There’s much to be said for love, but watch out when it’s a moralizing rock star doing the talking — and the subject is not romance, but matters of life and death in a time of accelerating jihadi slaughter.
In the aftermath of the terrorist atrocity in Nice — which ISIS has claimed for its own — the headlines now include reports that Bono, lead singer of the U2 rock band, was dining on the terrace of La Petite Maison restaurant, about half a mile from the Nice seafront Promenade des Anglais, when Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a truck for more than a mile through the festive Bastille Day crowd, wounding more than 200 people and killing 84, including 10 children.
Armed counter-terrorism police “rescued” Bono, along with a number of other celebrities, including Elton John and a former mayor of Nice, who were also dining at the restaurant.
The next day, U2 put out a tweet, signed by all four members of the band, including Bono:
No doubt they meant well. But it ought to be clear by now that “love,” for all its virtues, is not enough to stop a terrorist driving a 21-ton truck. That was done by the heroic French police, who risked their lives to approach the truck and used their guns to fire a volley of bullets into the the cab, killing Bouhlel.
Nor, as far as Bono and his celebrity companions needed rescuing, were they rescued by love. They were rescued and escorted from the area near the killing zone by counter-terrorism police armed with guns.
One might cavil that the police who stopped Bouhlel acted out of love — love of country, love of decency, love of honor, love of their fellow man. Surely that figured in their actions. It took a lot more than love, however, to end Bouhlel’s killing spree.
And while no one need gainsay the love, and grief — and, for the families of those killed, the colossal heartbreak — that goes into the candles and flowers and memorials, it will take a lot more than love to end these massacres. It will take a lot more than the statements of condemnation and “solidarity” that have become the routine response of President Obama and other world leaders to the slaughters, from the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, to the Brussels Airport, from San Bernardino to Orlando, and way beyond.
Evidently, it will also take more than the drawn-out effort to erode ISIS, which for all Obama’s “degrading and destroying” of the past two years continues to hold territory — a fact that sends a constant signal to the world of the astounding impotence that afflicts America and its partners in Obama’s 66-member coalition to “degrade and ultimately defeat” the Islamic State.
Shutting down a malignant terrorist network may be a complex mission requiring many years, but leaving it in control of physical turf for years, while its members celebrate the manifold butcheries carried out worldwide by their acolytes, suggests that these days a 66-member coalition led by the United States is something less than a force to be reckoned with. In capitals hostile to the free world, among opportunistic despotisms from Moscow to Beijing, from Tehran to Pyongyang (now apparently preparing for its fifth nuclear test), it appears that message is being read loud and clear.
Under ordinary circumstances, U2’s feelgood bromide — “Love is bigger than anything in its way” — might rank as just one more bit of showbiz fizz. As a response to the terrorist slaughter in Nice, as a message sent from a celebrity who commands special attention (and rescue) because he was dining close to the site of the most recent massacre, it sends a desperately misleading message.
It’s comforting to talk about love, but to save yet more innocents from slaughter is going to need honesty, wisdom, backbone and serious strategy — which we currently lack — for winning this global war. The greatest burden of this fight falls on the men and women who carry weapons and operate on the front lines, wherever those may be, to protect the rest of us. They need more than messages of love. They need the backing, in this fight, of people, and leaders, who understand what it takes not simply to emote, but to win.