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An Online Newsletter from The Baronage Press
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SPECIAL EDITION September 2001

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Immediately following the initial impulse to write to our American friends to express our most profound sympathy, to convey our most sincere condolences, came the realisation that this magazine and its newsletter, shaped by a readership that is seventy per cent American, are no longer sufficiently British to justify writing as unattached, distant foreigners. Baronage now belongs to North America, to Australasia and to Southern Africa as much as to the British Isles, and thus instead of sending condolences from three thousand miles away, as if to strangers, we can and must share this terrible grief directly.

Then came the irrefutable realisation that these fanatical attacks, although located in New York and Washington, were attacks against all of us, against all who share Western values no matter where we live. In this grief we are thus united.

Then came the memory of John Donne who wrote four hundred years ago ~

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less: the same as if a manor of thine own or of thy friends were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind.

And we are indeed all involved. But for what? The first desire for retribution seems to have been replaced largely by calls for justice, but whereas the former appeared to lack a target, the latter appears to lack definition. The murderers are dead, while there is no punishment on this earth appropriate to those who planned, authorised and paid for their barbarism.

The President has recognised that we are at war, but the aim of the war can be neither retribution nor justice. It can only be elimination ~ the elimination of terrorism as a political weapon ~ and to that end every civilised nation and all who share Western values must join forces with America.

Terrorism is the use of terror to influence politics. Its practitioners terrify civilians so that governments, threatened by further atrocities, might surrender to the terrorists' aims. The difference between blowing up a shopping mall on a busy afternoon, as in the war Britain has now fought for several decades, and in destroying a skyscraper, as in America on Tuesday, is only one of degree. Terrorism is war.

To understand the nature of this war we must reject much of what we have learned of conventional war. There is no symmetry here ~ tanks do not fight tanks, nor ships fight ships. Five men armed with one dollar knives can kill thousands and destroy billions of dollars worth of national assets. One man with a small bottle of bacteria can murder millions. Terrorism has leverage undreamt in conventional war.

Time is distorted. In conventional war a trigger is squeezed and almost immediately a few hundred yards away a man drops. A pilot may identify what he seeks, release a bomb, and then within a few seconds his target is blasted. In unconventional warfare the bomb is delivered discreetly and triggered weeks or months later.

Much has been written about the military weakness of democracies. If a decrepit tramp steamer in deep water off New York or Los Angeles carries a nuclear bomb and explodes it, the consequent tidal wave will be catastrophic. But how do Western democratic nations defend against such a possibility? If a truck in central London has aboard a semtex bomb around which has been wrapped dirty metal (radioactive waste), its explosion would put Britain's financial centre out of operation for months and create colossal economic damage. Again, how are the defences against that possibility organised in a democracy?

Last Tuesday's atrocities had not escaped the Intelligence community's schedule of possibilities. All the aircraft above Western countries are either flying bombs or guided missiles. They have already been "delivered" and await only triggering. An aircraft fuelled for a transcontinental or transoceanic flight may have on board fifty or sixty tons of highly explosive fuel. This can be triggered by a surface-to-air missile timed to ensure that the bomb crashes onto a populated area (which is why the IRA's rumoured possession of Stingers so alarms British governments), or, as on Tuesday, it can be hijacked into the rôle of a cruise missile.

As democracies we shall continue to abide by the rules, as our opponents most certainly will not, for to act inhumanely, as they will continue to do, would concede to them another victory. But as democrats we shall support our elected governments in the defensive measures they find necessary to introduce, in the offensive actions they must take, and despite our grief we each, all of us, will be vigilant.

For the present we mourn our dead and pray for their families.

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