BOOK REVIEW This time the crocodile won't wait Londonistan by Melanie PhillipsBuy this book
Reviewed by Spengler
In retrospect, it seems oafish of Neville Chamberlain, Britain's prime minister
in 1938, to have betrayed Czechoslovakia to Nazi rule in return for the empty
promise of peace. Yet an overwhelming English majority looked with horror on
the prospect of confrontation with Germany and a new world war, until Adolf
Hitler forced England's hand by invading Poland. "The appeaser hopes the
crocodile will eat him last," said Winston Churchill. Today's crocodiles may
not be so patient.
Opposing voices in 1938 rang lonely and shrill, and just as shrill today sounds
Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips in her portrayal of an emasculated
Britain ashamed of its own national identity and anxious to appease the
"clerical fascism" of the
jihadis. That will change, perhaps even before the print is quite dry on her
new book. She warns that the West faces a religious war with Islam. I concur,
and recommend Londonistan as indispensable background.
Britain, Phillips warns, is reaping what it has sown. A large minority of
British Muslims are disaffected at best and seditious
at worst. Phillips cites a 2004 Home Office survey finding that 26% of British
Muslims felt no loyalty to Britain, 13% supported terrorism, and about 1% (up
to 20,000 individuals) were "actively engaged" in terrorism or support for
Another poll found that 32% of British Muslims agreed that "Western society is
decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end". In
the event of a violent collision between the West and Iran, for example, civil
conflict might arise in Britain on a scale resembling that in Northern Ireland
in the 1970s.
Phillips accuses British security services with complicity in the gestation of
a terrorist apparatus in London. Her documentation of overt terrorist activity
centered in London is exhaustive, and raises the question of why the open
scandal was tolerated. Saudi, Algerian and Egyptian requests for extradition of
suspected terrorists were refused, and Arab diplomats vented their frustration
over British recalcitrance in public.
A cynically narrow concept of national interest guided this policy, she argues,
charging that MI6 (Military Intelligence Section 6, now officially known as the
Secret Intelligence Service) believed "that if the Islamists were being left
undisturbed to conduct their activities on the assumption that they would not
then attack Britain".
But that can explain only part of the story, and Phillips searches for deeper
causes of Britain's cowardice. "Denial" is a recurrent theme. She cites an
unnamed "foreign intelligence source" as follows:
During the 1990s,
many attempts were made to enlighten the British about what was happening. But
they refused to see this problem as having a religious character. If this was a
religious problem, it became a religious confrontation - and the specter of a
religious war was too horrendous. A religious war is different from any other
war because you are dealing with absolute beliefs and the room for compromise
is very limited. Religious wars are very protracted and bloody, and often end
up with a very high toll of lives.
That is not denial, though,
but revulsion. The British establishment may have recoiled in horror from the
prospect of religious war precisely because it has sufficient institutional
memory to know just what such wars entail. Religious war, however, is precisely
what it will have, on the worst possible terms, and with an extensive fifth
column in place.
Successful manipulation of religious conflict is a lost art. Cardinal Richelieu
and his successor Jules Mazarin kept the Thirty Years' War aflame in Germany by
subsidizing new entrants into the fray, notably Sweden's Gustavus Adolphus
(King Gustavus II), deploying French forces when proxies were not available.
The carnage claimed the lives of more than half of the German speakers and left
France the dominant power in continental Europe until 1870. On a smaller scale,
Britain played such divide-and-conquer games throughout its imperial history,
most obviously by transplanting Scottish Protestants to Northern Ireland. Some
in India read malice aforethought into the 1947 partition of the sub-continent.
Britain no longer has malefactors with the iron stomach and broad culture of a
T E Lawrence or a Sir Richard Burton to undertake such projects.
Phillips soft-pedals the imperial sins for which today's problems are part
payment. As Phillips observes, the legacy of Britain's imperial past in the
form of Northern Ireland distracted the security services' attention from the
Instead of studying the Middle East as a cause for
concern, they were staring across the Irish Sea at Northern Ireland, where a
terrorist insurrection against the UK had been in progress since the 1970s. The
mindset, on both sides of the Atlantic, was that terrorism was tied to discrete
grievances against individual states. And with the end of the Cold War, the
notion of a global threat rooted in ideology was assumed to be dead and buried.
But the Northern Ireland disaster was more than a distraction. Britain has a
glorious past, and its role in defining individual rights and representative
democracy is central to the success of the West. But real crimes can be laid at
Britain's doorstep, including the mistreatment of the Irish over centuries.
That does not excuse the thuggishness of the Irish Republicans, but it does
help explain the moral palsy that afflicts today's British establishment.
Former US president Jimmy Carter's ability to see the better side of his
country's worst enemies comes to mind. In this month's issue of The Atlantic
Monthly, Mark Bowden reports that Carter forbade the Delta Force commandos to
use deadly forces against the kidnappers of American hostages in Tehran in the
ill-fated 1980 rescue attempt.
In his ignorance and provincialism, Carter could not see any conflict in terms
other than the black-white confrontation during the US South in the 1960s.
Palestinians, Iranians, or other self-defined victims of Western imperialism
are the blacks of Selma in the diminutive mind of the former president. But the
civil-rights movement in the United States brooks no comparison to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was a Christian-led movement appealing to the
conscience of other Christians under the law of the land, and succeeded with
minimal loss of life.
Black and white Baptists made their peace in the US South a generation ago.
Protestants and Catholics yet might make peace in Northern Ireland. But that is
an entirely different matter, says Phillips: "True, the IRA [Irish Republican
Army] were Catholics and their adversaries were Protestants. But their cause
was not Catholicism. It was a united Ireland. They did not want to impose the
authority of the pope upon Britain ... There is simply no comparison to the
agenda of the Islamists who want to defeat the West in the name of Islam."
The institution that should understand this best, namely the Church of England,
seems most eager to liquidate itself. Notes Phillips: "In America, the churches
have been in the forefront of the defense of Western values. Some of the
strongest support for Israel comes from evangelical Christians. In Britain, by
contrast, the Church of England has been in the forefront of the retreat from
the Judeo-Christian heritage."
The Archbishop of York, the black Ugandan Dr John Sentamu, praises the British
Empire and the culture it spread around the world, whereas the present
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, apologizes for taking "cultural
captives" through the export of English hymns and liturgy. Sadly, the "cultural
captives", mainly black African converts, are all that is left of the C of E.
Its evangelical wing, represented by former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey
- a vocal critic of Islam in the past two years - cannot compete with
dissenting churches, and the High Anglican side barely breathes.
It is a bit late in time for a national church. The Roman Catholic Church can
make a case that Benedict XVI has the right to head a universal church by
virtue of his apostolic succession from St Peter, and thus can forgive sins in
Jesus' own stead. But why should Queen Elizabeth II, much less the overtly
Islamophile Prince Charles, enjoy this privilege? Perhaps the moment is ripe
for the remnants of English Catholicism to join the Roman Church, and for
British Protestants to find their way to more robust dissenting denominations.
In any case, Western liberalism, including the sexual habits of English
curates, does not appeal to Muslims. On the contrary, Phillips says:
Muslims are overwhelmingly horrified and disgusted by the louche and dissolute
behavior of a Britain that has torn up the notion of respectability. They
observe the alcoholism, drug abuse and pornography, the breakdown of family
life and the encouragement of promiscuity, and find themselves there in
opposition to their host society's guiding values. What they are recoiling
from, of course, is the breakdown of Western values. After a visit to
the United States in 1948, Sayed Qutb wrote: "Humanity today is living in a
Revulsion and contempt color Muslim attitudes
toward the British leftists who most desire to appease them. That is not a
recipe for co-existence but for escalation, as last year's subway bombings
should have made clear. But the issue now is not terrorism but rather outright
The British authorities may have turned a blind eye to terrorism directed
against others, and may even have dragged their feet at confronting the
terrorist threat at home that erupted in the July 7, 2005, subway bombings.
Terrorism is dreadful but, like many nasty things, one can develop a tolerance
for it. Now it is not merely terrorism that the West confronts but a strategic
debacle of intolerable proportions in the form of Iranian acquisition of
In that sense Melanie Phillips' book comes too late, for it reports a set of
circumstances shortly to be overthrown by events. She is writing about 1938,
and we are entering 1939, when the West will have to respond to an external
challenge in a way that it never could to an internal threat. Britain will have
the religious war it sought to dodge.
Londonistan by Melanie Phillips. Encounter Books: New York 2006. ISBN:
1594031444. Price: US$25.95, 213 pages.