ISIS/IS/ISIL: revenge of the nerds

This one's a Saudi, but you get the picture
This one’s a Saudi, but you get the picture

If there are really 500 IS jihadis of British origin roaming around Iraq being supertough, then I think I’ve met some of the prototypes.

More than three years ago I did a post highlighting the problems women can face in the Islamic world ( nothing too original, beyond the still incredible fact that Jack Straw was correct for once in his political career). It included the lines:

The Muslim lads, mostly Pakistani, but not exclusively so, all tended to hang around together. Very few had girlfriends, and conversation – without the excuse of booze – would often revolve around women. The discussions would have rapidly turned Polly Toynbee and Germaine Greer to violence.

Women were routinely referred to as ‘slags’ and the like, with their main function being sexual.  Insight into female psychology was absent, and was often along the lines of  “she’s gagging for it” etc etc. The men very rarely had friendly chat with women, it just didn’t happen. When I asked a muslim friend why they all went on like this, he candidly explained that they were all expecting arranged marriages, dating was frowned upon, and because they were medics, they knew that they’d be offered physically attractive intelligent wives. They couldn’t be bothered getting to know the women as friends, and  it was all “a bit of fun”.

Porn was popular though. One of The Knife’s acquaintances worked in Quetta, Pakistan in a Red Cross hospital in the nineties. He routinely treated badly injured Taliban from Afghanistan civil conflicts. Many of them, young lads, who’d been closing down girls schools etc the week before, would head into the bazaar as soon as they could,  to catch up on hardcore porn. Once they had fully recovered, off they went on their religious mission.

That was true then, and I suspect it’s true now, though shaking off the shackles of a culture** which intentionally separates men and women is one of the ways forward in our multicultural society.

Similarly, I had a Libyan colleague who made disastrous attempts, in his mid thirties, to talk to women staff in a romantic way. One week he went off to Libya and secretly got married. It lasted a week (divorce being relatively easy in that society), and the bride’s family declared their intention to kill him for the dishonour. When he reappeared he became a wannabe jihadi, assuring me of Bin Laden’s greatness, and in a typically confused way, conceded that the victims of 9/11 were innocent, but still deserved to die “because they were Americans”. As is usually the case, he wanted to stay here, Libya wasn’t for him.

The hopelessly crap Glasgow Airport medical bombers were cut from the same cloth. So is this guy (worth reading as it pretty much backs up the above).

So, when you’ve been brought up in this stifling misogynistic way, when you’re a bit hormonal, when the groomers at the mosque begin to turn their attention to you, a possibly one way trip to Syria and Iraq is your ticket to being a man.

Holding a severed head is not too difficult – I’ve done it a few times myself – but sawing it off a struggling victim requires a previously unplumbed depth of amorality and a deliberate suppression of humanity that is what makes these idiots dangerous. They have little physical prowess, their martial feats are based on the fact that they have thus far encountered almost no resistance, and normal people in any society find the thought of being beheaded, stoned and crucified terrifying.

All this will change if the confused wimpiness of Obama and Dave begins to coalesce into something more than ASBO’s, as it will. No doubt there is a huge amount of intelligence, planning and so on going on right now, but it frequently seems that certain journalists are way ahead of politicians in this sphere. I quoted in full Brendan O’Neill’s magnificent overview  of the problem of Islamic terrorism last year, and that was before the rise of the current ISIS lot. O’Neill, and his colleague at Spiked, Frank Furedi, continue to provide a lot of sensible analysis on these issues.

In the meantime, no-one should think of these British jihadis as tough, fearless or principled.

They are the Islamic Inbetweeners gone wrong.


**One of the finest and funniest journalists ever, Mark Steyn, offers this complementary take



Bombing Syria: another nice mess

In the last post, I suggested a harsh reality, that many people in the West (and elsewhere) are happy to see two sets of Muslims with bad track records fighting it out to the death in Syria.

Just to reiterate, it’s not my personal view, but a reflection on how much of the world may feel, but can’t say, at least as bluntly as that. Just look at the clear majority against intervention in Syria by the US, the UK, Germany etc.

Here’s another way of expressing it, from the New York Times:

Israeli officials have consistently made the case that enforcing Mr. Obama’s narrow “red line” on Syria is essential to halting the nuclear ambitions of Israel’s archenemy, Iran. More quietly, Israelis have increasingly argued that the best outcome for Syria’s two-and-a-half-year-old civil war, at least for the moment, is no outcome.

For Jerusalem, the status quo, horrific as it may be from a humanitarian perspective, seems preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.

“This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.”

Of course, once you mention Israel, the usual mob of left antisemites starts howling, but the Two Scorpions theory holds good.

There’s nothing stopping Obama hosting a peace conference on neutral ground. He doesn’t seem interested in the humanitarian/peace stuff. Instead of getting his inspiration from Laurel and Hardy, perhaps he could read the Pope‘s Twitter feed.

In the absence of that though, let them fight it out.

Syria, Machiavelli and the unspoken problem

“Politics have no relation to morals.”

It’s nice to be nice, no doubt. You have to question, though, whether bombing people (Syria) could be construed as nice/helpful/strategically sound etc, even with the most elastic definitions. The military mostly think it won’t. Plenty of otherwise sound people such as Dan Hodges and Iain Martin in the press seem to think it would. Happily – from my perspective – Parliament disagreed.  With the added bonus that Parliament has regained some of its sway, lost under previous regimes, with a remarkable volte-face by Obama as a consequence.

Beyond this however, there is the quite extraordinary fact that in all three countries involved in the initial bombing plan – the UK, the US and France – the general public want nothing to do with Obama and Dave’s project. The figures are actually pretty staggering, considering the claims made by the pro-bombing factions about it being “the right thing to do”, “lots more children will die” (sadly true, whatever you do) and so on.  There’s not much humour in it, although there is a certain entertainment value in watching unpopular and cynical incompetents all fighting for the moral high ground of dropping bombs.

Beyond that however, I reckon there is a truth that the media have yet to ponder, as on the face of it, it reflects badly on all concerned. I think it’s factually correct, although I don’t think it’s particularly good or honourable:

Many citizens of western countries, possibly the majority, don’t actually mind if Muslims kill each other.  Some view it as a positive development.

When Patrick O’Flynn of the Express did a straw poll on Twitter as to whether it would be better to have Assad or ‘the rebels’ in charge in Syria, the immediate answers were 7:1 for Assad.

That may be reprehensible, but it fits into another narrative, that of the ultimate realist, Machiavelli, who is quoted at the top of this post. It is realpolitik in the raw.  As usual,  the wider historical context explains it more clearly. Rather than look at it through the prism of dead Syrians who happened to have been gassed rather than, say, cluster bombed, the citizens of the west see this on a background of Lockerbie, 9/11, 7/7, Lee Rigby, numerous beheadings.  All of that.  If they then conclude that “these people hate us anyway”, who can blame them?

The widest historical context is something almost never mentioned by Dave, Barack and the rest: this is the ultimate civil war, in which we have very little interest in many ways.Syria is complex.

To quote from Raedwald, in a biting and superb post:

The Islamic world is packed full of young men of prime fighting age who have no jobs, no land and no futures. Median age in Europe is well over 40; in the Islamic world it’s about 27. The Sunni – Shia civil wars have already started, and like the European battles of the 1600s the war will roll back and forth across the middle east, this year in Syria, next in Yemen, then the Gulf, then Lebanon again until even Turkey is engulfed in war and the battles reach Europe’s borders. Millions are going to die. Whether it’s better to be shot, blown up by a missile, gassed, decapitated by bread-knife or dismembered by rusty Panga I don’t know but that’s the fate of millions of Muslims in the coming years, until they reach an endogenous realisation that the nuances in dogma that separate the sects aren’t worth the life of a single Muslim. 
Already the refugees are seeking Europe’s peace and shelter. Der Spiegel leads with the German reaction against the Afghanis, Iraqis, Egyptians, Libyans, Malinese. And now no doubt the Syrians are already on their way. The defence and foreign policy issues that face this government are far far greater than either Cameron or Miliband give any hint of understanding.

To quote the Italian sage twice more:

“Men rise from one ambition to another: first, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others.”

Which might just fit with Blair’s own career, Obama’s daft “red lines” promise, and Dave’s failed attempt of the past week. However, Machiavelli also offers this word of caution:

“There are three kinds of intelligence: one kind understands things for itself, the other appreciates what others can understand, the third understands neither for itself nor through others. This first kind is excellent, the second good, and the third kind useless.”

The danger of power seems to be that even if you start with the first, when you enter politics, you often seem to end up with the last.

It seems so long ago...
It seems so long ago…