The Culture Warrior

Responsibility, Nationhood, Tolerance, Enterprise

Today is an important day in the 'War on Terror'. It is the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and the second day of General Petraeus' report to Congress. At this time, the War on Terror is obviously at the fore of our minds - though these days there are few instances in which it is not.

I welcome the General's report. I was a cautious supporter of the war; my view was that Iraq wasn't a key battlefront against al-Qaeda in 2003. It is now. Whether the war was right or not is yesterday's argument. We are there now, we've done the deed (or the damage, depending on your political view) and we have a responsibility to those people. What we cannot do is just abandon millions of pro-democracy Iraqis because we're getting bored of negative headlines. How would we have coped during WWII with the 24 hour media? I dread to think.

Few deny that the prosecution of the war has not been a mess. I think disbanding the army completely was unnecessary, we used too few troops, we didn't involve political figures (on our side, within Iraq, and from its neighbours) from the off set. They are the most common criticisms of the war, and I agree with them. However, we've all benefited from historical eye surgery, and we're all seeing 20:20 now. In any case, even if we'd stuck to the State Department's plans, even if we'd worked hard at the peace as well as the war, it's not as if these problems would not have occured. They may have been lessened, even minimised. But these ethno-sectarian tensions are centuries old, and can easily be whipped up by clever terrorist tactics. Remember that Iraq was no normal military dictatorship; it was, I believe, a true fascist one, with all the issues of race and genocide that come with that.

What we cannot do in Iraq is create a democratic culture or a civil society. Both are fundamental to a strong democracy. Both are, in ways, the reason Britain and America did not become overwhelmed by the same fascism that Germany and Italy did during the Great Depression. A democratic culture - an active participation in politics in which all people may speak openly and all views are allowed, if not agreed with - and a civil society - a network of institutions, families and individuals who socialise with eachother freely - are the greatest barriers to dictatorship. Conversely, under a dictatorship (but particularly a fascist one), these things cease to exist. Democratic culture needs no explanation; civil society because the nation, society, and state are merged into one and become hierarcherial and totalitarian. These cultural and social values evolve over time. It took Britain and America eight centuries (let's say we're starting at Magna Carta, though that's rather insufficient). Indeed, one could argue that Christianity, with its emphasis on the individual's relationship with and responsibility to God, set our individualist, and ultimately democratic, culture in motion, as Richard Koch and Chris Smith do very well in 'Suicide of the West'. Only Iraqis can create a new Iraq.

What we can do is stop terrorists trying to blow people up in the process. Most are foreign, but all have a vested interest in destabilising democracy. Why? Because democracy would crush their warped ideas and push them to the sidelines, where they belong. Indeed, it is so glaringly obvious, one wonders why people (particularly those with yellow rosettes) can't see it. Terrorism is a tool, a tactic. It is not the end in itself. Only through intimidation can terrorists keep people under their thumb. We can take them on, and if we do it properly, as Petraeus' report shows, we can win. Our main goal should not be to create democracy in Iraq - though the Iraqis themselves have gone a good way towards establishing the institutional framework necessary for that. It should be to train Iraqis to defend themselves. Laissez faire politics will not work; they will be overwhelmed and bullied by minority organisations that have the ferocity to do all it takes. We should help Iraqis to help themselves. In the short term, that means training the Iraqi security forces and leading the front line against al-Qaeda and others. In the medium term, that means handing most authority over to the Iraqis as they establish a free society and moving to overwatch. In the long term, that means withdrawing and giving support - rhetorical, financial and otherwise - to the newborn Iraqi democracy.

But this is a wider issue. Iraq is not a normal conflict with a normal country. We aren't at war with Iraq; we're there at the request of the Iraqi Government. We are doing battle with terrorist groups within a country, not the country itself. I sid that in 2003, Iraq was not the front line in the War on Terror. But our actions in Iraq, whether bad or good, have made it so. Leaving Iraq now, whilst it can't defend itself, would be wrong in itself, wrong for our short-term national interest, and even more wrong for the long-term.

We have to recognise that Islamism (a term I don't like...I prefer 'hirabic calphism', but I like words...) is an ideology, not a reaction. It is centuries old, and has bee resurrected in recent times as a criticism of Western civilisation. It uses current issues to garner support. Of course invading Iraq gave al-Qaeda and others a tactical weapon, a recruiting sergeant. Firstly, that doesn't mean the war was wrong, but secondly, and more importantly, we have to recognise that if not for Iraq, it would be Palestine, if not Palestine, Chechnya, if not Chechnya, Kashmir, if not Kashmir, Sudan, if not Sudan, Xinjiang. Islamists view Islam not just as a personal, religious philosophy, but as a social, political one. They exploit circumstances to encourage their cause, but they would not cease to believe in it if all the problems in the places I mentioned were solved. The greatest contributor to the rise of Islamism is in fact the democratic defecit in the Middle East.

I think it is a generational conflict. It is a battle between modernity and backwardness, freedom and totalitarianism, civilisation and barbarism. The battle lines are not drawn between Muslims and non-Muslims, they are drawn between those who believe in freedom and tolerance, and those who do not. Ronald Reagan once said, "We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb, by commiting an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now in slavery behind the Iron Curtain, 'Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skin, we are willing to make a deal with your slavemasters.'" The threat from Islamism is thankfully, for the time, nowhere near as great. But it is still a danger. Whilst suited politicians who know little of military strategy spend their time attacking generals and saying what they think the electorate want to hear, I would just implore you to take some time to think about Reagan's words and ask yourself: is it in our interest to allow Iraq to become a Taliban-style dictatorship? And could you say to the twelve million Iraqis who voted for the first time, 'Give up you dreams of freedom'?

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Published by The Culture Warrior on 11 Sep 2007 at 11:50. 0 Comments

*waves flag and thumps rostrum*

So, David Cameron is proposing a "twenty-first century equivalent" of National Service. What a good idea.

Under the system, sixteen year olds would sacrifice their summer holidays and instead take part in "one week's residential course, four weeks of community service and a week's physical challenge." The latter part would apparently include something like moutain climbing or Army training. The programme, dubbed 'Citizen's Service' (I'm not sure if I like that phrase) could also include caring for the elderly and visiting developing countries.

Cameron proposes to take children out of their "comfort zones". According to the Daily Mail and ConservativeHome, graduates of the scheme would receive a cash payment (split halfway between themselves and a charity of their choice), employers would be encouraged to take note in the way they do of the Prince's Trust and Duke of Edinburgh, and, at the end of the course, the teenager will have to make a pledge of allegiance to Queen and Country and explain what they have learnt. I particularly like that part.

There are some problems, though. Cameron says that he would consider it a failure if, at the end of a Cameron Government, not all sixteen year olds were taking part. However, he's recommending this as a voluntary scheme. The problem is, those that need it most (though everyone in this country needs it to a degree) are the least likely to volunteer. Criminal, violent, disrespectful youths are not going to be first in the queue. They are driven by nihilistic self-indulgence and apathy towards authority - a renewed, updated National Service is, by its nature, a contradiction of that.

At the same time, just skimming over comments at ConservativeHome, there are some who oppose this as statism. My answer to that would be simple: conservatives are not antistatist. We have not been, and should not be, hostile to the state - leave that to libertarians. The state should not do much in the economic sphere, but if conservatives are for anything, it is for social order, nationhood and duty. There is no reason - certainly no ideological reason - why a conservative should oppose what some would dismiss as social engineering. Conservatives cannot support a morally neutral state in the way a libertarian does. We recognise that the state should promote and conserve British culture, history and nationhood. That needs proactive engagement. It is New Left liberal laissez-fairism that has delivered the social breakdown we have today.

My recommendations would be these then. First, the state should regulate and establish the programme of National Service, but where possible, contract its administration to the voluntary sector. Second, it should start voluntarily, but the waters of public opinion should be tested to see if, eventually, it can be rolled out to be a compulsury programme. Third, the scheme will not meet its aim of creating a sense of national identity and responsibility if the very people who need it most can simply refuse to attend. I would recommend compulsury participation for any youths ever convicted of a criminal offence, and would also give schools the power to refer pupils to the scheme.

This is certainly a step in the right direction. Society is a collection of individuals and institutions that have an identifiable connection (usually cultural or historical). In recent times under the New Left but also, I must say, under Thatcherism, too much attention has been paid to the individuals and too little to the institutions and the sense of belonging that comes with them. A sense of belonging is needed: of belonging to a nation, to a historical legacy, and to a community. Ideally this would be operated mainly by the voluntary sector, but I think there is significant room for state involvement, and maybe even compulsion. Ultimately, this is only one piece of the puzzle - I think a very heavy reintroduction of British history, politics and citizenship is also necessary in the education system. But David Cameron is right to identify the problem, and I very much welcome the basic premise.

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Published by The Culture Warrior on 6 Sep 2007 at 10:31. 4 Comments

Bless him. Ming Campbell has clearly been getting forgetful in his old age. His official website claims that, with regards to a televised debate during the General Election, "David Cameron is a Johnny-come-lately on this issue." Further, he says that "I wrote to both David Cameron and Gordon Brown challenging them to a TV debate in June this year."

I'm afraid David Cameron is not a "jolly come lately", Sir Menzies. That label would apply to you. Before he (and long before you) became a political party leader, David Cameron called for a debate between Prime Minister and Opposition Leader(s). On the BBC Question Time Conservative Leadership Debate on November 3rd, David Cameron explicitly said, "I think it's great that the BBC is hosting the debate, and I hope it's the precursor between whichever one of us wins and the leader of the Labour Party, whoever that is, at the time of the next General Election, live on British television."

So there.

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Published by The Culture Warrior on 5 Sep 2007 at 06:43. 0 Comments

The Conservative Party will match the spending levels of Labour, George Osbourne has said. This may be good politics; it may even be good economics, in the short term - at least as far as public services are concerned. It's all a bit iffy though, and I'll explain why.

Firstly, I think an early election is increasingly unlikely. Brown's been playing it down recently, and though I'm sure he's enjoying keeping us blues on our feet, we know that he is a very cautious man. So cautious that it makes the word 'cautious' look radical. He broods on things for a long time - years, even decades. Is he really going to risk his crown? Can he trust these poll leads? Isn't it all just a honeymoon? For those reasons I think there'll be no early election - though we'll see.

If I'm right, spending commitments for the next three years are rather meaningless, as we wouldn't be looking at office until 2009, maybe 2010 (I reckon Brown's the type to go a full term). In which case that still leaves the issue of what we'd do in office (does anyone else hate the phrase 'in power'?) with regards to spending, because woosh! those three years will have gone by.

Secondly, and more importantly, we need to realise something. Conservatives favour limited government, enterprise, and property. These three values make us very suspicious of heavy taxation and heavier spending. We need to realise that we're playing a losing game if we're trying to match Labour spending commitments. It just doesn't wash. Labour are tax happy - they can always outbid us; they've no ideological reason not to.

What we should do is focus on efficiency and results. Being state-sceptic, conservatives are the natural people to cut back bureaucracy and balance the books. Now I have to say that I think bureaucracy is an easy scapegoat. That isn't to say I don't think it's a problem, of course I do. But I think the problems with the public services, particularly the NHS, are far deeper and more systematic than form-filling. It is to do with what is effectively a socialist system (we'll leave that for another time).

All that said, I think people will instinctively believe conservatives over social democrats when they promise to cut bureaucracy. It's in a conservative's blood, whereas it's completely out of character for a leftie. They love their little quangos, but conservatives - and the British people - have enormous common sense.

So I think if we're talking about public finance, we should focus on bureaucracy and quangos and all that jazz. First, it fits in with the conservative belief in lowering spending (and nobody believes us when we say that isn't what we want to do). Secondly it'd be broadly popular with the people. Thirdly, it won't hit public services, just their paper suppliers. Fourthly, the amount spent on quangos is so hideously huge (apparently five times the MOD budget or something stupid) that it could go some way to funding modest tax cuts in a first term.

Matching Labour's specific commitments might be clever tactics and right in the short term, but we can never match Labour's philosophy. The British people expect us to lower spending and cut taxes - if we don't, they won't think we stand for anything. We must combat the leftist rubbish that cutting taxes means demolishing hospitals and stealing textbooks - targetted spending cuts (quangos and bureaucracy) would be good in the short term. In the medium-to-long term, we've also got Laffernomics on our side...but we'll leave that for another day.

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Published by The Culture Warrior on 3 Sep 2007 at 14:13. 0 Comments

First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond is expected to announce that the Scottish Executive is to be rebranded the Scottish Government today. According to the BBC, the new title shall be used on all "documents, letters and publicity material, as well as on signs outside government buildings."

Gosh he's a slimy little pufferfish, isn't he? The SNP's tactics are so obvious it's cringeable, though they'll probably succeed. If they can make the people comfortable enough with the term 'Scottish Government', they can hopefully make them more accepting of the idea of a Scottish Government - and won't dear old Alex just love being the first Prime Minister of the European State of Scotland?

In addition, "a saltire will replace the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom on the Scottish government's official documents." In total the rebranding exercise will cost £100,000.

The most worrying thing to come of this, though, is the apparent fact that (according to the First Minister), "The overwhelming majority of people had no idea what the term 'executive' meant." Am I the only one who considers that a horrific indictment of the Scottish education system?

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Published by The Culture Warrior on 2 Sep 2007 at 04:58. 2 Comments

Well, the Diana Tenth Anniversary Memorial Service Celebration Disco Thing happened today. As usual, the media have been fretting over it, using their favourite Diana catchphrase - 'an unprecedented outpouring of grief'. Oh yawn. Please. Two young boys lost their mother, and that is a tragedy. But that's where it ends. She did a lot of charity work, well done to her - that is something we should respect. But all this rubbish about Saint Diana (a serious request by Diana wall-plate collecting weirdos at one point) really is so much easier now that she's gone, isn't it?

Everyone looks back and sings her praises, oh she was so wonderful, oh what an angel. Nonsense. She was a human being and was flawed like all of us. She had her fair share of problems (none of which, by the way, were any of our business), but she was no bloody saint. All this ruthless ganging up on Camilla, with people contending all sorts of stupid theories such as 'if it weren't for Camilla she'd still be alive today' (which actually, when you cease laughing at its nonsense and seriously stop and think about it, is a disgusting slur) is just wrong. Am I missing something here, or did Diana not have a number of affairs whilst Charles had only the one? Perhaps he should have gone on TV and done a bit of doe-eyed crying.

The oft discussed outpouring of grief was all that was wrong with our celebrity culture. It didn't mark the beginning of it, but it was its greatest demonstration. Thousands of wonderful people do wonderful charity work every single day and, with respect, they don't get to drive off to a palace at the end of it. Our insatiable desire for information about her is what led to her death, and it's a disgrace that, despite it, celebrity is still running wild.

I'm sure she was a lovely woman, and I'm sure she touched a lot of people's hearts. But the reaction at the time was over the top and, in retrospect, embarrassing. It's been ten years now. It's time we stopped bashing her name, stopped making her out to be something she wasn't, and moved on.

Yes, I'm looking at you Daily Express.

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Published by The Culture Warrior on 1 Sep 2007 at 11:29. 0 Comments

For coming on four decades now, conservatives have had their heads in the sand. The purpose of this blog, over the coming days, weeks and months, is to do my little part to get them out. I am not calling for a Culture War - one is already happening, and it has been for four decades.

A strange blend of social liberals, democratic socialists, social democrats, so-called progressives, statists and cultural Marxists have silently united together under the banner of the New Left. What holds them together is their belief in the state, their disrespect for tradition, their moral and cultural relativism, and their understanding that the policies of the Old Left are economically and presentationally defunct. The New Left accept market economics because they know there's no better way to create taxable wealth. But make no mistake, they are leftists at heart. They believe in the control of the state. Unlike their socialist buddies, they're clever.

They manipulate language in a way that puts 1984 to shame. Note how the word 'freedom', which once meant a lack of coercion (usually on the part of the state), has now been redefined as a positive right - the 'freedom to use the NHS', or the 'freedom to be given Tax Credits'. This is infact opportunity, not freedom. Similarly the New Left has mischeviously stolen the word 'liberal', which was once very respectable and not. Somehow, liberals are now people that want to extend the power of the state to allow people positive freedoms (how very Marxian...) rather than limit it. Such is their mastery of spin.

Of course the greatest triumph of the New Left of modern times is political correctness, a form of cultural Marxism so blatant that Joe Public can see through it like Gordon Brown's attempts to brand Cameron as an 'old Tory' whenever he asks him about Europe (a tactic that I personally feel should be up for Most Transparent Political Strategy of the Year).

Under the guise of political correctness, the New Left has put people and politicians in verbal straitjackets and has consequently suffocated not only meritocracy but also open political dialogue. Talking about immigration is racist, being opposed to the EU now makes you anti-European (a curious case of self-hatred if it were true). Worst of all is the obscene concept of positive discrimination, as if there could be such a thing. We know that the left, old and new, has always been opposed to merit, but they're being so gosh damn open about it right now. And yet - yet! - the conservative movement keeps its head firmly in the sand.

Let us just examine the damage our ostritch-fetish has done. In education, we have all this fuss about exams getting easier and kids getting too many A's. Perhaps it's correct - certainly it's something we need to discuss. But while we rabbit on about examinations, we neglect to realise that thousands of students, every year, will fail to pass any of them. We also have the literacy and numeracy crisis of primary school leavers entering secondary school without the ability to read and write. Why? Comprehensive education has turned schools from institutions to factories. The school ethos - always important to a proper education - has been demolished and replaced with reams of Whitehall directives to teachers. An overbearing National Curriculum has stopped education for its own sake, and the stuff the curriculum does shove down pupils' throats is progressive rubbish, usually consisting of Diwali, the environment, the greatness of European unity and the shame of the Slave Trade. Children no longer learn as a class, with the teacher as a clear authority figure. Instead they sit at little tables, chattering away and being fawned upon by the staff who encourage so-called 'individual based learning' (rather missing the point that children are more interested in playing and teenagers more interested in sex, and neither group are mature enough to realise the importance of working hard).

That is simply one area (albeit a very important one) in which the New Left have used institutions to create a leftist society (or rather, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, an anti-rightist one). The greatest product of the New Left is the chav - a topic we shall leave for another day.

So what is the point in all this, I hear you cry. So far you've identified what the New Left is and had a little rant about schools. It's all very well being bitter and angry about the way society is now, but if you want to change it, you've got to have proactive ideas!

That is what this blog is for. Hopefully we can spark a debate about how conservatives are to react to the leftist takeover of society. I'll be posting up essays and blog entries, and I'll be looking for your response. My basis thesis is this.

Conservatives believe in order, tradition, merit, enterprise, responsibility, respect, civility, institutions, nationhood, but, beginning with the Attlee Government and finding its full expression in the 1960s counterculture, many of these values have been demolished or, in that favourite exercise of the New Left, reinterpreted. The result is what David Cameron calls the broken society - poor standards and uninvigorating methods of education; a dependency culture reliant on the state for life; a breakdown in the family and the consequent rise in violent crime and gangs; teenage pregnancy and excessive alcohol consumption; an apathy towards politics and national heritage. Only conservatives have the values to mend these problems, yet for too long we've paid too little attention to society and culture.

The aspirational classes are on our side. Iain Duncan Smith identifies a conservative majority in Britain who share our fundamental values; who balk at the idea of a diversity officer or child illiteracy or the violence on our streets; who don't understand why they have to pay taxes to fund the lives of people who could work, or why a murderer can't be deported to his own country, or why we have to fund France's agricultural community. The Culture War has been raging for years, and we've ignored it. The New Left runs rampant in our institutions, from schools to the BBC, from the EU to the Civil Service. It is time for conservatives to fight back, because if we don't, pretty soon there isn't going to be much worth conserving.

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Published by The Culture Warrior on at 10:25. 1 Comments

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    The Sixties saw the rise of the New Left - Cultural Marxists who knew that their economic theories were dead, but understood that they could still disrupt culture and society by covertly infecting its institutions. Sadly, they succeeded, and the result is the Permissive Britain we see today. Conservatives must wage a culture war to bring back the values of respect, duty, nationhood and prudence that, when coupled with enterprise and freedom, are the surest conditions of progress and stability.


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