Er, and apologies for invading your blog
I spent some time in the UK (inlcuding in Belfast, which yes, is legally a part of the UK) and I love it with all its mad contradictions. Above all, I love Northern Ireland with a passion, in spite of its horrendous weather and dubious taste in fashion. Maybe that is why it makes me angry to see someone write about the British government's "bitter campaign" against the IRA as a instructive parable for living with terrorism in dignity. Especially when mentioned in one breath with Churchill's "we shall fight on the beaches" speech.
So here are a few things I want to say about the "English" and their own struggle with terrorism:
I admire many qualities that the British have, but in the north they remember that "we shall never surrender" of Churchill's for all the wrong reasons. Cf Margaret Hilda Thatcher:
"Thatcher believed that resources should be concentrated instead on taking a much stronger stance on security policy in order to tackle paramilitary groups. A prime example of this came with Thatcher's uncompromising attitude to the Republican hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981."
Thatcher loved that Churchillian stance, that core staunch Englishness. Her years in power are some of the darkest in Northern Irish history - her position on security aggravated a situation that was virtually impossible anyway. Cheers, Maggie.
The changes towards the present day, relatively peaceful situation is to quite an important extent due to Tony Blair. I don't like Tony much these days, but credit where credit is due, he and Peter "Prince of Darkness" Mandelson (then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) were some of the better things to come to NI from Westminster. But when I say that credit is due, I mean only in British government. The real courage is not theirs. The real courage is that of of the politicians on the ground. Tony Blair's great inspiration was that the best people to talk to were the Northern Irish, all of them. I'm with the Nobel Prize Committee in believing that it is people like David Trimble and John Hume who deserve to be praised for talking to "the other side", including the terrorists, and keeping the talks going. But don't praise the English for dealing with the IRA. Don't praise them for their "no surrender" stance. The best thing the British government did in dealing with the IRA was reconsidering that infelxible stance.
To summarise, I guess this is why your post makes me angry:
1) The implication that the conflict in Nothern Ireland was something the English dealt with successfully, or with dignity (check out Amnesty's reports on the subject). This is nonsense. At best, the British govermnment guided local politics (British/Irish) with some measure of success.
2) As implied above, English does not equal British, and the English did not fight WW2 without the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish. Speaking of the English only in this context, as well as the Northern Irish context, is not an oversight, it is an insult.
3) To go against the rule of not introducing new content in a summary I would like to say that I resent the implication that the English courage was somehow superior during WW2. It is far easier (though never easy) to be defiant and brave when you are not occupied and in a good definsive position (that island thing again). Now try the same if you are, for example, a small, poorly armed country right next to Germany.
Finally, let me just say that I do see your point, and hear what you are saying. But it is a pity that in saying a very, very sensible thing, you somehow also get mixed up in the stereotypes and rhetoric which are not what make the Brits admirable. They may well be a good example in some of the things they do to deal with terrorists, but some nuance is in order here.
EDITORIAL ADDENDUM: New to the blog? Confused about what the hell TDEC is referring to? See the original post for deeper insight. -Drek