Jeremy Brier: Our “response” to terrorism needs to be braver than this
They scripted their terrible plot with care. Those young, jeans-clad murderers – authors of the world’s latest terrorist atrocities in India in Al Qaeda’s bloody handwriting – chose the site of their carnage to be luxurious hotels and a building belonging to the city’s tiny Jewish community.
This was not indiscriminate: it was a pointed attack on the free and the life-lovers; the businessmen who endeavour to create wealth and prosperity; those of the West who dare to live by values of equality and justice; the Rabbi and his family, practicing their ancient religion in privacy and peace.
The unimaginable devastation this causes, as well as the shattering of India’s fragile peace, will be pronounced and immediate. The longer-term implications of these attacks are more concerning still. How many of us are yet to lose our lives at the hands of these groups? How much deeper will fanaticism penetrate our own unconfident and unravelling society? Does anyone know what to do?
It was an attack on everything that Britain holds dear and it deserves to be responded to with vigour and intelligence from our leaders. Our Prime Minister, however, was left sounding vacuous, announcing that these attacks will be met with a “vigorous response”, but saying no more and directing the counter-terrorism squad little further than Damien Green’s office. What is the nature of your “vigorous response”, Mr Brown? What values do you assert against this outrage? What strategy are you undertaking? A trite, unparticularised response shows up a failure to grapple with the issues. We have heard more details this week of the Prime Minister’s letters to X Factor contestants than in relation to his “vigorous response” to the Mumbai massacres. A Prime Minister happier with reality TV than with real life.
And with almost impeccable irony, David Miliband steps in to announce that “the UK and India will continue their joint efforts to counter the actions of terrorists”, in the same week he announces his wishes to negotiate with Hizbollah, a group devoted to precisely those “actions of terrorists”. Another banana skin moment from a Foreign Secretary too slippery by half.
What next? The footage will soon abate and the dead will be buried and we wait nervously for the next Terrible Atrocity where the same words of outrage and shock will be promulgated. No one expects miracles or magic cures. But we expect our Government – and the Leadership Classes more widely – to recognise that this is a priority, not a side-track; to articulate the pain and brutality faced in our World and their strategy for dealing with it. This is, as much as the economy and the environment, the greatest challenge of our times.
The now-familiar trope wheeled out by the political classes after such attacks and that is to brand them “cowardly”. This is a mistake. They are not cowardly but rather they are bold and brazen attacks at the beating heart of our World. The only cowardice is failing to face up to these attacks with robustness and the concurrent failure to force the agenda of international politics accordingly.