March 17, 2002
Making Enemies, Part II

Having now looked over Amphetamine Logic more carefully, I have some more objections (I wouldn't want to look like one of those blogrollers):

1. In arguing against the idea that gun control has something to do with London's soaring crime rate, Pratt writes: "Although New Yorkers are now 6 times less likely to get assaulted than Londoners, they are 11 times more likely to get murdered." This is a very poor choice of example, since New York is one of the few jurisdictions in the U.S. whose citizens are not allowed to own guns and are prosecuted when they use them in self-defense, just as if they were in London. And the New York City murder rate, though less than a third what it was when Giuliani was elected, which does indeed prove that private gun ownership is not the only variable, is still quite a bit higher than the national average.

I also wonder whether the U.S. murder rates include justifiable homicide, i.e. cases of self-defense. Some of us think that justifiable homicide is a good thing, or at least the lesser of two evils: if it weren't, it wouldn't be justifiable, would it? It certainly tends to keep rates of assault, robbery, rape, and so on -- not to mention recidivism -- lower than they would otherwise be. Although the topic is complex, it is possible that Britain's rates for other crimes are high at least in part because the homicide rate is low.

2. In his latest post, Pratt is quite rightly contemptuous of Americans who treat the loathsome Gerry Adams as some kind of hero or statesman:

More Yank hypocrisy. There is apparently a "Gerry Adams Way" in Oakland, California. Very little coverage of this in the UK press, but no doubt the Americans would pick up on it soon enough if we renamed a street in Cambridge or Oxford "Mullah Omar Avenue". Don't forget, you can have a war on terrorism, unless Americans sympathise with the terrorists aims. Tossers.

The criticism would be more convincing if it were not so sweeping. Most Americans who know enough about the subject to be entitled to an opinion are just as disgusted as Pratt. Oakland is not exactly a typical American city: it's right next to Berkeley and has Jerry Brown for mayor and Barbara Lee for congresswoman. (She was the only member of congress to vote against fighting Bin Laden.) Stupid things are par for the course there. Of course, if you go to Boston and talk to the kind of Bostonians who automatically vote for anyone on the ballot named Kennedy, you'll find a lot of stupid Gerry Adams supporters there, too. Again, hardly typical. If Omaha or Tulsa renames a street after Gerry Adams, I'll start to worry that America as a whole has gone soft on Irish terrorism. In short, this isn't an American thing, it's a leftie thing (and an Irish thing), and Oakland no more represents America than the Guardian represents Britain.

And speaking of being soft on terrorism, Pratt ignores the absolutely crucial point that Britain made peace with the IRA long before Bush declared war on terrorism. This totally vitiates his Mullah Omar comparison. If Bush ever signs a peace treaty with Mullah Omar, releases all his murderous thugs from Camp X-Ray, makes him promise to hand over all his weapons and then does nothing when he fails to do so, forces Hamid Karzai to invite him into a coalition government as an equal partner, and invites him to the White House for dinner, he will deserve to be treated with loathing and contempt. All that seems unlikely, to say the least. This American would have no particular objection to dropping a daisy cutter on Gerry Adams and all his real and unreal, continuity and discontinuity IRA buddies, as long as there were no genuine civilians nearby. But it's hard to do that when Blair and Adams are so cordial. After all, it would require some sort of declaration of war or equivalent. I do wish Bush would not invite Adams to the White House for St. Patrick's Day, but he is just following the British lead. Wouldn't it be arrogantly imperialistic if he were to start telling Blair how to treat his own terrorists? I suspect Pratt is right in suggesting that if there is ever a 'Mullah Omar Avenue' in the U.K. it will be in either Cambridge or Oxford.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at March 17, 2002 10:40 PM