Life, liberty and pursuit of bananas

It’s endlessly fascinating to observe how modernity rapes the very reason in whose name it was inaugurated, the foundation on which it’s supposedly built.

Upon closer examination, however, one realises that the foundation is subsiding and termite-ridden.

Detached from its divine source, reason can become very unreasonable indeed. Actually, as if striving to vindicate Hegel’s odd notion that opposites exist in some sort of dialectical unity, modern reason becomes downright stupid with metronomic regularity.

To wit: New York’s Supreme Court is considering a test case brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NRP).

This peculiarly named organisation claims that keeping chimpanzees in cages denies their human rights, or nonhuman if you’d rather. Human or nonhuman, what’s the difference? We are all primates, and that’s all we are.

Therefore keeping the lovable chimp Tommy in a cage, claims the organisation, is the same as holding a man in permanent solitary confinement.

One infers that in the eyes of this weird setup a chimp is a human being, or near enough to be entitled to all the same rights.

This goes to show how a false premise can undermine every subsequent argument based on it. This regardless of how logical the argument sounds.

In this instance, it sounds very logical indeed, which only goes to show yet again that logic is the lowest, if useful, form of reason.

If we accept that man is nothing but a confluence of molecules coming together over a jolly long time as a result of some kind of initial biochemical accident, then the NRP’s argument makes perfect sense.

It can be demonstrated that chimpanzees are so genetically close to humans as to make no difference. The two share 99 percent of their active genetic material, and the genetic distance between them is a mere 0.386.

If that’s all there is to it, then chimps are practically human, even though their intelligence admittedly falls into the low end of the human range, the one inhabited by Richard Dawkins, Ed Miliband and most supporters of Chelsea FC.

Naturally, if we accept simian humanity then it would be churlish to deny Tommy’s right not to be incarcerated without due process.

In fact, I’m surprised it has taken Americans so long. After all, it was as far back as in 1993 that Peter Singer, Princeton professor of bioethics (whatever that is), founded his Great Ape Project (GAP – not to be confused with the retail chain of the same name).

This trailblazing academic has the sexual power of his convictions: in 2001 Singer allowed that humans and animals can have “mutually satisfying” sexual relations because “we are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes.” Therefore such sex “ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings.”

For his wife’s sake one hopes he doesn’t practise what he preaches. Poor Mrs Singer would be heartbroken to find out her hubby-wubby is two-timing her with a chihuahua.

Singer is an Aussie, but it’s not surprising that he found in America the perfect environment for developing his bizarre notions. The United States is the proud pioneer of most modern inanities, such as political correctness, psychobabble, litigiousness, neoconservatism and the belief that all men are created equal.

Yet this once, before returning to its native habitat, an American idea first found its practical realisation in Europe. In 2008 the Spanish parliament passed a resolution granting human rights to apes, committing the country to the dictates of Singer’s GAP.

Soon to follow was the UN Declaration on Apes, stating that all primates, including man, are “members of the community of equals” who are not to be deprived of their liberty without due process.

Such ideas may be driven by the best of intentions, of the sort that the road to hell is paved with. But it’s reason that is the subject of this comment, and people endowed with that faculty ought to consider the practicalities even as they try to assuage their flaming consciences.

How will due process work with apes? How would the jury, presumably made up of the defendant’s peers, who can only be other apes, follow the proceedings and then communicate their verdict? How would the defendants confer with counsel? Be sworn in? Give testimony? And if convicted, how would they be punished? Would they ever be found fit to stand trial in the first place?

Even beginning to consider such, and numerous other, details will quickly lead one into an area where madness begins and the men in white coats are just round the corner. The only way to reclaim one’s sanity is to go back to the beginning and realise how fundamentally idiotic the core assumption is.

Whatever their genetic similarity with humans, apes are typologically closer to cats or cows. Apes are animals and, as such, they by definition can have no rights, human or otherwise.

Rights can only exist in a dialectical relationship with duties and responsibilities. Thus our right to the state’s protection is contingent upon our allegiance to the state (protectio trahit subjectionem, et subjectio protectionem in the original).

Since apes are incapable of pledging such allegiance they are not entitled to the protection. Therefore they can have no rights.

The NRP build its case on insisting that humans and simians had a common ancestor 7,000,000 years ago, which may or may not be true. Either way, it’s irrelevant.

When a card-carrying evolutionist  goes back far enough, he claims that all life on earth sprang from a single cell. Hence we have common ancestry not just with chimps but also with flies. Does this mean swatting one constitutes a violation of its rights?

When Darwin first came up with his sensational but rather slapdash theory, John Henry Newman had no problems with it. His complacency stands to reason: being omnipotent, God is as capable of creating things slowly as fast.

It’s only when Darwin’s theory is married to unwavering materialism that it falls apart. It’s quite possible, if to me uninteresting, that man’s body evolved from a lower order of life, some kind of primate.

But that primate would never have become man if God hadn’t breathed a particle of his soul into it. This is the only explanation that makes the origin of human life intelligible.

Replacing that premise with a materialist one inevitably produces intellectual perversions like the GAP or the NRP, intellectual perverts like Peter Singer and perverse ideas like giving human rights to chimps.

If this is what the Age of Reason is about, can we please go back to an Age of Faith?  That’s when mankind still practised real reason, despised false reason – and knew the difference between the two.


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Most things do work in France – except politics

I don’t know if Andy Street, head of John Lewis, plays football, but he’s certainly a master of our second most popular sport: French bashing.

Nothing in France works, he says. In absolute terms he’s not far wrong: most things in France don’t work as well as they should.

But by comparing St Pancras favourably to Gare du Nord, Mr Street implied that his standards aren’t absolute but comparative. One can also infer that he uses Britain as the baseline value.

By such relativistic standards I’d say that most things in France work famously. Granted, I haven’t conducted an extensive study to reach this conclusion, but then neither, one suspects, has Mr Street to reach his.

For example, France’s health system, cleverly blending the private and public sectors, is vastly superior to our socialist leviathan of the NHS.

I don’t know how much exposure Mr Street has had to French medicine but, after 14 years of dual residence, I’ve had a fair amount.

It’s only one man’s experience, but I can always get a GP appointment in France within hours – as opposed to at least 10 days at my West London surgery. In fact I remember the shock of ringing my local GP’s receptionist in France and hearing her apologise that the doctor wouldn’t be able to see me until after lunch.

France’s infrastructure is also much better than ours. Not only her toll motorways but even minor country roads are regularly resurfaced and beautifully marked, which takes French workmen days – not weeks as in England.

A few years ago it took the French just a month to build a 10-mile bypass around a town on the Loire – compared to the four months it took our lot to resurface and tart up Putney Bridge.

Although Gare du Nord is indeed dingy, public transport in France outperforms ours by a wide margin and it costs a lot less. Fair enough, it’s heavily subsidised, but our train system didn’t work well when it was nationalised and it doesn’t now when it’s private.

Modern architectural monstrosities at the outskirts of major cities may be even more revolting in France than in Britain, although I’m not sure how quantifiable ‘revolting’ is. But at least the French have the good taste of not befouling their handsome city centres, something we manifestly don’t possess.

Although the standards of food are declining in France, only someone with perverse taste would claim, as Mr Street did, that British cuisine is better.

True enough, food may be more varied in London than in Paris, and the wine may be as good, yet the London food wouldn’t usually be British and the wine is likely to be French.

Public education in France is sliding down the hill in our general direction, but it still has a long way to go.

A month or so ago, I had dinner with a few French friends, none of whom was a professional intellectual. A couple of them were lawyers, one was a banker and another one some kind of business consultant.

Again, on the basis of one man’s experience, I’d say they are all better educated than one would expect from their English equivalents.

For example, when the conversation touched upon the Venerable Bede, it turned out they not only had heard the name but had actually read The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, albeit a long time ago. Would their English counterparts be similarly erudite?

None of my French friends sounds ‘sclerotic, hopeless and downbeat’, in Mr Street’s phrase. They’re actually quite jovial and considerably more upbeat than my English friends who, in addition to all the same problems as in France, are also driven to distraction by the EU, the wicked setup the French ill-advisedly welcome.

France’s population is roughly the same as ours. They work about 25% fewer man/hours per year, and their businesses are strangulated by more red tape than one sees here. Yet their GDP is slightly higher than Britain’s, which means their productivity is much greater – something also observable in the speed of their road works.

What doesn’t work in France is politics, and it’s the millstone pulling the country down to the bottom. Amazingly she’s even more socialist than Britain, and it’s not just the international variety, Marxism, that thrives in France.

Also gathering speed is the national socialism of Marine Le Pen’s lot, the National Front. One gets the impression that socialist extremism of any kind has no difficulty working its way into France’s political mainstream.

We, on the other hand, have successfully marginalised our own National Front (BNP). Alas, our answer to François Hollande, Ed Miliband, is likely to win the next election. Thus if at present we enjoy a slender political lead over France, even this wafer-thin edge is likely to disappear in a year’s time.

Given the low education and productivity levels of the British labour force, this will create an economic catastrophe that’ll drive London’s 300,000 Frenchmen back to France, or possibly across the ocean, faster than you can say adieu.

Meanwhile, they may be thriving here, but their children go to French schools, they buy their bread at French bakeries, their cakes at French patisseries and they only ever use the NHS because it’s ‘free’, not because it’s any good.

However, for those of us who don’t have to make a living in France, the country works very well indeed. Why, we’ve even learned to be polite enough not to slag off the French who after all have created the lovely place we enjoy so much.

Andy Street ought to pick up French manners too. And, if he doesn’t want to be accused of hypocrisy, he shouldn’t advise others not to invest in France at a time John Lewis is opening a French-language website.

Why, Andy, beholdest thou the mote that is in thy French brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?


My forthcoming book Democracy as a Neocon Trick can be pre-ordered, at what the publisher promises to be a spectacular discount, from  or, in the USA,












So that’s what hot potato means

A 22-year-old Colombian woman has unwittingly stumbled upon a promising horticultural idea.

It was unwitting because her intention was never to grow potatoes. Following her mother’s advice, she simply used that versatile root vegetable as a contraceptive device.

However, by the time she was admitted to hospital with acute abdominal pains, and the doctors tried to harvest the potato, it had already germinated and grown roots inside her.

Mercifully, the woman suffered no lasting damage, at least none of the physical kind.

While deliriously happy for her, I’m still sorry that the report of the incident omitted some crucial details.

First, since Colombia is a predominantly Catholic country, one wonders whether the girl’s priest knew she was using contraception, something the Church doesn’t really condone.

Could it be argued that, since God didn’t create the potato for that application, it doesn’t constitute a legitimate contraceptive device? There are layers of theological subtexts there, and it would be a shame to leave them unexplored.

Here’s another question demanding an urgent answer: What kind of potato was it? I do think the patient’s profile would be incomplete without specifying whether it was, say, a small new potato, a medium Russet or a cricket-ball sized baking variety.

Did the vegetable serve its intended purpose? One would think the trickier spermatozoa would be able to find their way around such an obstacle. If they didn’t, the size of the potato becomes even more relevant.

Also, and that’s the foodie in me, I’d like to know what happened to the potato afterwards. In a country where food is sometimes at a premium an edible vegetable, especially one that boasts an unusual flavour, shouldn’t be wasted.

Admittedly the use of certain organs as vegetable patches is somewhat unorthodox, but this idea should certainly be considered for wider use in small countries where arable land is scarce. (I hope my Dutch friends aren’t reading this.) Such an innovative concept would certainly add a whole new meaning to combining business with pleasure.

Alas, instead of approaching the story in this rational and creative way, and uncovering its wealth of both agricultural and amorous possibilities, the papers have chosen the occasion to bemoan the absence of sex education in Colombian schools.

At first glance, the problem just might go a bit deeper than that, as it were. After all, just a few decades ago there wasn’t much sex education in England either, yet those ruddy lasses of yesteryear only ever used potatoes for chips.

What if – and I know I’m letting my imagination run away with me – the girl was a subject in a clinical trial aimed to discover surreptitious ways of growing the crop for which Colombia is more widely known than her potatoes?

That’s only a remote possibility, but one worth pondering.

One just hopes that the sneering reactionaries who slept through their diversity classes won’t use this incident to generalise about the beautiful country of Columbia.

I’ll have you know that, according to The Freedom House, the ultimate arbiter in such matters, Colombia is a full-fledged democracy. As such it satisfies the only criterion of geopolitical virtue that my neocon friends hold in high esteem.

Incidentally, the same Washington think tank doesn’t regard Britain, circa 1900, as a democracy. This means that Colombia today is much more sophisticated than Britain was then, a point further strengthened by the fact that even in the intervening 114 years English women still haven’t explored the raft of possibilities resident in a simple spud.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about the next time you enjoy your bangers and mash. Bon appetit!


My forthcoming book Democracy as a Neocon Trick can be pre-ordered, at what the publisher promises to be a spectacular discount, from or, in the USA,








Let’s not be too hasty saluting that speech

David Cameron has only one thing going for him: he isn’t Ed Miliband.

Miliband’s speech at the Labour conference proved yet again that he has learned nothing from the disasters his socialist predecessors have perpetrated with predictable regularity.

Clearly, this Eddie is not for learning.

Dave isn’t a particularly fast study either, but he has the mind-focusing prospect of losing the next election staring him in the face.

Trouble is, Ed may have shot himself in the foot, but he may still hopscotch to electoral victory.

One reason for that is the gerrymandering engineered with enviable foresight by the Blair-Brown lot. As a result, the Tories need a 50% greater popular vote than Labour to win a parliamentary seat, and who says Labour doesn’t think ahead.

A more important reason is the one I pointed out the other day: our Conservative PM isn’t conservative. And what’s worse is that by now everyone knows it.

Hence, though his suit-no-tie liberal image goes over big in Notting Hill, it leaves him vulnerable to a flanking manoeuvre by a third party preaching something like a clear-cut conservative message.

Ukip cleverly positioned itself as one such, and it’s about to become a parliamentary party. True enough, the handful of seats Farage is likely to claim wouldn’t by itself necessarily spell defeat for the Tories. But the trouble is it’s not by itself.

A much more significant factor is the fracturing effect Ukip candidates have on the traditional Tory support, and this will be much greater than the erosion of the Labour vote they are also likely to cause.

Tory voters know that, come what may, they’ll have to live with a government that isn’t quite conservative. But they are disgusted to see governing in their name someone who isn’t just insufficiently conservative but aggressively anti-conservative.

This explains why, in spite of glowing economic reports, predictions of even better things to come, and notwithstanding Ed’s cosmic incompetence, the Tories have been consistently trailing Labour in the polls.

Nothing sharpens a modern politician’s mind like the prospect of losing power. Dave’s mind now honed to razor sharpness, he knew what he had to do.

In fact just before the Tory conference The Daily Mail spelled it out in no uncertain terms: Dave had to deliver the speech of his life.

His task was twofold. The easy part was to look good compared to Ed, which was achievable simply by remembering to say ruefully that the country still has a bit of a problem paying her own way.

The difficult part was to come across as something everyone knows Dave isn’t: a conservative. Someone who can flog Nigel Farage by swinging his own bullwhip from the right.

Now pretending to be something one isn’t is called deception in some quarters, and Dave is the past master. This he proved by delivering a rousing oration that went a long way towards convincing the more credulous wing of the electorate.

The speech gave despairing Tories a straw to clutch, even though some aren’t sure it’s strong enough to support their weight.

In their elation few realised that the politicking leopard still kept his spots firmly in place.

Look for example at Dave’s fiery rhetoric against the European Court of Human Rights, culminating in a promise to replace Labour’s Human Rights Act with our own Bill of Rights.

We don’t need lessons on human rights from Strasbourg, said Dave, and he’s absolutely right. Where he’s wrong is that we don’t need another Bill of Rights either, considering we already had one in 1689.

There was plenty wrong with that Lockean document, but this is beyond my scope here. What matters is that Dave’s legal thought seems to be anchored to a system of positive law prevalent on the continent.

Our common, precedent-based law doesn’t need to be codified in a single document: it comes not from a state diktat but from experience lovingly gathered and meticulously tested over generations.

If Dave is unaware of this, it’s most unfortunate. But if he knows what’s what but talks about bills of rights regardless, it’s much worse.

He has accepted the language, and therefore the thought, of those whose legal tradition isn’t only different from ours but is diametrically opposite to it. This bodes badly for numerous EU-related promises of which Dave, with Nigel breathing down his neck, made quite a few.

Deep down he clearly wants to go to bed in London but wake up in Brussels, to echo his speechwriter’s phrase. Therefore Dave will fight Britain’s exit from the EU tooth and nail, and if this means breaking a few promises yet again – well, he has form.

Then came the blockbuster: the promise to reduce taxes, to which The Times bizarrely refers as a ‘giveaway’. (You can give away only something that belongs to you, which means that in the eyes of this formerly conservative paper our money really belongs to the state, which in its munificence can then decide how much we may keep.)

Dave is promising to raise both the ceiling at which the 40% bracket kicks in and also the personal allowance below which no income tax is paid.

In practical terms, most families will get to keep only a few more hundred a year, but still, it’s better than the proverbial poke in the eye.

Yet Dave’s avowed generosity is going to cost the Exchequer billions every year. Juxtaposing this with another promise, that of beginning to reduce the national debt by 2018, we realise that massive reductions in government spending will be needed for Dave not to break another promise or two.

Yes, we all know about the Laffer curve showing that lower taxes stimulate the economy, thereby increasing tax revenue. This idea was so successful that Ronald Reagan became president on its strength.

However, when his OMB man David Stockton began to crunch numbers, he quickly found out that “the Laffer curve didn’t pay for itself”, as he put it. It doesn’t obviate the need for sweeping cuts in public spending.

Where is Dave going to snip? We already know that he’s committed to increasing the NHS budget at roughly the same rate as ever. The £12 billion foreign-aid budget is also ring-fenced, an odd perversion Dave wants to make ironclad law.

Cosmetic cuts in the welfare budget aren’t going to take up the slack, even assuming they are implemented. Any further cuts to our defence capability will mean we’ll have none left – this despite a particularly volatile geopolitical situation. Nor is it up to us to decide how much we donate to the EU.

What remains is social services, which vast number of Britons hold to be sacrosanct. Will Dave and George really reduce the welfare spend by billions? In spite of the other lot screaming about children going hungry as a result? Somehow one doubts that.

There’s no doubt that Dave sounded conservative yesterday. But it’s a long way from sounding to being, and a longer one still to action.

A sceptic will fear the Tories will never travel that road under Dave. An aesthete will nonetheless be happy to have heard some pleasant conservative noises. And a fair-minded man will wish Dave had credited Farage as his co-author, for without him this speech wouldn’t have been made.


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Our strategists prove that common sense is most uncommon

Our country is at war.

Historically, that’s what the RAF flying bombing sorties has meant. If this fact now calls for a different interpretation, I’d like to hear what it is.

Until I do I’ll be repeating the same old thing: Britain is at war. And I hope you’ll join me.

By doing so you’ll exhibit more clarity of strategic thought than HMG so far has shown, and it’s not getting much help from our commentators, expert or otherwise.

Witness Paddy Ashdown’s article We Must Embrace Putin to Beat Islamic State.

Unlike most pundits, Lord Ashdown, to give him his proper title, has served in the military. His experience in the Royal Marines and the Special Boat Section (as it then was) no doubt trained him how to slit a sentry’s throat without raising an alarm. But acquiring such tactical acumen evidently failed to sharpen Paddy’s strategic mind.

He begins by informing us that “war is a continuation of politics by other means”, and he graciously attributes this adage to its author, Clausewitz.

Now what? Now Paddy comes up with a truism of his own: military action needs to be backed up by politics and diplomacy to succeed.

So far, so good. It’s the transition from the general to the specific that catches Paddy with his intellectual pants down (British readers will get the reference, others may not, but they won’t have missed much).

According to him, in order to defeat the IS we need to draw both Russia and Iran into a broad coalition that mercifully already includes such powerhouses as Bahrain and Oman.

Russia has ample qualifications to join us at the table because “Sunni jihadism is roaring away in the Russian Islamic republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, almost as much as in Iraq and Syria.”

Strategy apart for a second, this statement is simply ignorant. In Soviet times Chechnya was Muslim as nominally as Russia was Christian.

The nature of Chechnya’s conflict with Russia was ethnic, not religious, and it goes back at least 200 years. More recently, it became ‘ethnic’ as in ‘cleansing’, for that was what the Chechens suffered immediately after the Second World War.

Hence the moment they could declare independence, in 1991, they did. The Russians responded in their natural, time-proven way: with violence.

Two wars later, one that started in 1994, the other in 1999, the Chechen population once again suffered massive atrocities, and Chechen cities – including the predominantly Russian-populated Grozny – were levelled.

As a result, the Chechens indeed turned to Islam in earnest, but it’s sheer folly to describe the conflict in Ashdown’s simplistic terms.

Subjecting a Muslim population to atrocities is a sure way of radicalising it, and one only wishes the Americans had learned that lesson when contemplating the criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Ashdown’s understanding of the conflict in the Middle East is also weak. He, along with HMG, seems to think that our only problem there is caused by the gang of AK-toting, knife-wielding fanatics calling themselves the Islamic State.

Paddy believes that this outburst of Sunni energy is so significant that a) we must do something about it and b) we can do nothing without securing help from Russia and Iran.

To show a certain breadth of thought, he acknowledges the wider conflict between the Sunni and Shiite factions of Islam, which is good. But what makes this our problem?

Divide et impera is the ancient law of politics continued by other means. Hence if one believes that all we’re observing in the region is an internecine war between two types of Islam, common sense would suggest we have nothing to lose and all to gain by cheering from the sidelines.

True, those IS chaps have beheaded a couple of Westerners and are threatening to stage a sequel or two. Two centuries ago this would have been seen as a legitimate casus belli, but these day it clearly isn’t.

In any case, if that’s all that bothers us, a few punitive raids by Western special forces, including those in which Paddy served with such distinction, could take care of it famously.

Russian special forces demonstrated how such things are done back in the late ‘70s, during Jimmy Carter’s pathetic shilly-shallying over the hostage crisis in Iran.

A few Russian hostages were taken at the same time, but there no shilly-shallying ensued: Spetsnaz immediately kidnapped the leaders of the offending tribe. They then sent various portions of the chieftains’ anatomy to their families, threatening to post the unused portions soon. The next day the Russians got their hostages back.

A version of the same approach would work here. Even though Sandhurst and West Point don’t teach their alumni how to detach testicles, this skill can be quickly learned on the job.

So whence this need to form a broad coalition? One would like to hope that, even in their present truncated shape, Nato forces on their own should be able to handle a few hundred eclectically armed and badly trained fanatics.

If we need the help of Russia and Iran for that, we’re in deeper trouble than I thought. But then Lord Ashdown doesn’t think we wouldn’t be able to achieve our tactical ends on our own. He feels Russia and Iran are essential to any post-war settlement in the Middle East.

Obviously the Second World War failed to teach us the danger of alliances with diabolical regimes, specifically Russian ones. Then Western appeasing vacillation in 1938-1939 created a situation where an alliance with Stalin’s Russia became a necessity.

But despots don’t enter alliances for free. The immediate price we paid was delivering half of Europe and much of Asia to the most satanic regime in history, while the deferred price was spending trillions trying to keep what was left.

Putin is now reviving Soviet imperial ambitions of land-grabbing domination. Since the 1950s the Middle East has been of particular interest to the Russians, for obvious economic and strategic reasons.

The strategy of Great Britain, when she still was a world power, was to keep Russia away from the Mediterranean. And now Paddy is agitating for us to advance Putin’s strategic aims – in spite of his nastiness in the Ukraine, which Paddy grudgingly acknowledges.

If Putin is drawn into the coalition, he, unlike Nato, won’t leave when the shooting stops. Invited to act as king maker, he’ll make himself king.

Our whole diplomatic, political and military strategy should be aimed at keeping the Russians out, not drawing them in – and the same goes for Iran.

If Putin’s price for his participation will be Russia’s powerful presence in the region, it takes utter naivety not to realise what the ayatollahs will demand for their help: the West’s acquiescence in Iran acquiring a nuclear capability.

The result of the Ashdown plan would thus be a Middle East dominated by the nuclear-armed ayatollas and Putin, now emboldened to press on with his plans to reverse “the worst geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

Calling this strategy ill-advised would be an act of charity that would stretch the most Christian of faiths.

A country should go to war only when her national interests are threatened – as are ours in the Middle East. But the threat comes not from the Islamic State but from the Islamic faith.

The fideistic aspect of it is astonishingly weak, but the resultant ideological bellicosity is as powerful as it is anti-Western. Depending on the geopolitical balance, this bellicosity ebbs and flows. It’s now at high tide, and this indeed presents a dire threat to the West.

Rather than encouraging the other deadly threat, that of Russian expansionism, we should stem the tide of Muslim aggressive energy.

If we feel this can’t be achieved by peaceful means, then war is justified because our national interests are clearly at stake.

This takes me back to the beginning: RAF raids on Iraq mean we are at war. We must acknowledge this first and then try to understand what we are fighting for, and against whom.

If we somehow reach the correct understanding that our true enemy isn’t the Islamic State but Islam, the strategy would write itself. We must recolonise the Middle East and keep it recolonised until we’re satisfied it has been pacified for a long time.

We should take over the oil fields, using the revenues to develop the economies in the region, offset the cost of the colonisation and bring the price of hydrocarbons down. That would also quell Putin’s imperial ambitions, or at least his ability to act on them.

It so happens that the vagaries of strategic balance at the moment are such that the West has the tactical wherewithal to execute this strategy. What we lack is the power of our convictions, or indeed convictions as such.

Also in short supply is the requisite common sense – as so persuasively demonstrated by Paddy Ashdown, the terminal sufferer from the terrible cognitive dissonance afflicting the West.