Miles Kington: Love is all you need (to kill your enemies)

'President Putin doesn't know it yet, but I think American support will prove his death warrant'
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The news that President Bush may have given the go-ahead for Osama bin Laden to be assassinated has brought despair to Professor Steve Inkermann.

The news that President Bush may have given the go-ahead for Osama bin Laden to be assassinated has brought despair to Professor Steve Inkermann.

"Here we go again," says Professor Inkermann. "Do we never learn?"

He puts his head in his hands and weeps silently for a moment. Then he looks up and answers his own question.

"No, we never learn," he says.

And the professor should know.

He is, after all, chief strategist at Ishapw – shorthand for the internationally respected think tank, The Institute for the Study of How America got the Plot Wrong. A government-funded body, formed to think the unthinkable and wonder out loud why America fails when it does fail, it's like a medieval court jester without the jokes.

"Ever since I can remember," says the professor, "America has believed that if you remove public enemy No 1, you have solved your problem. There are only two objections. One, it does not solve anything, because you then get another public enemy No 1 replacing the old one. Two, we never seem able to manage an assassination that actually does get rid of enemy No 1. Remember we were once going to rub out Castro under the Kennedys? A poisoned pen or back-firing cigar or something? Correct me if I am wrong, but Castro is still going strong and the Kennedys are all gone. In fact, correct me again if I'm wrong, but the Kennedys were assassinated and Castro was not. This was what we in the trade call getting the plot wrong. Really wrong."

But surely if they did manage to get rid of Osama bin Laden, the problem would be over? Wouldn't it?

Professor Inkermann stares into the distance. He has heard this all before.

"Over the years," he says, explaining it very simply as he has no doubt had to explain things to successive uncomprehending presidents, "we have always been enthralled by the idea, gleaned from too many Westerns, that if you rub out the chief baddy, peace is restored. If Wyatt Earp can kill the Clancy brothers, if Jesse James can be wiped out, then everything will be lovely in the garden again. If the Garden of Eden had been an American scenario, then Adam would have tried to shoot it out with the serpent. Trouble is, knowing our luck, he would have shot Eve by mistake..."

But surely the US generally gets what it wants? It's not often on the losing side?

"It's always on the losing side when it comes to public enemy No 1. Think of all the big bad guys that the Americans have sworn to get rid of. Think of Colonel Gaddafi. Think of Saddam Hussein. Think of Ayotollah Khomeini. Think of Castro. We have sworn to get rid of all of them, and they are all still here, with the exception of Kim Il Sung, who was replaced by a clone, and Khomeini, who died of old age. Got tired waiting to be assassinated, I expect.

"You might almost say that for America to say a leader should be got rid of is a guarantee he will stay in power for a long time. Look at it the other way round. What about world leaders we thoroughly approved of and wanted to stay in power? Like the Shah? President Marcos? Pinochet? What happened to them? We supported them and it was their undoing. American support is the kiss of death. American opposition is the kiss of life. Therefore..."

This is where Professor Inkermann starts thinking the unthinkable.

"Therefore we should start loving our enemies. Not only is it what we are told to do in the Bible, but it's the only way to get rid of them. I have recently managed to persuade the State Department to try, just as an experiment, cosying up to Vladimir Putin. They have started. Putin doesn't know it yet, but I think US support will be his death warrant."

And bin Laden? Should America think the ultimate unthinkable and embrace him? Should America hold out the hand of peace to the Taliban? It is, after all, the ultimate logical conclusion of his argument. That we can only destroy them by taking them on as friends.

"I don't know," says Professor Inkermann, brooding. "Maybe it's a step too far, to go to bin Laden, and say 'Howdy, come round for drinks'. Maybe... Still, it's going to be interesting to see what happens to Blair."


"Sure. Right now, we love Blair. Just as we loved the Shah and Marcos and all our other vanished allies. So it'll be interesting to see how long he can outlast the curse of American friendship. don't you think?"

Very interesting indeed.