Saturday, March 31, 2007

It's war Jim, but not as we know it

It appears as if Britain really is at war with Iran - well, a war of words to be more precise - and mealy-mouthed words at that. However, it seems that no one can hardly accuse the British government of being disproportionate in its response to this apparent act of war by Iran, or how the Times (London) puts it 'casus belli'.

Well, what else could you call the latest Iranian military actions? If anything, the ambush of some 15 British soldiers by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards represents something of a propaganda and military coup for the ever increasingly embattled Iranian authorities. When it comes to the art of war, the British government's image in the eyes of the world is increasingly perceived as second-rate and 'softly-softly'. Such a military strategy by Britain will only succeed in encouraging even more ambushes.

A week has now passed and the British government have failed to set any deadlines for the immediate release of the soldiers, it's as if our political class have been struck down with a chronic case of 'risk aversion'. There is a serious flip side to pursuing a cautious approach - such a risk averse strategy is actually bordering on moral cowardice in the face of the enemy.

It's as if the British government have fully and wholeheartedly embraced a cautionary strategy, that is remarkably similar to the doctrine commonly known as the Precautionary principle, much loved by the environmental movement, which states that under no circumstances should action be ever taken, unless you can be certain, without doubt that there will be no negative consequences as a result of your actions.

More recently, risk averse societies like Britain would tend to strike first on the basis that pre-emptive action was a legitimate form of self-defence. Today, the adoption of a precautionary strategy seems to have led to paralysis in policy making. It appears that our political elites are relying more on the words of lawyers in terms of strategic and political leadership. Our government itself seems paralysed in the face of a blatant act of war - they are fearful that any military action against Iran could have a negative 'boomerang effect' - so, instead of 'going in' and saving the marines, thereby averting a disaster, they fear that action would only realise another catastrophe - not the kind of things politicians really desire. (1)

Britain’s precautionary approach to Iran has only succeeded in slowly dragging this whole affair along, rather than settling it - none of this has been lost on the Iranian authorities who have used the past few days to ratchet up the political and military stakes. With a government like ours, there is one thing we can be certain of, their increasing obsession with risk, and aversion to risk, will only succeed in inviting even more ambushes, and other such 'gestures of defiance' in the not so distant future.

(1) The Risk Society at War: Terror, Technology and Strategy in the Twenty-First Century By Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen - p93 and p199.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Eco-alarmism: it's giving kids nightmares

"[Scientists should consider stretching the truth] to get some broadbased support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have."

By Stephen H. Schneider, Prof., Dept. of Biological Sciences and Sr. Fellow Inst. for International Studies, Stanford University

For professor Schneider, the promotion of anxiety and fear around the issue of global warming is presented as if he was performing some sort of public service. Nevertheless, it seems that the idea of capturing the 'public's imagination' by offering 'scary scenarios' and 'dramatic statements' appear to have been more successful than Schneider could have possibly imagined. Indeed, a recent survey of 1,150 children between that ages of 7 and 11 are staying up at nights panicking about cataclysmic global warming.

A quarter of those kids surveyed actually blamed climate change on politicians. One in 10 kids questioned thought that recycling had something to do with riding a bicycle, and one in 7 thought their parents weren't doing enough to 'save the planet'. Even if we put some of the dodgy inaccuracies to one side, there is one thing we can be certain of, and that is, alarmist, one-sided, brain-numbing environmental propaganda, is having detrimental effects on the lives of British children in the here and now. Moreover, the situation looks set, in the near future, to get much worse.

Climate change alarmists like Schneider, Al Gore, or George Monbiot (to name just a few), have spent the past decade forcing global warming nightmares down children’s throats. Now surprise, surprise, children are having real nightmares about the hypothetical problems relating to global warming. If anything, as Lee Jones rightfully argued, this 'should be a wake-up call for all the purveyors of the ‘politics of fear’. However, the UK education secretary Alan Johnson has more eco-brainwashing plans for manipulating, and micromanaging the lives of British children. The plans are part of a new major review of the secondary school curriculum, with an added new emphasis on... you guessed it - climate change.

According to Mr Johnson, serious 'threats to the planet will remain if we don't take further action'. In a commentary piece for The Independent, ominously entitled 'Children must think differently', Mr Johnson argued that if 'we can instil in the next generation an understanding of how our actions can mitigate or cause global warming then we lock in a culture change that could, quite literally, save the world'. Sounds great, all this tampering with the school curriculum will 'quite literally, save the world!' Or will it?

The sociologist Frank Furedi argues that Mr Johnson's title of, education secretary, is in fact 'something of a misnomer'. Furedi points out that Johnson appears more preoccupied 'with using the classroom to transmit the latest and most fashionable prejudices'. It does appear as if Johnson cannot leave the school curriculum alone - for Johnson is not really interested in the academic discipline of geography, he appears much more interested in turning the school curriculum upside-down as a part of his green moral crusade.

I'll leave the last words to Alice, a seemingly frightened 10 year old from Plymouth, who wrote in to CBBC Newsround programme to talk about what scares her and keeps her awake at night - I wonder where she got this idea from?

"I fear that the gases all around me that are poisining our earth and atmosphere can either kill me or kill anmials while we sleep because if that's what they're doing to the earth they could do it to me!"

Read on:

Change or die - by PD Smith. The Guardian. 2006.

Be afraid, be very afraid... no, don't - by professor Frank Furedi. 2005.