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Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2002 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Barbara Amiel

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When dealing with the devil, words like "dialogue" and "agreement" are comic | Chesterton remarked that: "A god can be humble, a devil can only be humbled." Humbling the devil was a fairly straightforward process in Moscow this past weekend where Chechen terrorists held their 700 hostages.

If the situation in the theatre was as described to the world's media - heavily armed terrorists beginning to murder the hostages - the Russians did the only thing they could and if they lost many hostages, well, they saved many others.

What else could have been done? They could have promised to withdraw troops from Chechnya in a ruse de guerre - as the Soviets did in 1956 when they pretended to withdraw their troops from Budapest and brought fresh ones back a week later - but reneging, even on a promise made under duress, could have implications everywhere for all future negotiations.

In assessing the events in Moscow, the rights and wrongs of the war in Chechnya are beside the point. I have a great deal of sympathy for Wilsonian principles of self-determination whether they occur in Grozny, Ramallah or among the Basques, but no sympathy at all for the total abandonment of moral standards that takes place when any group starts blowing up theatres, discos and parade-watchers in order to achieve its aim. Once you employ those methods, you become one with the devil.

Chechnya has the added complication that while the notion of an independent Chechnya might have validity, the particular regime this bunch of Islamist terrorists would set up could only be a tyranny of an unspeakably repressive sort. Russia is said to be investigating the terrorists' links with al-Qa'eda.

Fine, any such links may win debating points for those arguing with appeasers but they don't really matter from a practical point of view. The issue is not whether these groups are linked by some great central organising body along the model of the old Comintern (which is unlikely). The key is that they all are inspired by the same spirit and can only be dealt with, one by one, in the same way.

The Arabic television station al-Jazeera released a video tape made by the Moscow terrorists in which they stand mouthing the familiar phrases of Islamists celebrating martyrdom. In the future days we will probably hear more first-hand accounts from hostage survivors, but one can imagine the three-day Hieronymus Bosch nightmare they suffered, starved of food and water, human bombs in their midst, together with the mounting stench of excrement and fear. The point of this remarkable drama is surely to face one overwhelming question: what if the same terrorists had had biological weapons or nuclear devices?

The fight to prevent the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction among truly evil people is the significant battle of our times. It is not the bellicose rhetoric of hegemony, as the Left or pacifists would have it. If a state run by people with the same tactics and aims as those holding the hostages in Moscow were allowed to acquire such weapons, the consequences would be dire. Which is the crux of the problem with states such as Iraq and North Korea among others.

President Kim Jong-il of North Korea is a devil and tyrant of the old school. His people suffer from extremes of famine while he builds palaces and mausoleums for his family. In a bizarre episode in 1978, he kidnapped South Korea's film director Shin Sang-ok and his wife so they could make films for him. They escaped eight years later. Little Kim runs a no-frills Stalinist state.

Externally, he is believed to be the mind behind, among other things, the shooting down of a South Korean passenger plane in 1987 to discourage people from coming to Seoul's 1988 Olympics. His motives for spending huge amounts on developing nuclear weapons and "weapons more powerful" are unlikely to be benign.

Saddam Hussein's cv is no mystery. It includes the mass murder of dissident Kurds with poison gas and the singular murder of political opponents and family members. Saddam and Little Kim are at best ordinary sadists and more likely psychotic lunatics. Saddam has shown himself eager to expand geographically and has, like Little Kim, admitted that he has chemical and biological material.

In this arena, such words as "dialogue" and "agreement" are comic. Totalitarians rule on the point of a bayonet. The acquisition of more power is a life impulse. They can't "dialogue" it away. Why is this so difficult to grasp? What nuanced shade of black is needed here?

This past weekend, rallies against the much anticipated war in Iraq took place in Europe and even America. Listening to them didn't yield any more sense than the thoughtful columns of appeasers in The Times. Most have no practical prescription for solving the growing problem of proliferation of WMD in the hands of madmen, but counsel caution, jaw-jaw, waiting and especially non-alliance with the Americans.

An appeaser in this sense is generally not a bad person but simply one who has an inability to understand that you cannot deal with Stalinist, Hitlerist or Islamist tyrannies the way you deal with normal countries with which you have disputes. Using any of the modern diplomatic versions of group therapy is counter-productive.

Patience and jaw-jaw are not sedatives for tyrannies but stimulants. When dealing with people such as the Moscow, Bali or Middle East terrorists who say "we will win because you love life and we love death", you can't counter with reason, only by granting them their wish.

Some appeasers are simply stuck in a time warp. You can find them in CND today, busy protesting against British and American nuclear power while whitewashing developments in North Korea or Iraq. In the name of preventing nuclear war they will support Tony Benn's action day on October 31 to stop the war in Iraq (sadly not yet commenced) by urging their supporters to "join those sitting down and blocking the traffic" as part of their "non-violent campaign" to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Apart from this action being rather redundant in London, where the main solidarity they have will be with Ken Livingstone's traffic works, their notion of the world as engaged in an anti-colonialist struggle was always wrong, but has been so superseded by modern events that not even Russia and China define matters in this way any longer.

If CND deliberately aimed to make war in general and nuclear war more likely, they could not have picked a better approach to do it. Their stated aims are in such stark contrast to the policies they promote, that while it is distasteful to question the psychological fitness of one's political opponents, frankly their mental equilibrium seems doubtful.

By contrast, the modern politician and UN "statesman" are very up-to-date. They want to "seek political solutions" with tyrants and encourage them to see the benefit of membership in the family of nations. Etcetera. Or something. It is rather like trying to calm alligators by playing Mozart to them. One remembers with toe-curling vividness President Jimmy Carter's tears when, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he lamented that "Leonid Brezhnev lied to me".

Unsurprisingly, the same Carter went to North Korea in 1994 and told President Clinton that he could make a deal for a few billion and Kim Jong-il would stop making nuclear weapons. October 24, 2000 saw Secretary of State Madeleine Albright happily watching 100,000 North Koreans recreate the image of a North Korean rocket launch at a "strong nation" rally which ended with Albright clapping her way through dancers performing the North Korean hit The Party's Will is Our Will.

Kim Jong-il's confession last October 4 that he too had "lied" and was making nuclear weapons was all of a piece. He would do, wouldn't he? What else, after having once been bribed to comply with the West's desire for non-proliferation and now wanting more money? The meeting in Texas at the weekend between the President of China and Mr Bush may have come up with a cynical solution.

Nuclear blackmail by North Korea worries the Russians and Chinese. With 76-year-old President Zemin due to be replaced at next month's 16th National Party Congress by Vice-President Hu Jintao (engagingly known as the Butcher of Tibet for the bloody repression he oversaw in the late 1980s), this could be the moment for China to agree to manage North Korea in return for America giving the Chinese a freer hand in Taiwan.

No deal would be quite as blatant as that, but if I were a Taiwanese resident, it might be time to check out my visas. When supping with the devil it is best to use a long spoon but if you are sitting under the table you can be squashed as easily by a healthy foot as by a cloven hoof.

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JWR contributor Barbara Amiel is a columnist with London's Daily Telegraph, where this column originated. Comment by clicking here.

09/10/02: Never mind the dossier, just leaf through 'Iraq for Dummies'
08/27/02: How Kissinger the hawk was twisted into a fake dove: Lessons in liberal journalistic integrity
05/15/02: Why protecting the peace will make a mockery of justice
05/01/02: Why has it taken Le Pen to ask the awkward questions?
04/17/02: Truth about Israeli casualties is being ignored in this war
02/18/02: America's war on terrorism is a fight for all democracies: What the European elite are clueless about
01/29/02: Pity the al-Qa'eda detainees? Why is liberal 'torture' kosher?
12/18/01: What those in the London salons don't -- or won't -- see
12/04/01: We are not risking world war so women can show their ankles
11/20/01:"Anti-terrorism" has become the Western world's equivalent of the Arabian Nights' "open sesame"
11/06/01: We must rediscover a war mentality that persists through vicissitudes
10/31/01: The West is fighting to rescue Islam, not destroy it

© 2001, Barbara Amiel