined with the poison of the soul that is identity politics, the key to unlocking the gates to the depths of resentment, bitterness, envy, spite and jealousy that resides in every human heart no matter who you are. What did people think would happen after pursuing this brand of identity politics on both sides that got us here? What did people think would happen after labelling everyone on the right as ‘alt-right’ and ‘neo-Nazis’, because they disagreed with them on their voting habits and beliefs, making a negative moral judgement about that person’s honesty of character and goodness of heart based on that?

What did people think would happen after conflating word and deed, labelling speech you disagree with as “hate speech” and violence? It’s simple: physical violence became justified. As a result, Antifa violence was justified resistance to fighting impending fascism. Except, the fascists were normal conservatives and normal Trump supporters. And after months of violence against “violent fascist hate speech”, we have seen the outcome. The real far-Right fascists came out last weekend. And they weren’t messing around. Having seen what happened before, they came prepared to start a fight and finish it on their terms. They escalated the violence, and people died from a far-Right white nationalist imitating ISIS vehicular warfare tactics.

And now? Now, Antifa at Boston have further perpetuated the descending cycle into tribal violence. God knows what’ll happen next, but one thing is for sure, and that is that it will become even worse, and will continue to descend further into absolute chaos. This is what ultimately happens when dialogue breaks down, when we descend into tribalism based on immutable group characteristics and the boundary between speech and action is broken; when speech becomes violence, physical violence soon follows.

And then what? War. Between everyone, all the time. This is the imminent hell that the ideologues of identity politics at both political extremes have created. And we are watching it unfold before our eyes.

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars

 

Add Barcelona to the ever growing list of Euro cities facing insurgency

Add Barcelona to the ever growing list of Euro cities facing insurgency

The tide of ISIS’s terrorism in Europe broke on January 7, 2015 at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket. That attack heralded the start of waves of ISIS directed or inspired attacks that have washed over Europe in the years since. On Thursday, August 17, 2017, terror came to Barcelona. We’ve seen this before. A van rammed into crowds on the busiest street in the city, Las Ramblas at 5 pm. It drove through the crowds, apparently swerving and weaving for maximum impact. The driver of the van is responsible for the deaths of 14 people, and of wounding over 100, 14 of whom are in a critical condition. The driver fled the scene on foot and is, at the time of writing, still at large.

Five suspects were then shot dead in Cambrils, a coastal town 75 miles from Barcelona. The working assumption is that they’re part of the same network as the driver. Meanwhile, early on Thursday morning, there was an explosion at a house in Alcanar Platja, where another member of the network blew himself up with his own bomb.

Islamic State has claimed the attack, saying “Terror is filling the crusaders’ hearts in the Land of Andalusia.” Whether they’re really responsible for this, whether they had some sort of control or role as a guiding hand is not yet known. Time will tell, but the effect is the same even if the attackers were only inspired; another vehicular missile driven by a jihadist mowing down innocent bystanders, guilty of heresy in the eyes of those who murdered them.

We can expect many more of these. Britain has 23,000 suspected jihadists. Belgium has 18,884. France has between 1517,000. Germany has 24,400. Spain has 1000. This totals around 82-84,677 potential jihadists in 5 European countries. While we must not give in to fear-mongering and the temptation to paint with too broad a brush when describing diverse communities, we cannot pretend that these numbers represent anything other than a jihadist insurgency in the heart of Europe. This has destroyed the state’s monopoly over the use of military force, which as Max Weber argued, is the crucial element that gives the state legitimacy.

These vehicle attacks are now a trend in Europe that have become worryingly frequent. Instead of the tragedy of the commons, we now have the tragedy of the common place. ISIS is not the first to call for trucks and other forms of vehicular terrorism; Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular, in their magazine Inspire, gave detailed instructions on how to carry out a vehicular attack. Dabiq, ISIS’s now defunct English language magazine, also gave instructions on vehicular terrorism. Advice included attaching spikes or shards of glass to the front of trucks that were of a certain height and weight in order that they would have maximum physical and psychological impact. From 2010 to 2014, there were attempted car and truck attacks that were either small scale or foiled in the attempt. Nice 2016 saw the first mass casualty attack with over 80 dead. There was then the Berlin Christmas market attack in 2016, and then there have been 6 Islamist attacks using vehicles and one far-right attack so far this year in Europe.

In these attacks over the last two years, we can see the legacy of two strategists that have had huge influence over ISIS’s use of terrorism in Europe. Abu Bakr Naji argued in The Management of Savagery that even though al-Qaeda was militarily weaker than America and the West, it should promote disproportionate fear by utilising particularly brutal and gruesome terrorist and asymmetric warfare tactics. Naji believed Western societies lacked the strength and the resolve to endure the long war. Instead, he argued that jihadists should continually escalate the depravity and savagery of their actions, destroying Western powers’ will to resist. This would allow them to re-establish control over territory, creating safe havens and bases for future terror attacks, by forcing the withdrawal of Western powers from the Middle East because the cost was too high. We can see his legacy in the regions that faced ISIS’s barbaric campaigns of terror and brutality in the Middle East, and in the actions of terrorists in Europe like those in Paris at the Bataclan, who tortured their hostages and executed wheelchair bound concert attendees.

The other strategist who has had a significant impact on ISIS’s terrorism in Europe is Abu Musab al-Suri. He argued that the American response to 9/11 was overwhelming, had been severely underestimated, and that Al-Qaeda would never be able to regain the freedom that the Taliban had provided. He felt vindicated by the response to 9/11, a response he had always feared. The global jihadist movement had to embrace this new reality, and adapt their terror tactics accordingly. Al-Suri had began advocating a more decentralised approach in the early 90s. He argued that formal hierarchies and structured organisation did not suit the jihadist cause. He was advocating this in the context of militant groups being rounded up in Egypt, Libya and Algeria, as a result of their members congregating in large hierarchical organisations.

The most important influence on al-Suri was Hafez al-Assad’s brutal repression to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s uprising in the 1970’s and 80’s, which impressed upon him the need for smaller decentralised cells which could wage a form of low-intensity asymmetric insurgency warfare, chewing away at the resolve and the will to resist of the local populations. After 9/11, al-Suri’s thoughts came together into a coherent theory, articulated in his 2004 book The Global Islamic Resistance Call. As al-Suri wrote, “The jihad of individual or cell terrorism, using the methods of urban or rural guerrilla warfare, is fundamental for exhausting the enemy and causing him to collapse and withdraw.” He found the justification for these indiscriminate attacks on civilians in the Quranic verse 8:60, which states that “And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them.” He used this verse in his interpretation to argue that “terrorism is a religious duty, and assassination is a Prophetic tradition”.

This is the “army of one” doctrine. The idea is as simple as it is fiendishly clever and horrifyingly effective. Individuals are empowered to carry out deadly and destructive attacks without an overriding command-and-control hierarchy, giving rise to what Marc Sageman dubs “leaderless networks.” Having no overarching hierarchy makes this form of terrorism much more difficult to counteract and prevent. The reality is this: the origins of Europe’s current Islamist terrorist threat were born in Afghanistan’s mountains more than ten years ago. ISIS, with its utopian, apocalyptic message and ideology that is based on an extreme medievalist interpretation of Islam, is drawing on a rich tradition of jihadi strategy and using it to brutal effect.

In the wake of another terror attack, will we now wake up to the threat and its origins? Or will we allow these attacks to continue, and allow the publics of Europe to continue to bleed and die in the streets?

Re-posted from Bombs and Dollars