We [Americans] care about Europe for the same reason we care for the suicidal: because a chosen fate is not inherently a just one, and we are called to act when an unjust end threatens. We care about Europe because filial piety is still a virtue: we are, in the end, a European nation as surely as our peers in the Anglosphere and much of Latin America, and parts of Africa and south Asia. This is not a racial classification, and it is a testament to the encompassing wisdom of the European heritage that it is not. We care about Europe out of self-interest: it is a culture and a way of life that we are heir to — and when we see its internal flaws lead it inexorably (though not inevitably) to this slow death of self-negation, we ignore its lessons at our peril.
We care about Europe out of common interest: its enemy is ours.
We have seen that enemy at work of late. The insane furor over the now-famous Muhammed caricatures in the Danish Jyllands-Posten has metastasized into a true clash of civilizations. It seems that depiction of the Prophet is prohibited — albeit a prohibition observed mostly in the breach — and now that the kufr has violated the law, he must pay. In Damascus, the Danish and Norwegian embassies have been put to the torch. In Beirut, the Danish consulate has been ransacked and fired. In Palestine, the descent into Iraq-style barbaric anarchy continues as European Union offices have been raided, and Europeans have been kidnapped. Danish companies suffer a boycott across the Muslim world; and Denmark itself has seen relations broken with Muslim nations which, though quite happy to peddle Nazi-quality anti-Semitism, cannot endure the thought of mild fun poked at their Prophet.
The doughty Danes refuse to apologize. The Danish Queen, living up to the example of her royal predecessors, has called upon her countrymen “to show our opposition to Islam” in this hour. There is, the Danes patiently explain, this heritage and belief in freedom of conscience, and therefore freedom of expression. It is baffling, no doubt, to those who prefer to express inchoate frustration through mayhem and murder; but little Denmark sees no reason to capitulate to their sensitivities. On Denmark’s side are a few publishers of a few newspapers: Liberation, El Pais, Le Monde, France Soir, Die Welt, La Stampa. And there are a few bloggers. This, pathetically, is the totality of the defense of the West.
Arrayed against Denmark alongside the howling mobs of the fanatically faithful are the great powers upon whom the defense of the West supposedly rests. UK Secretary Jack Straw, egged on by the odious Iqbal Sacranie, struck a blow against small publications daring to insult the majesty of Islam when he declared that the “republication of these cartoons has been unnecessary, it has been insensitive, it has been disrespectful and it has been wrong.” (So much, then, for a European Union providing for a common defense!) The Vatican, which once organized vigorous defenses against these depredations, instead hearkened back to a less noble element of its past and announced that “The right to freedom of thought and expression … cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers.” Well. Doubtless the Papacy is mindful of the precarious position of the Chaldeans and Maronites at the mercy of the offended population, to say nothing of the Franciscan custodians of the holy places: between a slow demise by oppression, and a swift one with honor, it has made its choice.
Worst of all is the wholesale capitulation of the United States. The American press has been spineless, with no significant print or television outlet to date having the courage to show the cartoons even in the course of reporting. Going the media one better in the vigorous embrace of gutlessness, the Administration of George W. Bush has come out firmly on the side of the fanatics: “We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.” This sickening pandering to the sensibilities of a cohort it has already profoundly alienated is made worse by the abandonment of a wartime ally. Denmark stands with us in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its soldiers there are even now under mortal threat because of this fracas. Add, then, one less reason to go to war with the United States: not only does it botch its planning, but when the enemy gets angry, it will throw you to the wolves.
What to call that enemy is a conundrum all its own. Some would have it that the foe is political Islam; others a radical Islam; others a national or cultural stridency in which Islam is merely an incidental tool; still others a false Islam. Certainly we can say what it is not: it is neither the infantile, sanitized faith touted by the shallow minds of the present Administration; nor is it the innocently beleaguered victim of its dhimmi-minded predecessor. And certainly we can say who, if not what, threatens us: people who identify as Muslim, and are prepared to do violence to that end.
Eschewing the tedious and irrelevant debate over what to call the enemy, and what his precise relationship is with the faith he curiously often professes, this much is indisputably true. It is assuredly this same foe who, having accorded a hero’s burial to a murderer of the Bloody Seventh, having celebrated the slaughter of September 11th, and having called to power the masters of suicide bombers, now feels immensely outraged over the desecration of his Prophet. Know this: neither massacre of innocents, nor mauling of children, nor infamy dredged from the horrors of the Dark Ages repel their consciences — and still less do they spur a reexamination of their fundamental beliefs. But draw the beloved Prophet?
The barbarians have won. Let us be forthright about this. In what should be a clear case of right and wrong — free expression good, death and violence against it bad — the great powers of the West have failed in their most elementary duties of conscience and self-preservation. There is no moral difference between appeasing the sensitivities of violent Islam, and appeasing the sensibilities of Germans circa 1933 who yearned for the return of the Volksdeutsche. The aping of the rhetoric of a just demand (for sensitivity!) does not signify the existence of that just demand (for submission!). There is no point of satiation at which the killers of 9/11, Theo van Gogh, Atocha, Fallujah, or the rest will be satisfied. There is no supine posture to forever preclude the “cartoon rage” of today. There is no appeasing gesture to deflect the blow. There is no demonstration of goodwill that will engender the same. There is only weakness — and strength.
We are not among the strong. We have chosen not to be.
“They have won. That is the sad fact.
”I guess that during the next generation no one in Denmark will draw the Prophet Mohammed.“
Certainly not. The ultimate fault is not the murderous masses’, but our own. That is the truth. And that is our shame.