Thursday, 23 January 2014

War-weariness? Nothing to do with multiculturalism

It’s funny what a bad press multiculturalism gets. All sorts of failings are attributed to it. The latest charge against it, today, was that it was producing a growing war-weariness in Britain.

Now that’s a really curious accusation. It seems nothing short of perverse to go looking for a cause of war weariness other than weariness with war. After all, a whole bunch of US allies sent soldiers into Iraq, and ten years later the deaths are up there in six figures while the country’s a chaotic mess as well as being a client of Iran’s, the West
’s favourite bogey figure in the region.

The Afghan war’s lasted even longer, and Afghanistan’s a complete basket case. The one achievement of the invasion was to kick out Al Qaida’s friends, the Taliban; just last week, a Taliban spokesman was crowing that once Western troops are out next year, the movement will be right back in control again. It would take a pretty convinced optimist to think he might not have a point

How we turned Afghanistan into a haven of peace and plenty

You don’t have to be multicultural to have got pretty weary of war after those two episodes of our recent history. 

In any case, it doesn’t seem to me that we need less multiculturalism just now. Rather more might be an improvement. I mean, the point of multiculturalism is to consider the possibility that other cultures may not be entirely worthless, and may actually have something legitimate to say for themselves. Or at least, that ours may not be so obviously superior to theirs that we
’re entitled to kick them around over here and invade their homes over there. 

A good starting point would be Oliver Cromwell’s plea to the Scottish Presbyterians: ‘I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.’ That salutary capacity to doubt oneself didn’t actually stop Cromwell giving the Irish a pretty miserable time, at the very moment when he wrote those words. It would be fun, on the other hand, to think that getting on for four centuries later we might have learned to go a little further and do a little better.

Imagine how it might have been had Tony Blair, say, considered the possibility that he was wrong. He might not have been so keen to invade Iraq. At least 100,000 Iraqis might not have lost their lives.

Now, I say that about Blair because no one could suggest that Dubya might have entertained any doubts. That would have required that he hold one idea while comparing it with another. Two ideas? Getting his head round ‘we’re gonna get that Saddam guy’ pretty much exhausted his capacity in that direction.

Fortunately, few of us are quite as intellectually challenged as Dubya. It would be good if rather few of us were as closed to other points of view as Blair. Then we might open up a little to multiculturalism and perhaps avoid a few wars.

Of which more and more of us are well and truly weary.

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