Thursday, August 11, 2005

Europe's cowardice in the face of enemy fire

The following excellent article by Mathias Döpfner appeared in the Sunday Times – Review, August 07, 2005
"The response to terror has been abject, says German publisher Mathias Döpfner The writer Henryk Broder recently issued a withering indictment: Europe, your family name is appeasement. That phrase resonates because it is so terribly true.
Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives as Britain and France negotiated and hesitated too long before they realised Adolf Hitler needed to be fought and defeated, because he could not be bound by toothless agreements.
* Later, appeasement legitimised and stabilised communism in the Soviet Union, in East Germany and then throughout the rest of eastern Europe, where for decades inhuman, repressive and murderous governments were glorified.
Appeasement similarly crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Bosnia and Kosovo. Indeed, even though we had absolute proof of mass murder, we Europeans debated and debated, and then debated still more. We were still debating when finally the Americans had to come from halfway around the world, into Europe yet again, to do our work for us.
Europe still hasn't learnt. Rather than protecting democracy in the Middle East, European appeasement often seems to countenance suicide bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians.
Similarly, it generates a mentality that allows Europe to ignore the almost 500,000 victims of Saddam Hussein's torture and murder machinery and to harangue George W Bush as a warmonger.
This hypocrisy continues even as it is discovered that some of the loudest critics of US action in Iraq made illicit billions - indeed, tens of billions - of dollars in the corrupt United Nations oil for food programme.
Today we are faced with a particularly grotesque form of appeasement. How is Germany reacting to the escalating violence by Islamic fundamentalists in the Netherlands, Britain and elsewhere in Europe? By suggesting - wait for it - that the proper response to such barbarism is to initiate a Muslim holiday in Germany.
I wish I were joking, but I am not. A substantial fraction of Germany's government - and, if polls are to be believed, the German people - believe that creating an official state Muslim holiday will somehow spare us from the wrath of fanatical Islamists.
One cannot help but recall Neville Chamberlain on his return from Munich, waving that laughable treaty signed by Hitler, and declaring the advent of peace in our time.
What atrocity must occur before the European public and its political leadership understand what is really happening in the world? There is a sort of crusade under way; an especially perfidious campaign consisting of systematic attacks by Islamists, focused on civilians, that is directed against our open western societies and is intent on their destruction.
We find ourselves faced with a conflict that will most likely last longer than any of the great military clashes of the last century, a conflict conducted by an enemy that cannot be tamed by tolerance and accommodation because it is spurred on by such gestures. Such responses have proven to be signs of weakness.
Only two recent US presidents have had the courage needed to shun appeasement: Ronald Reagan and George W Bush. The US's critics may quibble over the details, but in our hearts we know the truth, because we saw it first hand.
Reagan ended the cold war, freeing half of Europe from almost 50 years of terror. And Bush, acting out of moral conviction and supported only by Tony Blair, recognised the danger in today's Islamist war against democracy.
In the meantime, Europe sits back in the multicultural corner with its usual blithe self-confidence.
Instead of defending liberal values and acting as an attractive centre of power on the same playing field as the true great powers, the US and China, it does nothing. On the contrary, we Europeans present ourselves, in contrast to the supposedly arrogant Americans, as world champions of tolerance, which even Otto Schily, the German interior minister, justifiably criticises.
Where does this self-satisfied reaction come from? Does it arise because we are so moral? I fear it stems from the fact that we Europeans are devoid of a moral compass.
For his policy of confronting Islamic terrorism head on, Bush risks the fall of the dollar, huge amounts of additional national debt and a massive and persistent burden on the US economy. But he does this because, unlike most of Europe, he realises what is at stake is literally everything that really matters to free people.
While we criticise the capitalistic robber barons of the US because they seem too sure of their priorities, we timidly defend our welfare states. "Stay out of it. It could get expensive," we cry.
So instead of acting to defend our civilisation, we prefer to discuss reducing our 35-hour work week, improving our dental coverage or extending our four weeks of annual paid holiday. Or perhaps we listen to television pastors preaching about the need to reach out to terrorists, to understand and forgive.
These days, Europe reminds me of an old woman who, with shaking hands, frantically hides her last pieces of jewellery when she notices a robber breaking into a neighbour's house. Appeasement? That is just the start of it. Europe, thy name is cowardice."
© Mathias Döpfner 2005
Mathias Döpfner is chief executive of the German media group Axel Springer. This article was published in Die Welt

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