Europe Learning to Live with Islamist Terror
As was the case in the wake of January's attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket in Paris, it was remarkable how quickly the narrative about the latest terror rampage in the city became less focused on the appalling details of the attacks themselves, and more about reporting on -- and celebrating -- the public's response to the attacks.
After the January attacks it was #JeSuisCharlie and cartoons of broken pencils that were going viral. This time it was Eiffel Tower peace signs doing the rounds, along with more fatuous tweets (#TerrorismHasNoReligion, etc.) and montages of national landmarks lit up in red, white, and blue.
And, of course, that guy playing "Imagine" on a piano. They invoke Allah, and we invoke John Lennon.
As in January, this narrative has been crafted by politicians and the mainstream media, and embraced by millions in France and around the world, especially by liberals. It's a narrative that justly celebrates the resolve of the French people, but which also allows millions with no connection to the horrific events in Paris to join in vicariously. And it enables liberals to indulge in their favorite pastime of virtue signalling and to congratulate themselves on how downright tolerant they are.
In France itself, however, the defiance and the resolve feel rather less convincing this time. January's attacks were confined to targets that, in the warped worldview of the jihadists, made some kind of sense. The latest attacks were calculated to strike fear in "ordinary" Parisians enjoying the typical diversions of young people in particular.
A lot of people are very scared; it really could have been them this time, and it might be next time. With perhaps dozens of heavily armed jihadists still on the loose, there's been no "unity" rally like the one held a few days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Meanwhile, Brussels, where several of the Paris attackers were based, is only gradually returning to normal after spending several days in lockdown. President Obama may be right in saying mass-casualty attacks are not the “new normal," but it seems that cities paralyzed by fear of such attacks might be.
Candlelit vigils and other rites of mourning and remembrance are a natural and understandable response to terrorist attacks. The trouble is that for many of the people taking part, whether on the streets of Paris or through social media, their response to the tragedy begins and ends with the vigils and the hashtags, after which they’re all too eager to move on.
It’s a mentality that Europe’s broadly liberal political classes (for the most part the continent’s mainstream "conservative" politicians make Jon Huntsman look like Barry Goldwater) and left-leaning media are keen to encourage, because it diverts attention from the uncomfortable issues raised by the increase in the number and severity of Islamist attacks across the continent.
Despite the heroic efforts of the security services in many countries, who’ve thwarted many more attacks than have been successful, Europe's leaders know it’s only a matter of time until the terrorists strike again. And so they want to condition their populations to "cope" with the aftermath of future attacks, hoping that when the next atrocity occurs their citizens will follow the prescribed response template.
Moreover -- and notwithstanding the various interventions and non-interventions in the Middle East in recent years -- the political elites know they bear much of the responsibility for creating the conditions in which Islamic extremism has festered, by encouraging the mass immigration of Muslims without any provision to assimilate them into European society, and by tearing down national boundaries and basic security structures in the cause of closer European integration.
Decades of open-door immigration policies were reckless enough, and the effects were compounded by the liberal-left’s promotion of multiculturalism. The result has been that European nations -- France and Belgium in particular -- have effectively lost control of large sections of their immigrant population.
The authorities permitted the growth of ghettos whose inhabitants were at best indifferent to the fate of their host nation, and which became incubators for Islamist extremism. The Paris attackers were able to hide in plain sight, and plan their outrages, in ghettos like the Brussels district of Molenbeek, and Saint Denis on the edge of Paris.
A few years ago it seemed that Europe’s leaders were waking up to the problems they’d created. In 2010, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country’s attempts to create a multicultural society had “uttlerly failed." Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, and the then French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, followed suit. But the flow of immigrants continued, culminating in this year’s tsunami of refugees and economic migrants -- more of the latter than the former -- from the Middle East and Africa.
Large-scale immigration has obvious advantages for politicians with an eye on aging populations, shrinking birth rates and boosting their economies. That’s why Merkel threw open Germany’s doors to at least 800,000, encouraging even more to head for Europe.
Migrants have an added attraction for liberals, who callously exploit them in order to smear the politicians and ordinary Europeans who favor sane immigration policies as racist and "far-right," although it’s hard to find even a European leftist who’s stooped as low as President Obama did when he essentially accused Republicans of doing the terrorists’ work for them.
While mass immigration sowed the seeds of Europe’s Islamist problem, at the same time Europe’s political and business elites were busy dismantling the continent’s defenses against terror attacks in their fanatical march towards "ever-closer union," and the eventual creation of a supranational megastate in which national sovereignty would be all but extinguished.
No wonder liberals were so taken with that rendition of "Imagine" outside the Bataclan theatre -- it would make the perfect anthem for their dreamt-of superstate, which really would mean a Europe with no countries. (It would certainly be more appropriate right now than the official European Union anthem – Beethoven's "Ode to Joy.")
A key plank of ever-closer union was the Schengen Agreement, which removed border controls between European countries. The combination of negligible border checks at the boundaries of Europe, and the elimination of borders within, made it easy for terrorists to move around the continent, and between Europe and the Middle East.
The news that the Paris attackers were able to move freely through Europe, and that at least two of them entered Europe by posing as refugees, is far more troubling for the Euro-elites than the 130 dead in Paris. For years now, their biggest fear has been that the rise of anti-immigration parties such as UKIP in Britain and France’s National Front will derail their superstate project.
Europe’s leaders are in denial about the failed policies that have nurtured an alien and hostile sub-culture in their countries, and which have brought mass murder and mayhem to their streets. It’s no wonder they’re now eager to take the fight to ISIS in Syria -- much of the damage they’ve done at home is irreparable.
Even now, the political classes and the European left have little appetite for measures which might, in the long run at least, mitigate the Islamist threat: immediate and stringent immigration controls; large-scale, if not "mass" deportations of illegal immigrants; the dismantling of lawless, terrorist-harboring housing projects; and zero tolerance for Islamic extremism in all its manifestations (France, to its credit, has at least banned the burka, but few other countries are inclined to do so).
And when governments do rouse themselves to act, proposing broader powers of arrest and detention for the security forces, or increased surveillance, they provoke outrage from civil-liberties campaigners -- both those on the left, who feel a natural affinity with anyone waging war against the West, and against the United States and Israel in particular, and those on the libertarian right who remain wedded to police-state fantasies and abstract principles about privacy.
You have to read almost to the end of this piece at Reason to discover that the recent “heavy-handed” crackdowns by French security forces have led to the discovery of “hundreds of weapons (including a rocket launcher)”. Meanwhile, the civil-liberties crowd are unmoved by revelations from senior security figures about the damage done to counter-terrorism efforts by folk heroes such as Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning.
Even if the Middle East were pacified tomorrow, and Europe’s borders sealed, it would do little to lessen the threat facing the continent. Tens of thousands of Islamists are already here, along with hundreds of thousands of Muslims who, while they may not actively support terrorism, are happy to see their host countries given the occasional poke in the eye.
And so Europe’s leaders are frantically trying to work out how they can "manage" their Islamist problem, and how they can condition their populaces to live with Islamist terror.
Before the latest attacks they were calculating that their countries could endure a certain level of terrorism -- perhaps one Charlie Hebdo-type attack a year, and a few lesser ones on the scale of the Copenhagen and Brussels Jewish Museum attacks, or the murder of drummer Lee Rigby in Britain. Something akin to what the people of Northern Ireland endured in the 1970s and 1980s.
A couple of dozen dead across the continent every year would be a small price to pay for keeping the dreaded "far right" out of power, keeping the economies ticking over with migrant labor, and ensuring the smooth progress of ever-closer union.
Paris has messed up their calculations slightly -- and if more mass-casualty attacks follow soon then all bets will be off. But if Europe enjoys a few months of relative calm then it will be back to business as usual for the political classes.
And their subjects will, for the most part, go along with it. The chances are that the next attack won’t be on their country; and if it is, the chances are it won’t be their city. And even if it is their city, the chances are it’ll be someone else who’s executed at a rock concert, or blown to bits in a restaurant, and not they or their loved ones.
That’s just fine with Europe’s political classes, and the continent’s liberal-left establishment. They would prefer the public response to the next atrocity to be more vigils and more hashtags, rather than angry marches on the Élysée Palace, the Houses of Parliament or the Bundestag.
Thus does Europe continue on the slow but inexorable path to civilizational suicide. I suggested before that "Imagine" would be an appropriate anthem for the European Union. It would also make a fitting eulogy for the continent.