by Sam Kiley, Sky Foreign Affairs Editor
The Western world is being suffocated by a gigantic lie. A falsehood far worse than the fantasy that Brexit will make Britain rich, or that Mexico will pay to wall itself off from Donald Trump.
It is a lie that has and continues to kill – and one endorsed by every shade of the political rainbow. It’s a porky even bitter enemies share.
The fantastic fib is this: “Islamic terror is a threat to the West.”
Not even the murderous nastiness of the Belgium bombings, the Bataclan massacre, the Nice atrocities. Not the mass casualty attacks that have been headed off in Britain or even the doomsday fantasies of the so-called Islamic State’s best brains are strategic problems.
And our leaders know this.
Proof, unusually, lies in the headlines.
Last weekend Max Hill, the new independent reviewer of terror legislation, spoke to The Sunday Telegraph which echoed his view with the thundering headline “UK faces terror threat from Isis ‘not seen since IRA bombings'” as news.
And it is. But not as The Telegraph understood it. That headline was intended to frighten. To me, it was reassuring.
Now it’s not good news that today’s mostly hapless thugs high on Islamic extremist agitprop may have reached the capabilities of the highly skilled Irish Republican Army of the 1970s. That would be a bad thing, obviously.
But back then, the IRA was what the Army calls an “embuggerance”. It was not a strategic threat to the United Kingdom, it could not disrupt our way or life or shift our industrial base, nor could it cause poverty or famine.
It was a nasty organisation seeking publicity (successfully) for its republican aims. Just like so-called IS.
It suits both the leaders of the so-called Caliphate and the West to agree, though, that the danger posed by hard-line Islamist extremism is far worse than it is.
It allows the Government in Britain to introduce legislation that allows it unprecedented snooper powers on our communications. The UK now has Orwellian scales of surveillance protecting us against an enemy that is no match for conventional methods of defence.
In America, the Islamist bogey is being used as camouflage for a more subtle desire to “restore” a melting-pot nation to a homogenous Judeo-Christian culture it, arguably, never had under President Trump’s Svengali Steve Bannon.
The death cult that is Islamic State is now under heavy pressure in Iraq and Syria. Its pretentions to statehood may be destroyed this year – three years after it was spawned.
Britain has a handful of aircraft in the coalition forces ranged against it, and a small number of Special Forces soldiers on the ground. America’s contribution of 5,000 men and scores of aircraft is far bigger.
But the whole package aimed at ridding the world of the IS threat we’re being told to greatly fear simply reveals how frightened we should not be.
The US has, and had, the capacity to bomb IS infrastructure, its oil terminals and power stations, its training camps and barracks into dust in a matter of weeks.
Instead, the Caliphate is being slowly taken apart in small bite-sized chunks.
That’s a tactical response to a tactical problem. Pretending that Islamic State is a strategic threat is a lie – one can only hope that the West’s leaders don’t believe their own nonsense. Because there’s something nasty in Vladimir Putin’s woodshed.