Self-satisfied Europe, thy name is cowardice
By Mathias Doepfner
Saturday, July 30, 2005
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, allies at the time, negotiated and hesitated too long before they realized that Hitler needed to be fought and defeated, because he could not be bound by toothless agreements.
Later, appeasement legitimized and stabilized communism in the Soviet Union, then East Germany, then throughout the rest of Eastern Europe - where inhuman, repressive and murderous governments were glorified for decades.
Appeasement similarly crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Bosnia and Kosovo. Indeed, even though we had absolute proof of ongoing mass murder there, 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 learned its lesson. Rather than protecting democracy in the Middle East, European appeasement, camouflaged behind the fuzzy word "equidistance," often seems to countenance suicide bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians. Similarly, it generates a mentality that allows Europe to ignore the nearly 500,000 victims of Saddam Hussein's torture and murder machinery, and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace movement, to accuse U.S. President George W. Bush of being a warmonger.
This hypocrisy continues even as it is discovered that some of the loudest critics of American action in Iraq made illicit billions - indeed, tens of billions - of dollars in the corrupt UN "oil-for-food" program.
Today we are faced with a particularly grotesque form of appeasement. How is Germany reacting to the escalating violence by Islamic fundamentalists in Holland, 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 - actually believe that creating an official state Muslim holiday will somehow spare us from the wrath of fanatical Islamists. One cannot help but recall Britain's Neville Chamberlain on his return from Munich, waving that laughable treaty signed by Adolf Hitler, and declaring the advent of "peace in our time."
What atrocity must occur before the European public and its political leadership understands what is really happening in the world? There is a sort of crusade underway - an especially perfidious campaign consisting of systematic attacks by Islamists, focused on civilians, that is directed against our free, open Western societies, and that is intent upon their utter 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 that enemy is actually spurred on by such gestures. Such responses have proven to be signs of weakness, and they will always be regarded as such by the Islamists.
Only two recent American presidents have had the courage needed to shun appeasement: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. America's critics may quibble over the details, but in our hearts we Europeans know the truth, because we saw it first hand. Reagan ended the Cold War, freeing half of Europe from nearly 50 years of terror and slavery. And Bush, acting out of moral conviction and supported only by the social democrat Tony Blair, recognized the danger in today's Islamist war against democracy.
In the meantime, Europe sits back in the multi-cultural corner with its usual blithe self-confidence. Instead of defending liberal values and acting as an attractive center of power on the same playing field as the true great powers, America and China, it does nothing. On the contrary, we Europeans present ourselves, in contrast to the supposedly "arrogant Americans," as world champions of "tolerance."
Where does this self-satisfied reaction come from? Does it arise because we are so moral?
I fear that it stems from the fact that we Europeans are so materialistic, so devoid of a moral compass. For his policy of confronting Islamist terrorism head on, Bush risks the fall of the dollar, huge amounts of additional national debt, and a massive and persistent burden on the American economy. But he does this because, unlike most of Europe, he realizes that what is at stake is literally everything that really matters to free people.
While we criticize the "capitalistic robber barons" of America 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 civilization, we prefer to discuss reducing our 35-hour workweek or improving our dental coverage, or extending our four weeks of annual paid vacation. 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 jewelry when she notices a robber breaking into a neighbor's house. Appeasement? That is just the start of it. Europe, thy name is cowardice.
Mathias Doepfner is CEO of Axel Springer, the German media group. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org).