Friday, 21 October 2011

Ealing, Belgravia and News from Elsewhere 2

Well of course it's wrong if they did just shoot him dead without a trial, but dictators very rarely end with trials. Outsiders can tut as much as they like but it is fury that brings dictators down, and it is fury that tears them apart. It is a fury they themselves have generated among many, a mixture of terror and obeisance and false praise that piles up in people until something breaks. It is not good to meet a crowd in such a mood. How many, after all, has the dictator killed? How many more has he imprisoned and tortured? Or threatened to kill, imprison and torture? There will be redress. There will be blood.

Which doesn't mean that there is no calculation. A living dictator will continue to exert power, and the due process of law takes a very long time, so the new state can be destabilised. Under the circumstances fury and calculation are two sides of the same coin.

I know we talk about Blair and everyone else 'doing business' with Gaddafi. Realpolitik is not about morality, not in the short run at any rate. It is about advantage. It is about deals. Politics is mostly realpolitik with rhetoric as advertising. This does not shock me in the least. I do not approve but it does not shock. Nor does realpolitik rule out ideological or even a generally humane politics. Realpolitik needn't be the entire substance of politics, only the business end, only at times. But in our heart of hearts we know it is there, not only in them, but in us, that it is one of the basic tools in the kit and that it is used. Are we compromised by it? Of course we are. But that need not make us cynical. Compromised is what we inevitably are. But we can be working our compromises for better reasons in better ways. There remain better ways of conducting realpolitik with better people. Ideas and ideals remain valid and invigorating. But the tutting is as much rhetoric as the language of rectitude that surrounds realpolitik.

So Gaddafi is gone. Will the future be better? We hope so. Under the circumstances it stands a chance, and why not take that chance?

Or so I think as I head off to Ealing Broadway passing the bronze horse pictured in the post below.


J. Marles said...

Outsiders can tut as much as they like

I'm reminded of the scene in Seven Samurai when the old grandmother kills the captured bandit. IIRC at first the samurai try to stop her, believing it's against the rules of war to execute a prisoner, but then they remember the bandits have killed her entire family. Some people have earned the right to dispense rough justice. I imagine Gaddafi had the blood of some of those fighters' families on his hands, especially if they came from Misrata. As you say, there's also the element of calculation: Gaddafi's death severely reduces the odds of the war continuing and thus the chances of those young men being killed in combat. It's basic self-defence. All a trial would have given us anyway is long, incoherent, self-justificatory speeches from Gaddafi rather than revelations about Lockerbie or whatever. Plus, the guy was given several opportunities to go into exile and save his life, which is more than he gave his victims.

George S said...

Yes, of course. Nevertheless, in the normal run of things, a due judicial process is better than summary execution. It is just that there are runs which are not part of the normal. I love the papers that print a lot of ghoulish pictures then ask in horror if we are becoming a nation of ghouls.

There is a roughly equal - if not quite so graphic - example of hypocrisy in those who deride the idea that what they call 'western style democracy' should be imposed on proud independent people, and suspect any NATO or even UN move of the worst kind of imperialism, then go very tuttish when the fall of the regime is not conducted quite as they would have it in, say, London or New York.

They will point to 'western support' of tyrants and talk of 'double standards'. And when the savagery is over they will turn to NATO or the UN and say: See, this is what your meddling has led to. The people you support have turned out worse than the, er, tyrant you shouldn't have supported before.

The chief point being that whatever the 'west' does it should be wrong to do it.

J. Marles said...

I love the papers that print a lot of ghoulish pictures then ask in horror if we are becoming a nation of ghouls.

Yeah, I noticed that too. Media hypocrisy running true to form, like when they have editorials saying, "It's terrifying the level of anoxeria among young girls nowadays. I blame the public's fascination with images of thin women."

The rest of your comment is also spot on. I haven't run a statistical analysis, but I suspect there's a strong overlap between those now tutting and those who were predicting complete failure for the rebels and NATO.

George S said...

I suspect there's a strong overlap between those now tutting and those who were predicting complete failure for the rebels and NATO.

That's a fair certainty. The certainty began for me in 1991 when Robert Fisk wrote a long article in The Independent about how disastrous the Kuwait campaign would be because there was already sand in the works of the tanks, and it was far too hot, and Saddam's Republican Guards were just too elite and brilliant. The verb fisked probably came into use about then, but maybe it was around before.