Friday, August 01, 2008

a shameful conquest of itself

[...] "This England that was wont to conquer others," wrote Shakespeare, "hath made a shameful conquest of itself." [...] The country's lack of self-confidence is in stark contrast to the implacability of its Islamist terrorist enemy, within and without. [...] Thus, we are in a confused and vulnerable condition. Some believe that we are already at war; but all may agree that generally a peace-time mentality prevails. In all three ways — our social fragmentation, the sense of premonition, and the divisions about what our stance should be — there are uneasy similarities with the years just before the First World War.

We are fortunate in not having the specific external state enemies who once posed threats to the British state and against whom we could therefore define ourselves. There has been no straight substitution of the Cold War threat with another threat of different source but similar type. But the range and nature of the threats to the security of British citizens in 2008 are not confined solely to what the Islamists call their "jihad" against the West.

A shifting complex of risks faces us. An adequate approach to Britain's security in the next few years must address questions that are intricate, delicate, and strange to our conventional way of thinking. The familiar categories of "home" and "abroad," which have long reassured the British in a deep part of their national identity, are breaking down. We know much less about what threatens us and how it does so than our official policies assert.

from Gwyn Prins and Robert Salisbury, "Risk, Threat and Security," quoted at Middle East Quarterly

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