Rod Liddle Rod Liddle

The West must stop playing Mr Nice Guy

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Iwas intrigued to learn from our Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, that we are now in a ‘pre-war’ phase and that there is an almost inevitability of eventual conflict with one or two of the world’s superpowers. I read his comments on the same day that the German newspaper Das Bild reported that Russia was planning to invade western Europe within 18 months.

This is all very worrying, not least because Grant Shapps is our Defence Secretary. I don’t think I’d trust Grant to provide military back-up for a whelk stall, but then I suspect that his likely successor, John Healey, will be no more effective. The problem both men have is the problem which afflicts the West – we are incapable of being properly aggressive and can only really manage passive aggression.

We have been suffocated by peace and affluence for perhaps longer than at any time in our history

As I mentioned two weeks ago, our behaviour over Ukraine has been the very definition of passive aggression, much as is inviting the Swedes and Finland into Nato. The problem with passive aggression is that it doesn’t win wars and instead serves only to nark our enemies – and they are easily narked. Even the limited strike by UK and US forces on the Houthi rebels in Yemen was swiftly written off by Rishi Sunak as a kind of aberration, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, no plans for repeat action, etc.

The reasons for our tentativeness are fairly straightforward. First, we have been suffocated by peace and affluence for perhaps longer than at any time in our history and whatever happens in the world, we still think we have a right to cling to it and the ability to do so. A mistake, I think. Second, we have been seriously bruised by the desperately ill-conceived and illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the mess which it left behind.

Finally – and this is the crucial bit, for me – the people who run the machineries of state here, and in the US and Europe, do not believe that we have the moral high ground. Indeed a large contingent of our civil servants find the West, with its imperialist past and inclination towards regulated capitalism, morally repugnant. They don’t much like the idea of a nation state, full stop. They have sympathies with terrorists and are more anxious to ensure that our armies treat transgendered people nicely than they are with ensuring that they are properly equipped and ready to fight.

How can you win a war if the people charged with the task of administering that war don’t even remotely believe in the cause? They will not concede that our affluence in the West stems from being comparatively well-run democracies which have respect for the rule of law and by and large eschew corruption: the affluence, they will always argue, was ill-gotten, a case of theft. They would rather die than concede that Yemen was at its most prosperous and (comparatively) peaceful in recent years when it was run as a protectorate by the British from 1937 to 1963 and would be much better off now were a similar arrangement somehow put in place. And yet it is almost incontestable that this assertion is correct.

‘We could trawl the kingdom for the foot that fits this glass slipper… or we could view the sex tape.’

Left to its own devices, Yemen has become the worst country in the world outside Africa: it is hideously corrupt, utterly skint, starving, continually riven by violence between warring clans and tribes, all of whom adhere to different competing flavours of the marvellous ‘Religion of Peace’ – and has been that way for almost the entirety of its wretched existence.

The one-worlders find it impossible, though, to believe that poverty and misery in the world are caused by anything other than western perfidy: they will not grasp the hard truths because those truths undermine their flaccid ideology, which is that we are to blame. And this ideology is therefore eagerly taken up by Third World countries themselves and corruption, hideously bad government and rank stupidity are exculpated: it’s all down to colonialism, innit, bwana. I am reminded of the senior Ugandan politician I talked to a couple of decades back who spent his entire time ranting about British wickedness in Africa. What would your country be like if it had not been colonised, I asked him. He replied: ‘We would be an economic powerhouse, like China.’ Trouble is, you can’t rebut absurdities like that if your own ruling class believes it too.

So, while we’re on with difficult truths, let’s turn to South Africa briefly. It was the South African government, of course, which dragged Israel to the UN International Court of Justice to be prosecuted for its ‘chilling’ and ‘incontrovertible’ intent to commit genocide in Gaza. Accompanied by our own Jeremy Corbyn, I should add. The hard truth about South Africa that could not possibly be admitted by the one-worlders? That most black people are now less well off compared with whites than was the case under the National party.

Put simply, in 1991 the GDP per capita of South Africa was $3,300 and the average world GDP per capita was $4,400. In short, then, South Africa’s GDP per capita was roughly three-quarters of the world average. Today, South Africa’s GDP per capita is $6,000 and the world average is $13,270. In other words, South Africa has slipped from three-quarters of the world average to less than half of the world average. Over the same period of time, the average life expectancy in the world has gone up from an average of 65.3 to 73.2, while South Africa’s has risen from 63.3 to 64.9 – hardly at all, then.

Over the same time, corruption has soared, according to Transparency International, and over the past five years the number of South Africans experiencing ‘extreme poverty’ has increased and stands at 18.2 million. But it is seen as being in quite the worst taste to quote these sorts of figures, even when South Africa is presenting itself to the world as a country of conscience.


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