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Forces Of Evil

The controversial cartoons of Muhammad, first published in <i>Jyllands-Posten</i> in September 2005.
click image to enlarge

A few days ago, Henryk M. Broder wrote in the Welt am Sonntag, "Europe - your family name is appeasement." It's a phrase you can't get out of your head because it's so terribly true.

Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives as England and France, allies at the time, negotiated and hesitated too long before they noticed that Hitler had to be fought, not bound to agreements. Appeasement stabilized communism in the Soviet Union and East Germany in that part of Europe where inhuman, suppressive governments were glorified as the ideologically correct alternative to all other possibilities. Appeasement crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Kosovo and we Europeans debated and debated until the Americans came in and did our work for us.

Rather than protecting democracy in the Middle East, European appeasement, camouflaged behind the fuzzy word "equidistance," now countenances suicide bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians. Appeasement generates a mentality that allows Europe to ignore 300,000 victims of Saddam's torture and murder machinery and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace-movement, to issue bad grades to George Bush. A particularly grotesque form of appeasement is reacting to the escalating violence by Islamic fundamentalists in Holland and elsewhere by suggesting that we should really have a Muslim holiday in Germany.

What else has to happen before the European public and its political leadership get it? There is a sort of crusade underway, an especially perfidious crusade consisting of systematic attacks by fanatic Muslims, focused on civilians and directed against our free, open Western societies. It is a conflict that will most likely last longer than the great military conflicts of the last century - a conflict conducted by an enemy that cannot be tamed by tolerance and accommodation but only spurred on by such gestures, which will be mistaken for signs of weakness.

Two recent American presidents had the courage needed for anti-appeasement: Reagan and Bush. Reagan ended the Cold War and Bush, supported only by the social democrat Blair acting on moral conviction, recognized the danger in the Islamic fight against democracy. His place in history will have to be evaluated after a number of years have passed.

In the meantime, Europe sits back with charismatic self-confidence in the multicultural corner instead of defending liberal society's values and being an attractive center of power on the same playing field as the true great powers, America and China. On the contrary - we Europeans present ourselves, in contrast to the intolerant, as world champions in tolerance, which even (Germany's Interior Minister) Otto Schily justifiably criticizes. Why? Because we're so moral? I fear it's more because we're so materialistic.

For his policies, Bush risks the fall of the dollar, huge amounts of additional national debt and a massive and persistent burden on the American economy-because everything is at stake.

While the alleged capitalistic robber barons in American know their priorities, we timidly defend our social welfare systems. Stay out of it! It could get expensive. We'd rather discuss the 35-hour workweek or our dental health plan coverage. Or listen to TV pastors preach about "reaching out to murderers." These days, Europe reminds me of an elderly aunt who hides her last pieces of jewelry with shaking hands when she notices a robber has broken into a neighbor's house. Europe, thy name is cowardice.

All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
- Edmund Burke.

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It's been a rough, tough, dismaying week for those Europeans who like to believe that the pen is mightier than the scimitar. Yes, an additional number of publications reprinted those pesky cartoons, one selling out its print run when it did so, but these were brave, temporary gestures, as evanescent as the paper on which they were printed, as futile as fists waved in the face of a storm.

While the Danish prime minister was stubbornly sticking to the principles of free speech and a free press, principles which he had, perhaps naively, and certainly optimistically, thought would find support from governments across Europe, his words were nearly drowned out by hints, murmurings, and shouts of appeasement from the gray, shrunken statesmen of Brussels, Paris, London, Stockholm, and many other capitals — take your pick — of a continent that once saw itself as the home of Enlightenment.

Of course, there were exceptions to the dismal, despairing rule, and, naturally, one of them was the Somali-born Dutch MP, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, fearless and furious, , one of the few politicians in Europe who still says how things really are: Shame on those papers and TV channels who lacked the courage to show their readers the caricatures in the cartoon affair. These intellectuals live off free speech but they accept censorship. They hide their mediocrity of mind behind noble-sounding terms such as "responsibility" and "sensitivity." Shame on those politicians who stated that publishing and re-publishing the drawings was "unnecessary," "insensitive," "disrespectful" and "wrong." I am of the opinion that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark acted correctly when he refused to meet with representatives of tyrannical regimes who demanded from him that he limit the powers of the press. Today we should stand by him morally and materially. He is an example to all other European leaders. I wish my prime minister had Rasmussen's guts... I do not seek to offend religious sentiment, but I will not submit to tyranny. Demanding that people who do not accept Mohammed's teachings should refrain from drawing him is not a request for respect but a demand for submission.

Indeed it is, and judging by the reaction of Dutch prime minister Balkenende, he's ready to grovel. He didn't, he sniffed, have "much use" for Hirsi Ali's contribution, a view that would not have been shared by Theo van Gogh, the director with whom she worked on the movie, Submission. Of course, van Gogh is dead now, butchered by a Muslim extremist offended (ah, that word again) by his film. Interestingly, if one recent poll on a related matter is any indication, the Dutch people themselves are likely to take a very different line from their prime minister. Eighty-four percent, apparently, believe that Hirsi Ali should make a sequel to Submission, even if many of them were far from being fans of the original movie. They are smart enough to understand that, if it is to mean anything, free speech must include freedom of speech about those with whom you disagree.

It was this freedom that van Gogh was testing, it was this freedom that Jyllands-Posten is testing, and it is this freedom that the Dutch foreign minister will be compromising when he travels this week to the Middle East alongside Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, for talks aimed at reducing the tension over the cartoons, a pointless and humiliating exercise that can only reinforce the dangerous impression held by many of the region's Muslims that Europe's governments somehow control Europe's newspapers and can thus be blamed for their contents.

The fact that such a mission is unlikely to take much account of the opinions of Dutch voters should surprise nobody. Europe's leaders have long tended to prefer the top-down and the technocratic to the views of electorates they see as atavistic, irrational, and prone to disturbing nationalist enthusiasms. This is why they had the arrogance to prescribe multiculturalism as an appropriate response to mass immigration, an idea of remarkable stupidity that goes a long way toward explaining the predicament in which Europe now finds itself.

Post-Cold War Allies

America helped to rescue Europe from Hitler's tyranny in World War II. But World War II ended over half a century ago and gratitude, evidently, has a short shelf life in world politics. It should not surprise us that alliances forged in the 1940s, and the institutions that were built on those alliances, would take on new configurations as the world situation evolved and became more fluid.

World War II saw the U.S. allied with England, France, and Russia; but Japan and Italy had joined Germany in the Axis. The Austro-Hungarian empire no longer existed, Turkey stayed neutral, and an emerging China was with the Allies.

The United Nations was formed by the victorious Allies, with the U.S., England, France, Russia, and China holding permanent seats on the Security Council with veto power. Like the League of Nations created at the end of World War I, the U.N. was meant to build on the status quo established by the Allied victory and prevent another world war from overturning it.

The world into which the U.N. was born was even less suitable for the realization of lofty ideals than during the early days of the League. The Cold War started even before World War II was over and saw another major shift in alliances within what was widely seen as a contest for the future direction of the entire planet. The defeated Axis powers, after suitable regime changes, joined with the western democracies. China, after a regime change gave it a Communist leader, aligned with Soviet Russia to overturn the status quo of Western dominance.

As U.N. membership expanded, its role became increasingly convoluted and irrelevant. During the Cold War it was relegated to peripheral regions of the world, a series of pompous declarations and endless conferences in luxurious settings that primarily benefited delegates and their entourages.

The restraints Germany and France tried to apply to U.S. actions in the Balkans were a prelude to their current opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq. French and German opposition at the U.N. is not just about their economic ties to Iraq, or even to their longstanding dispute with America over broader Middle East policy — it's about their vision of Europe's position in the world vis-à-vis the United States. Thus their approach to Iraq has little to do with any reference to the lofty principles supposedly embedded in the U.N. process. They look at every event through the lens of their own interests, which are centered more on containing Washington than Baghdad.

The European Union was created to match the power of the United States. It may have democratic roots, but its "father" was French socialist Jacques Delors. As an institution, the EU has its own ideology and ambitions, which sometimes set it at odds with American interests and values.

A stronger, more centralized EU is not good for the United States. American leaders need to be able to approach governments individually to build new alliances to meet new dangers.

Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld had caused a stir when he called France and Germany the "Old Europe" out of touch with the "New Europe" but he put a great number of capitals on notice that the United States is serious about winning in this more fluid geopolitical environment.

Every nation has the duty to protect its own people and interests using all the traditional methods of statecraft — diplomatic, economic, and military. This is the line that American officials will have to become adept at walking in a dynamic world with many competing players.

Of course, we don't yet know what this delegation to the Middle East will be saying, but comments made in an interview with the London Daily Telegraph by the EU's sinisterly named Commissioner for Freedom, Security and Justice reveal some clues. Saying that millions of Muslims felt "humiliated" by the cartoons, and referring to a supposed "real problem" faced by the EU in reconciling freedom of expression with freedom of religion (actually, there's no "problem" at all, unless fanatics choose to make one), he suggested that the press should adopt a voluntary code of conduct. By agreeing to this "the press will give the Muslim world the message: we are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression, we can and we are ready to self-regulate that right." Why the "Muslim world" outside Europe, much of which is represented by dictatorships, mullah-states and kleptocracies, should have any say in the contents of the continent's supposedly free press was not discussed.

In fairness it should be mentioned that the commissioner, Franco Frattini, subsequently put out a vague, ambiguous, and confusing press release purportedly intended to clarify his remarks, but once you have cut through the waffle, checked out the full text of the original interview, and grasped the fact that he was already talking about some sort of code before the current crisis, the commissioner's intentions become all too clear. One way or another, he wants the press muzzled.

And Frattini is not alone. The president of the EU's "parliament," and thus a man supposedly dedicated to the freedom of debate, could bring himself to defend free expression only "within the boundaries of respect for the religious beliefs and cultural sensitivities of others." Javier Solana meanwhile, paved the way for his trip by telling Al-Arabiya television that "respect does not stop at countries' borders and it includes all religions and specifically what concerns us here, our respect for the Islamic religion." As so often in the last week, the idea that "respect," if it is to mean anything other than capitulation, has to flow both ways, seems not to have merited a mention.

Of course, there is something more than a little disingenuous about the manner in which European politicians like to portray themselves as defenders of the right of free speech even as they reduce it to rubble. The Swedish government, at least, was being more straightforward when, just before the weekend, it arranged to shut down a website that had run one rather innocuous cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. Tellingly, the website belonged to the newspaper of a political party of the hard right, yet another sign of how the establishment's refusal to enter into any serious debate over multiculturalism has handed the issue over to Europe's rougher fringe, who can only gain as a result. It's telling too to read how the Swedish foreign minister reportedly excused her government's actions: "We are already seeing reactions in certain countries who have responded to the Swedish Democrats [the political party in question] having these pictures on their website, and this could naturally have grave consequences for Swedish people and Swedish interests." What, I wonder, is the Swedish for "submission"?

The Swedish authorities are unusual only in the directness of the measures that they have taken, and in the frankness with which they have explained the motives behind them. Other, more discreet, governments are probably content to let their laws take their course, something that will come as cold comfort to anyone who still believes in controversy, debate, and the free exchange of ideas. The development of Europe's state-sponsored multiculturalism has gone hand-in-hand, as it had to, with the enactment of laws that chip away at free speech (and have gone further, far further, than understandable restrictions on direct incitements to violence), but which have, ironically, encouraged and inflamed those that they were meant to appease.

Jacques Chirac was quick to condemn the republication of the Danish cartoons in Charlie Hebdo, an iconoclastic French weekly, as an "overt provocation", but was able to leave the dirty work to others. The French Council of Muslims, a body set up with official support, is reported to be organizing the prosecution of poor Charlie, quite for what remains unclear, but doubtless the Council's lawyers will be able to find something useful in France's laws against "hate speech" or any number of other offenses dreamt up by the enforcers of multiculturalism. The prosecution, like that of the author Michel Houellebecq may well end in failure, but any prosecution, successful or otherwise, comes with a cost in time, worry, and lawyers' fees, a cost that will make other authors, editors, and publishers think twice before publishing anything that might irritate the imams. And France is by no means alone in this respect. Many European countries can boast, if that's the word, similar laws on their own statute books, and even in Britain, traditionally a defender of free speech, the House of Commons recently came within one vote of passing a law that would almost certainly have made publishing the cartoons a criminal offense.

If the law doesn't do the trick, perhaps intimidation will. The threat of violence, and sometimes more than the threat, has run through the hysteria and bombast of recent days, and it has involved far more than the torching of a few embassies, appalling though that was. Sometimes the threats, usually of trouble from Europe's Muslim minorities, were explicit, and sometimes they were more subtle, a hint here, a comment there, that "provocations" such as the cartoons could further radicalize Islamic populations worldwide, further complicating the war on terror, and bringing the prospect of a terrifying "clash of civilizations" ever closer. If European governments are incapable of resisting such pressure, and, after the last week, it seems clear that they are, how many writers and artists can be expected to run the risk of Muslim wrath? Underlining that point, The Liberal, a small British political periodical, withdrew one of the Danish cartoons from its website after being warned by the police that they could not guarantee the safety of the magazine's staff.

At least the magazine was able to acknowledge what had happened by leaving a blank space marked "censored" on its website. After the events of these last days, we can be sure that other acts of censorship or self-censorship will pass insidiously and in silence, unnoticed, un-mourned, or, at best, explained away as a gesture of that "respect" that Europe's elites are now so eager to proclaim.

And as for the Danes, they must be feeling very, very alone. The notion of European solidarity has been revealed as the myth it always was. Denmark, and its tradition of free speech, has been left to twist in the wind, trashed, abused, and betrayed. An article published in Jyllands-Posten (yes, them again) on Friday revealed clear frustration over the way that the country is being treated. It's in Danish only, but one phrase ("Ytringsfrihed er ytringsfrihed er ytringsfrihed. Der er intet men.") stands out, and it deserves to be translated and repeated again, and again, and again: "Free speech is free speech is free speech. There is no but." Fine words. Is anyone listening?

Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer. Europe, Thy Name Is Cowardice. Many translations of this editorial have been circulated via the Internet include alterations or additional invective not present in the original. This was translated from German by Hartmut Lau. Die Welt. 20 November 2004.
Andrew Stuttaford, NRO Contributing Editor. Based in New York since 1991, Andrew's day job is in the financial sector. National Review Online. February 14, 2006.


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