August 15, 2006
Storm Signals Mean Political ChangeBy Christopher Chantrill
The good thing about 8/10 is that it was an inconvenience. When the terror plot was foiled in London on August 10, 2006 many flights were canceled. Tens of thousands stood in line to submit to new security procedures. People missed flights. Baggage got left behind.
But the show went on, and the great complex air transportation system that is the wonder of the age continued to transport people in their millions all over the world.
In the US the federal government responded to the emergency with escalation plans that had been prepared and rehearsed in advance. Its employees directed passenger traffic around the airports and the show went on. If you are an Islamic terrorist that is not a good thing to hear.
Five years ago, the bombers of 9/11 were able to rock the world back on its heels. They were able to stop the air transportation system and dig a hole in the US economy. That is not something that we can allow them to do again. Not now, and not in the future. The terrorists have the power to plot and to inconvenience, that we understand. Our job is to keep them marginalized as a sideshow—without the power to change the world.
If only the battle in the Middle East were going as well.
The UN—sponsored ceasefire means that the Hezbollah terrorists have achieved a strategic victory that will likely make the Party of God into the government of Lebanon. The three events of last week, the defeat of Joe Lieberman, the foiled terrorist plot to blow up airliners, and the failed war in Lebanon show that momentum is beginning to speed up.
On the one hand, we are getting better at preventing the 9/11 style plots, winning the tactical battle. But at a strategic level we are divided and ineffectual.
Winston Churchill titled the first volume of his history of the Second World War The Gathering Storm. It was a characteristically apt choice of words. When storm clouds gather, as they did in the 1930s, and as they did in the United States in the 1850s, people argue about the coming threat. Some people insist that the coming storm will be a monster; others that it is nothing at all. Others insist that it is all a trick to take away our freedoms.
You can tell when a gathering storm is fixing to become The Big One.
The frightening gusts of wind start to reorder the political landscape. In the United States of the 1850s the Whig Party was divided by the issue of slavery and collapsed to make way for the Republican Party. In Israel this year, the Labour and Likud Parties have been challenged by the new Kadima Party, with future change almost certain.
Now we may see a split in the Democratic Party. It is possible that the Democrats will split over the war on terror, as the Whig Party split over slavery 150 years ago. Perhaps that is too much to hope for. But the pro—nation—state Democrats are clearly on the way out, and may soon be forced to find a home in the Republican Party, like the neoconservatives in the 1970s and the Reagan Democrats in the 1980s.
In Israel the shock of the last month will likely change the face of its politics again. The appeasement of the last 12 years, dating from the Oslo Accords of 1993, is now in ruins. Israelis will need to develop a new national will based on the new facts on the ground and find new national leaders to implement it. Already the reservists returning from the front in Lebanon are reported to be outraged and signing petitions in their thousands.
Face to face with reality, people will usually make the right decision. The problem is that in Western Europe and the United States people are not yet face to face with the reality of terror and can still afford to indulge their illusions.
The lesson from the past is that only the the shock of events changes the minds of people. In the years before the Civil War it was the brutal attack on Senator Sumner of Massachusetts on the floor of the United States Senate in 1856 that seemed to symbolize for many the irredeemable truculence of the South.
Unfortunately we yet await the event that will convince the secular elites of the West that their future and their safety lie in championing the ideas and the institutions that raised the West to glory.
Perhaps they will return to reality when a political hurricane blows them into the political wilderness and whirls their multicultural house of cards into ruins.