Muscular centrism is needed after Manchester

By Atul Hatwal

Manchester isn’t the first and is unlikely to be the last. As the shock slowly subsides, action is needed, but not of the kind yapped out in the hot takes of some on the left and right.

On the left, there are too many whose efforts to explain, blur into a case to excuse.

Talk of the iniquities of the Prevent strategy, marginalisation of Muslim communities and British foreign policy, is irrelevant.

Just as it is irrelevant to talk about poverty or cultural anxiety when explaining the radicalisation of Thomas Mair, the man who killed Jo Cox last year.

There is no explanatory leap that connects life in Britain today to ideologies such as Islamism or Nazism.

Inflicting terror on innocents is always an unacceptable means to an end, but sometimes it is used in the service of a cause which can be understood, if not agreed with.

The IRA, PLO, ETA and Irgun would all fall into this broad category. The presence of justice in the cause is an essential prerequisite for a route to eventual peace  – it is the underpinning for a rational discourse between opponents.

But Islamism, like Nazism, advocates slaughter of the impure as an intrinsic part of the cause.

There can be no understanding or engagement with this.

No wittering about context is required. We don’t need a sociology debate. This is a matter of winning or losing.

A more forceful approach from security services is needed to track and apprehend extremists from these death cults, within the communities and social circles that coddle them.

On the right, there are too many who want to use tragedies like Manchester to remake Britain in their idealised image: more closed to the world, less diverse, whiter and with fewer civil liberties.

For this group, their tool is hysteria. Media reports that scream about the unprecedented nature of what’s happening, pray in aid of their cause.

The hyperbole ramps up fear and the pressure for something, anything to be done.

But the reality is that the destructive capacity of Islamist terrorists, as dangerous as they are, pales in comparison with the threat to mainland Britain posed by the IRA in the 1970s and 1980s.

Between 1974 and 1975, the IRA’s Active Service Unit in London – known to history as the Balcombe Street gang – killed, most weeks. Grenades, bombs, machine guns, these were commonplace on the streets of London.

Forty attacks in just over a year, thirty-five dead. It’s not just the numbers but the constant sense of threat and knowledge, week after week, that another attack was imminent. This is the stuff of which terror is made.

Restaurants and hotels routinely had sandbags in front of their windows in case of machine gun or grenade attack.

Imagine if that was daily life today with an Islamist gang responsible and a safe haven in another country, for the perpetrators, just 80 miles off the coast of Britain.

Imagine if Islamist terrorists successfully detonated a car bomb in the House of Commons killing an MP or nearly assassinated the entire British government as the IRA did.

There is something intrinsically terrifying about the idea of a suicide bomber, someone so committed to causing harm that their own life is irrelevant. But the more structured and disciplined approach of the IRA, shorn of the inherently unstable fanaticism we see with Islamists and Nazis, presented a far greater danger to Britons’ everyday lives – certainly based on empirical evidence so far – than this country’s more recent terrorist threats.

We lived through dangerous times in the 1970s and 1980s and civilisation didn’t come crashing down. We don’t need a blanket over-reaction now.

Manchester was an atrocity that demands an urgent response. A response that is targeted and does not bow to some on the right’s calls for a wholesale proscription of our basic freedoms or rewriting our approach to a cohesive society. A response that is forceful and unapologetic, unencumbered by the moral equivocation of some on the left who see blame on all sides.

Last year, in a speech about tackling extremism, Tony Blair said,

“You have to give a real solution and not one which is populist but false. If you don’t give a solution, and you leave people with a choice between what I would call a bit of flabby liberalism and the hardline, they’ll take the hardline I’m afraid.”

He used the term “muscular centrism.”

That’s what’s needed now.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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5 Responses to “Muscular centrism is needed after Manchester”

  1. British Foreignpolicy says:

    Allow this post if you are not a coward.

    You quote Tony Blair as your supporting evidence? A war criminal who is directly responsible for the creation of the radicalism you despise? He belongs in a prison like Abu Graib.

    If you can’t see the problem then smacking it with the even heavier hammer of “muscular centrism” will lead to more “muscular terrorism” this is part of the mentality that allows you to cuddle up with the leading sponsor of Wahhabi extremism and then wonder why you are being attacked.

    Britain supported Mummar Quadaffi when it suited them, and then destroyed the entire country for no good purpose other than opportunism – and now you expect to just walk away with no consequences? Keep dreaming. Keep supporting the Gulf dictatorships and Israel, and you can expect never ending bombings and deaths. If they cant kill British soldiers in the middle east, then they will kill your kids while they play instead. Think of the million child deaths since the British invaded Iraq in 1990, when you oppine the death of 20, who were no less innocent.

    Thats the problem with nationalism, it teaches us that a million dead brown children don’t compare to the death of a single white girl, one is a national tragedy that requires introspection from the muslim community, the other is just business.

    Nobody blinks when British jets bomb government areas in Syria, killing women and children. Or when the vile Sauds kill 10,000 Yemeni using British bombs.

    Have all your hashtags and light up the eiffel tower anytime a NATO country is attacked, if it makes you feel good about yourselves. But it wont bring you closer to the truth, the real reason behind attacks which never happened 30 years ago – do you ever wonder why?

    The 1990 and 2003 wars in Iraq caused total de-stability in the region and led to the emergence of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group. The British support for gulf wahhabi monarchies in general allow terrorists to be supported in the first place. The SAUDs have enough weapons, anything they buy gets shipped to Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

    The instability in Iraq created by Britain’s illegal war of aggression, and then its quick retreat, spread to Syria and it is spreading to Libya. The status quo in the region was a consequence of British foreign policy.

    it is totally hypocritical now to blame Muslims and to blame Islam for the recent terrorist attack in Manchester.

  2. Mike says:

    BritishForeign Policy – the 2003 invasion was after September 11th and didn`t cause it. The 1990 invasion was caused by Iraq invading a sovereign country. Iraq was then not invaded and Saddam stayed in power. I don`t see how that destabilized the region to lead to September 11th 2001

  3. paul barker says:

    I agree with all of this but where is this Muscular Centrism to come from. From a Party led by a Man who called for The Victory of The IRA ?
    Atul will be out campaigning to re-elect people who penly sympathise with some brands of Terrorism, the fact that he is also campaigning for decent people doesnt change that. If you cant get rid of Corbyn & His Pals ( all your attempts have failed so far) then why are you still in The Labour Party.

  4. buttley says:

    Atul asserts “British foreign policy, is irrelevant.”

    One man’s muscular centrism is another’s effeminate fascism.

  5. steve says:

    Mike – “the 2003 invasion was after September 11th”

    The U.S. (with U.K. support) backed the Afghan mujahideen ( Operation Cyclone) in their struggle against Afghan Marxists and Russia. Once Russia were ousted and the Marxists dealt with Afghanistan there was no reason to assume Islamist fundamentalists and various Salafists would opt for a Western style democracy in Afghanistan – hence Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

    The West’s short-sighted opportunistic strategy has a lot to answer for.

    Only arms manufacturers (and senior military personnel and politicians who work for them upon retirement) have done well out of the mess created by the West’s foreign policy.

    Worth a read:

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