The real clash of civilizations is in the West’s attitude to terror

On the one hand are those who think it rests on universal values, often as proclaimed in written declarations of rights. On the other hand are those who think it arises from history, and is developed by particular people in particular ways at particular times.

If you are on the universalist side, you feel guilty about any bad deed done in the Western past and you get terribly worried by anything which deviates from the general rule. If civilisation is built on innate, global human rights, those rights must be upheld for all people at all times, almost regardless of circumstances. So if, for example, an Islamist extremist might conceivably face torture if deported to his country of origin, he must not be deported, whatever the expense of keeping him here and whatever his danger to our public good.

The particularists think differently. They are equally opposed to torture, but they are prouder of their history and have a much stronger sense that the freedoms and rights they value do not exist in a vacuum, but because of their countries’ past achievements. Those freedoms and rights flow from citizenship and are protected by an enforceable judicial and political authority, usually a national one. So if a case arises in which the liberty and security of the particularist’s fellow citizens are threatened by the rights of a non-citizen, the particularist sides heavily with his fellow citizens. And if some of his fellow citizens choose to spit on their common citizenship – for example, by attacking people who serve in the armed forces, or by demanding their own courts – his patience will not be endless.