Just heard PM’s interview on Radio4. An issue came up which already came up yesterday in the Commons; an issue of responsibility. Let us suppose that terrorism (or attacks against westerns, or whatever) has increased since, say, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the US and UK Government responsible for that, given that their invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq was deliberate and intentional? Blair has a good answer to that: look (as he always, annoyingly, starts his answers), we can’t be responsible for the actions of others. And this is true. Responsibility is not causally transitive. So even if it made sense to say that the decision of the UK Government to invade Iraq caused the terrorist’s decision to blow up tube trains in London (and it isn’t at all clear what it means for one’s action to cause another’s action, given that the former, supposedly, was not sufficient to bring about the latter, otherwise the latter would not be an action), that does not mean that the UK Government is responsible for those trains being blown up; it is only who blew them up that is responsible. So that the counterfactual ‘the London trains would have not been blown up if the Government had not invaded Iraq’, even if true, would not bring with it responsibility for the Government. But there are at least to replies to Blair’s answer which, unfortunately, John (who fancies himself a bit too much to be a good interviewer) did not put to the PM: firstly, responsibility comes in if the government could have prevented what happened (but if the counterfactual is true, wouldn’t not invading Iraq have been a way to prevent the attacks? I guess the issue is whether you can do counterfactuals with people’s intentions and actions; and still, even then, it’s not clear that they would carry any responsibility). Secondly, there is an issue of prediction: because it is the Government’s responsibility to try and predict threats, it the Government could have predicted the threat, then, even though it cannot be responsible for someone else’s action, it would still be responsible for not having predicted someone else’s actions, which resulted in the attacks. In this latter case, both who blew up the trains and the Government would be responsible for the people who died on 7/7, because both who blew up the trains and the Government could and should have prevented what happened.
The US Government wants to arm pilots on commercial flights. That would be better, they argue, than having armed air marshals fly as passengers: pilots have to be on board anyway. Indeed, it would also be cheaper, easier, and would avoid having passengers stare at each other wondering who’s got the gun. Have you ever received a “Have you got the gun?” stare? You might not have identified it: it’s not that different from the “Are you the terrorist?” stare. The pilot is in charge, and he or she already has the trust of the passengers. So, definitely, if someone’s got to carry a gun, let it be the pilot. In fact, I might venture to propose to the US Government some even better measures: since it would be a pain, both politically and financially, to have to gun-train all those pilots, why don’t just make airlines employ military pilots? Those guys already know everything about guns, terrorists, and dangerous situations. Doubtless, military pilots would be fitter for the job. But then you would have to train military pilots for commercial flights. So why don’t we just all travel in military aircrafts? That would definitely spare quite a lot of training and money; and, I can assure you, Mr. President, many of us would feel quite a lot safer in a darker looking aircraft carrying the US AirForce insignia.