Keeping It Rational
Maltravers: Oh dear, oh dear! Dreadful business this in Syria.
Carr-Moffit: Oh yes. Appalling.
Maltravers: I can’t imagine it’s doing any good for anybody.
Carr-Moffit: No. Except Israel, of course.
Maltravers: Eh? How do you mean?
Carr-Moffit: Well, as long as the Syrians are fighting each other, they aren’t doing any mischief to Israel, you see.
Maltravers: No, I suppose not. So who are the belligerents, exactly, in Syria?
Carr-Moffit: Well, it’s the government forces, Assad’s forces, you see, and, largely, Islamist militants. Al Qaeda, that sort of thing.
Maltravers: I see. And – sorry to be so dense – whose side are we on?
Maltravers: The West. Us.
Carr-Moffit: Oh. The rebels.
Maltravers: Oh, I see! The people that we declared war on.
Carr-Moffit: What? What do you mean?
Maltravers: The War on Terror. That was against Al Qaeda and the Islamist militants, wasn’t it?
Carr-Moffit: Yes, yes it was. More or less. It’s far more complicated than that, of course.
Maltravers: Oh, of course. But, I mean, did we win, then?
Carr-Moffit: Win what?
Maltravers: The War on Terror. I take it that we won? I mean, if we’re now selling them weapons, and so forth? That’s splendid! No more of those awful queues in airports, taking off our belts and shoes and all that!
Carr-Moffit: Oh we couldn’t relax security. I mean, who knows what other ghastly people might crawl out…
Maltravers: Out of the woodwork?
Carr-Moffit: Out from under a stone and start hijacking and so on. Besides, we couldn’t sack security staff. It’s a highly specialised job! I mean, where would they go? What would they do? You do see?
Maltravers: Yes, I do see, of course. So, the War on Terror is still going on?
Carr-Moffit: Oh, well, I’d have to say that it was on-going. We can’t relax our vigilance for a second!
Maltravers: So we’re still fighting Al Qaeda and the Islamist militants?
Carr-Moffit: Effectively, yes.
Maltravers: But we’re giving them arms in Syria, that they could, in theory, turn round and use against our chaps?
Carr-Moffit: Well, in theory, yes. Of course, it’s highly complicated; a very complex situation.
Maltravers: But we’re threatening to bomb Assad’s nerve gas plants and so on?
Carr-Moffit: Oh yes. He’s crossed a red line, you see.
Maltravers: It would be good to know who supplied the wherewithal for that nerve gas, wouldn’t it! You’d unearth some real villains there, what?
Carr-Moffit: Err ahem. Yes.
Maltravers: Do we know who did it?
Carr-Moffit: Well, er, it’s very, very complicated, of course.
Maltravers: But surely…Oh, I see! We supplied it!
Carr-Moffit, Well, in a word, yes. But of course we had ab-so-lute-ly no idea that he’d be using it for gassing people and so forth.
Maltravers: Oh. What did we think he’d use it for?
Carr-Moffit: Oh, you know, humanitarian…
Maltravers: Humanitarian purposes? Same with the Cruise Missiles we sent him, I suppose?
Carr-Moffit: Exactly. It’s all frightfully complicated.
Maltravers: Very complicated. All right, so we’re still fighting the War on Terror, but we’re supporting our enemies in the War on Terror with weapons and suchlike in Syria, because their enemies are using nerve gas that we sold them, but we disapprove of that.
Carr-Moffit: Yes, well, they crossed the red line, you see. Or at least, the CIA say they did. It’s extremely complicated.
Maltravers: They crossed a red line. Yes. But Russia supports Assad, because he’s fighting the Islamist terrorists and Al Qaeda, who we’re fighting in the War on Terror?
Carr-Moffit: Well, we can’t let Russia get away with that, can we?
Maltravers: It seems to me that at least Russia’s stance is more coherent. More consistent.
Carr-Moffit: I’d be very careful not to articulate that sentiment too loudly. Walls have ears, you know.
Maltravers: Oh, er, yes. Of course. So, we’re loudly and clearly against Russia, are we?
Carr-Moffit: Good God, no! They’d cut off our gas!
Maltravers: Yes…It really is complicated, isn’t it. But, I take it we’ve got the situation under control?
Carr-Moffit: Well, yes, of course. Apart from…
Maltravers: Apart from?
Carr-Moffit: Well. Israel and Iran. The whole thing’s a powder keg! Absolute powder keg!
Maltravers: Yes, I see. But basically, we don’t like Islamist terrorists and Al Qaeda, but we don’t like nerve gas being used on innocent, unarmed civilians even more so. Civilians who are suffering the most appalling attacks and conditions.
Carr-Moffit: Exactly. Utterly appalling! But remember the red line.
Maltravers: Red line, yes. Bullets and bombs are okay?
Carr-Moffit: Oh yes. If a chap fires a gun at you, well, you can duck, you see. If he drops a bomb on you, you can run for cover. But gas gets you no matter what. It just doesn’t give your opposition a sporting chance, you see.
Maltravers: So bullets and bombs are okay because they’re…
Carr-Moffit: More sporting.
Maltravers: More sporting, yes.
Carr-Moffit: And perfectly acceptable. Within limits, of course.
Carr-Moffit: What do you mean, come off it? Oh, I’m sorry, Carr-Moffit. That’s me, yes.
Maltravers: No no! I was just going to say…I mean…who draws up the limits?
Carr-Moffit: Well, that’s in the hands of whoever happens to be in the White House at the time. The Democrats, for instance, want to spread western-style democracy. While the Republicans…
Maltravers: Yes, the Republicans?
Carr-Moffit: They want to spread business opportunities. Building oil pipelines and so forth. But various groupings in the Middle East rather seem to resent that.
Maltravers: How extraordinary. It is complicated, isn’t it! But I must say, one rather wonders why we don’t stop supplying all these people with the capacity to blow each other to Kingdom Come. If they’re so volatile, I mean.
Carr-Moffit: Well, that’s rather a naïve view, if you don’t mind my saying so. I mean, that would hit the arms trade. Our arms trade. Think of the children of arms manufacturers and so forth, going without their computer games and i-pods and so on at Christmas.
Maltravers: A very touching picture.
Carr-Moffit: It is a touching picture, yes.
Maltravers: Of course, if the US acts alone, they’d be in breach of international law, wouldn’t they?
Carr-Moffit: Well, technically…The chaps in Congress who are supported by the military are frightfully keen to act, of course.
Maltravers: But if anyone were to retaliate against the US, the rest of NATO would have to support America, wouldn’t they?
Carr-Moffit: Oh yes. That’s how NATO works.
Maltravers: So whatever the US does, NATO is duty bound to follow?
Carr-Moffit: Well, again, it’s fiendishly complicated, but, technically, yes.
Maltravers: So all in all, it rather looks as though war is inevitable, wouldn’t you say?
Carr-Moffit: Well, in the long view, of course, there has to be war, or civilization would collapse.
Maltravers: Collapse into what?
Carr-Moffit: Well, conflicts and so on, you know.
Maltravers: Wars, you mean?
Carr-Moffit: Wars, yes. But irrational wars.
Maltravers: Irrational wars! Couldn’t have that.
Carr-Moffit: No, no. Couldn’t have that at all. Of course, in the end, between you and me, the whole thing’s down to religion. Thank God there are a few rational people like us to help sort things out. The cool, secular head, you know. Cheers.
Maltravers: Mud in your eye.