Europe, Thy Name is Cowardice
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
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
realised that Hitler needed to be fought and defeated, because he could not be
bound by toothless agreements.
Later, appeasement legitimised and stabilised Communism in the Soviet Union,
then East Germany, then throughout the rest of Eastern Europe, where for decades
inhuman, repressive, and murderous governments were glorified.
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’s torture and murder
machinery and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace movement, to
harangue George W Bush as 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” programme.
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”
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
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, recognised 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,” which even Germany’s interior minister, Otto
Schily, justifiably criticises.
Where does this self-satisfied reaction come from? Does it arise because we are
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 realises that what is at stake is literally
everything that really matters to free people.
While we criticise 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 civilisation, 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 preach 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 jewellery when she notices a robber
breaking into a neighbour’s house. Appeasement? That is just the start of it.
Europe, thy name is Cowardice. —DT-PS
Mathias Doepfner is CEO of Axel Springer, the German media group