Some months ago I saw an article explaining why terrorist attacks do not constitute an "existential threat" to western society. The writer made much play of numbers: how the hundreds or (in the case of 9/11) thousands of deaths are - in coldly objective terms - of trivial impact; and that in a world where nuclear weapons have actually been used, and genocides perpetrated, we should know better than to class terrorism in the same league.
This is the unsubtle stuff of a student debating society. "Existential threats" don't always come in the readily identifable form of the Spanish Armada or the Battle of the Atlantic. Deaths don't need to be benchmarked against the First Day of the Somme. "The most striking feature of Islamist terrorism in Europe is how little of it there has been" - OK, but that's Nick Cohen writing on Saturday, and he certainly sees a serious threat: the death-knell of European liberalism is what he fears is ringing in his ears.
I too believe today's threat really does merit consideration in extreme terms; my reason is different to his. It's the capitulationist tendency I fear among politicians and populace alike: so many prone - as human beings - to detect quickly which way a strong wind is blowing, and to look for a quiet life (see the first, third and fourth letters in this predictable little batch).
Is it in bad taste to use French illustrations? Vichy is one, Submission is another. M.Hollande has offered fighting talk, but for every De Gaulle (and Churchill) there is a Pétain (and a Halifax) and the 98% of an entire population that inevitably falls under their sway. I know dozens of MPs. There are very few of these artists of the possible who, when push comes to shove, would draw a line in the sand anywhere, on any issue - provided they can see their way clear to being re-elected. And who doesn't keep their heads down when enemy tanks are rolling down the street?
The full-cycle dynamics of the threat, then, are to do with what the 'deal-makers' amongst our elected representatives will concede if they really feel the wind blowing in a new direction, in this case if they detect the terror-merchants have the stamina and strategy to match their evil intent and their current resource-base. As it happens, right now I could see it going either way. All the short-term frontier-closings and extra-bombs-over-Syria are no more than phoney-war stuff, activity for the sake of being seen to act, neither here nor there. We are waiting for the first signs of the main event. To us a sporting metaphor, a lot hinges on whichever side scores next ...
What might the next move be? Even the Guardian opines that "the defeat of Isis in Syria will not dissolve the threat of jihadi violence, but it is a necessary step on that road. That will surely entail military action". A very probable next play, I reckon, is a spectacular intervention by Putin's plentiful forces. Russia is suffering a lot - from low oil prices, sanctions, insulting political gestures from the west and very insulting commercial terms from China, their market of last resort. Getting onto the right side of some of these issues depends on Russia being promoted to the status of our enemy's enemy and that, he will feel, is within Putin's power to deliver*. Whether he's right about that or not, it seems to me he is entirely likely to follow something like Raedwald's suggested course of action, shortly after there is clarity on the downing of the airliner in Egypt.
We are told that the G20 is already becoming a series of little breakout meetings on Syria. Putin is still a member of that club (as are Saudi and Turkey and indeed China - altogether a more meaningful forum than the G7), and he'll be sniffing the air, alright.
Perhaps Obama can call off his bear-baiters and get more of the world back onside, which is what is needed - as a first step - to eradicate the threat posed by the combined forces of the terror-merchants and the capitulationists.
"You ask, what is our policy ... what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory." Half the reason we won last time around was that everyone, from modest families in terraced houses to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the White House, knew that Churchill meant it.
*Where does that leave Ukraine? That's an interesting one. Might see Russia contenting itself with Crimea. At the same time, the EU might find itself losing interest, too. Last year's issue ...