Much ink has been spilled in the Western press about the blood that has been spilled in Syria and Iraq by the terrorist, fundamentalist, Sunni jihadi quasi-state Islamic State movement (ISIS/ISIL/IS).
Many intellectuals and analysts, writers and talking heads, even politicians (and that is when you know something is reaching crisis level) have begun to openly call for committing troops to the area, to defeating, or even destroying, IS for once and for all.
The previous weeks have seen American and British nationals beheaded, with blustery responses by their governments.
The tone is one of bravado, but other than the United States Air Force dropping a few million-dollar precision-guided bombs no one has done anything. (There have been rumors of US special forces on the ground assisting Kurdish Peshmerga units fighting on the front lines, but nothing has been confirmed yet; even if this is true, there has been no European response to IS to date.) And educated onlookers sit in fascinated horror watching a ragtag army of (at most) 30,000 grunts with rifles and pickup trucks inspire fear in the minds and hearts of armies whose combined firepower could turn the entire country of Iraq into a glass sculpture, with plenty left over to spare.
There has been much confusion regarding why Europe is so reticent to act; it was uncovered that the Brussels museum shooter was an IS torturer/executioner in Syria who enjoyed raping a mother before beheading her baby. He was able to move across borders easily, and was also planning an attack in Paris on Bastille Day.
Another IS fighter is on trial in Germany.
Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK has already publicly stated that there have been six attacks on European soil by IS.
The EU counterterror coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, has also publicly stated that he expects more attacks, and worries for Europe’s ability to prevent them. There have been thousands of Europeans who have gone to fight for IS in Syria and Iraq – some have returned, while others are still fighting. It certainly seems everyone recognizes the threat IS poses to Europe, so why can’t, or won’t, anyone in Europe act on it? It is perhaps a funny coincidence, but it seems the secular Europe of today is a lot more adept at “turning the other cheek” than its blood-soaked Christian forbear.
It is my opinion that the only ones asking why Europe refuses to act, or to fight, are the ones who don’t understand Europe.
Europe is a place that has always been adept at overstating its worth. It is a mere abutment of the Asian landmass, but granted itself the status of a continent. It romanticizes its history, ignoring two millennia of conquest and bloodshed. Today, the European Union projects the aura of benevolent European power, the International Criminal Court projects Europe as the arbiter of fairness and justice. To believe the world press, Europe is a land of liberal values; Europeans build wind farms, ensure all the indigent are cared for, even open their doors for the world’s refugees.
A simple walk through the banlieues of Paris (or all of Marseilles), the inner city slums of Brussels, Tower Hamlets in London, or any other city in Europe would quickly disabuse you of those notions. Instead of the liberal paradise you expect, you find 30 percent unemployment, rampant crime, drunken teenagers in the streets and entire neighborhoods that tourists are gently recommended not to set foot in for their own safety. And Europe was never any different.
Europeans are keenly aware that their “War to End All Wars” gave them a peace of 21 years – exactly enough time to restock the armies with cannon fodder, that’s all.
And had it not been for the United States rebuilding Europe after WWII, giving it the economic incentive to keep the weapons down, 21 years later they would be at it all over again. The Marshall Plan did not only rebuild Europe’s rail lines and towns.
It also rebuilt Europe’s reputation. The “continent” that had butchered almost 90 million people in the previous century suddenly became a genteel cultural bastion of humanity and liberalist freedoms for all.
And, sadly, even the Europeans believed the deception for a while, lecturing their former victims in the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa about human rights and morals/ethics.
But the veneer has rubbed off, and Europe is laid bare for what it is – almost a billion people afraid to stand up for what they believe in, to the point where they are the walking dead. Entire civilizations that were once taken for granted are starting to disappear. Birthrates have plummeted to unheard of levels; in Hungary, which not even 100 years ago was the leading country/civilization in the entire world, there are 0.88 children born to each ethnically Hungarian woman. Even the United Nations fertility reports have suggested that Europe’s population peaked in 2005, and is entering its slow and sad decline.
While Europe projects its façade of stability and inclusiveness, it cracks at the seams – Scotland and Catalonia are voting for secession from the UK and Spain, respectively, while the Lega Nord champions splitting Italy in half – and has been gaining support rapidly. In Belgium, the Flemish want to erect a new Flanders, to the dismay of Wallonians and Europhiles.
In fact, there are separatist movements in more or less all of the kingdoms from your old European history textbooks (Brittany, Cornwall, Bavaria, Sardinia, Aragon, Silesia, to name a few). That anyone feels empowered to speak for all of Europe at all is absurd – Europe is made up of splinters, and the glue is coming undone. The EU is basically a failed shared currency/free market zone, if even that. Europe is devolving into the tribes, and tribalism, it has always been made of.
Anjem Choudary, a racist, misogynist, fundamentalist hate-preaching imam lives in London in a taxpayer-funded house and is supported by the taxpayer-funded dole.
He also gleefully preaches the downfall of the UK and the raising of a Sharia-compliant world, has sent people off to Syria to fight, and was the imam of the two men who murdered Lee Rigby in the street, and the government of England continues to pay this man to agitate for its destruction.
This is a man who went on CNN, and was asked: “Here’s what bothers me: when we were setting up for our interview here, the audio engineer asked you to count to 10 to check the mic, and you started to do that – but then you said 9/11, 7/7, 3/11. Is this all some sort of joke to you?” “You know,” Choudary replied, “if you had a sense of humor, you would have laughed at that. It was just a soundcheck.
You shouldn’t take any of these things that seriously. If you want to make it a big deal, then do so, but it makes you look much more shallow, really.”
This is a man who knows the prevailing feeling in Europe now is “leave me alone, let me have my 70 years, and enjoy them a little.
Nothing is worth it anymore” – regardless of the language those words are spoken in.
Europe would rather invite you in than fight to keep you out, would rather pay you to stay quiet than debate what you have to say; just let them have their little lives, in their little continent. Let someone else run the world.
The inimitable Karl Sharro raised a point on Twitter worth noting – perhaps the coalition against IS that the West is trying to build should be called IS-NOT.
The author is an analyst living in Jerusalem.
He can be found on Twitter @tzvizucker, and for a good drink anywhere.