by das monde
Mon Aug 22nd, 2005 at 09:28:23 AM EST
Promoted from the diaries ~ whataboutbob
Just recently, the Axel Springer CEO Mathias Doepfner wrote an article Europe, Thy Name is Cowardice. It is an example of the US-reactionary-type of debasement rhetoric, where European Iraq policy is shamelessly irresponsible or welfare system evidently collapsing, whereas Bush's Iraq war or economy measures are always right regardless dismal consequences. There has to be European version of this drivel, and here it is.
The beginning of the article is historically sound, but extrapolations are voluntarily prejudiced.
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 England 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.
The author then typifies the appeasement with the examples of Cold War policies towards Eastern Europe, and Yugoslavia's violent collapse. Then he says
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's torture and murder machinery and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace movement, to harangue George W. Bush as a warmonger.
Let's stop here for a moment to consider historical perspective. The history did not start with 1930's. European states had followed primeval military instincts for centuries; that culminated in the total absurdity of the First World War. Meanwhile, some countries (like Dutch/Flemish or Scandinavian) already knew experience that avoiding war generally works out most nicely, to put it simply.
We may agree that peace lessons were over-learned for the World War II. That appeasement was shameful indeed. The only excuse is that Hitler and Stalin were quantitively new historical phenomena, which were not entirely easy to figure out in a decade.
But the old war lessons still remain. What kind of toothed opposition from Europe should have been expected against the USSR? What would have been the consequences? Was the post-war Soviet regime exceptionally immoral? That part of history is justified both for the USA and Western Europe by the actual power balance.
The "appeasement" regarding Bosnia and Kosovo is of different kind, I would say. First of all, it is inadequacy of European and diplomatic bureaucracies. This problem has to be solved as yet. In the meantime, the things in Rwanda and Darfur are no less terrible. But neither US nor UN can do anything.
"Protecting democracy in the Middle East" is a flimsy description of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Internally, both sides are comparably democratic. European position is vague. At it core, it opposes total repression of Palestinian goals. But Palestinians do not figure alternatives to suicide bombings. Europe's failure is not of Chamberlainian proportions.
When it comes to Iraq, European judgment is better than of the Bush administration. Aging Saddam Hussein was not a global threat. He was not emphatically connected to 9/11, if at all. The Iraq war did not solve the terrorism problem, but most probably worsened it. Now, it is not Europe responsible that Saddam's regime is replaced by terrorist mess, fundamentalist strivings and compromised women rights.
It is not true that Europe failed with appeasement again. The Hitler situation applies neither to Saddam Hussein, nor to George W. Bush. Europe did use some courage and power to oppose reckless Bush decisions. Maybe future historians will accuse Europe that this opposition was not firm enough, who knows.
Further down, Doepfner's article becomes less coherent.
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.
What is then the proper response? New crusades? Thanks, Europe has enough credit for them. Counting objectively, Islamic "barbarism" is not that much abundant in Europe. With all sympathy and respect, the bombings in Madrid and London are more related to US lead invasions than to European "resignation". Tension in Belgium arises more from Vlams Blok initiative. The tolerance tone in the Netherlands was first abruptly changed by the late Pim Fortuyn; the recently murdered Theo van Gogh was a provoking personality as well. (I heard a cynical formulation that see, the Dutch fight intolerance well.) That does not mean that Dutch (or German, etc.) integration policies do not deserve critique or ridicule. But this is an indication that rightist concerns about immigration are exaggerated or poorly expressed.
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.
This is pathetic. Facts support different views how coordinated or widely supported the Islamic terrorism is. But one clear source of excessive aggression is the current US administration. Just as appeasement, aggression has consequences, unintended as well. When the strongest player exercises its power without respect and regard of others, the disadvantaged may feel free to use whatever powers they have without any constraints. This is not justification of terrorism, just an observation of how moral standards may develop. Terrorists must be found and prosecuted or killed. But it is reasonable to be aware of people which disagree with us or even hate us, which nevertheless wish to live normally, yet may join the pool of potential terrorists under ignorant circumstances. Unjustified aggression feeds terrorism more than naive pacification.
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 President 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.
It is a strange suggestion that fate of whole civilization clings on lucky election of two "courageous" presidents. More interestingly, let us superpose a few notions and ask ourselves: How did Reagan deal with Islamic terrorists? Did Bush recognize the danger of Islamic terrorism prior 9/11?
The answers spoil the idealistic "courageous" picture. Ronald Reagan eagerly supported and sponsored bin Laden, Taliban, and also Saddam Hussein. Too eagerly perhaps? All modern terrorism starts with Reagan, it seems. On his turn, George W. Bush did nothing about al Quaeda before 9/11/2001, although on 8/6/2001 he was specifically briefed Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States. Apparently, Bush ignored warnings of outgoing president Bill Clinton and security advisor Clarke about "by far the biggest threat Bin Ladin and the al Qaeda". This is not a question of motives, but of responsibility. Aggression has consequences, doesn't it?
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. <...>
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 Islamic 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.
Nice try to blend Bush's failures with "risking everything for confronting Islamic terrorism". But the pessimism about civilization's vulnerability is disappointing. Are we so wrong to have confidence that terrorism won't prevail, unless we ourselves completely disregard anyone's pain just like terrorists? (And when did China become a great democratic or anti-terrorist power?)
We have to end up with morality and cowardice. It is the opposite of cowardice to stand by your judgment when it appears right. A moral compass is the following: taking care of mutual understanding, of healthy global environment (whatever that may mean) and taking responsibility of your actions (and some inactions, right). Taking no care does not look particularly moral.