Commentary Magazine


Re: Europe’s Vital Interests

Emanuele, what’s most extraordinary about Garton Ash’s piece is the level of candor:

The Gaza war is a negation of every principle for which Europe claims to stand. It directly affects our vital interests, not least because the latest round of Palestinian suffering (compounded by the Palestinians’ own divided and irresponsible leadership) will further inflame the anger of Muslims living in Europe.

This is an admission that Europe is being held hostage by domestic Islamists. Their demands? Do not molest our fellow travelers in the Middle East as they bomb, maim, and kidnap – or you’re next. Of course, Europe is next no matter what they do, but you try telling that to a continent with a gun poked in its ribs. The rule-of-thumb for the kidnapped is, “always try to break free.” But in practice, when you’re cuffed and blindfolded, it’s all about stalling until the good guys show up and save the day. The collective hostage scheme playing out in Europe puts victims in a new kind of double-bind. Part of the stalling tactic requires them to get indignant about the good guys (the U.S. or, in the present case, Israel.)

Robert Kagan captured this brilliantly in a Foreign Affairs essay this past fall:

Americans believe that Europeans share their concern about radical Islam. But European concerns are different. For Americans, the problem is largely “out there,” in faraway lands from which radical Islamic terrorists can launch attacks, and therefore the solution is also “out there.” For Europeans, Islamic radicalism is first and foremost a domestic issue, a question of whether and how Muslims can be assimilated into twenty-first-century European society. To European eyes, U.S. actions only inflame Europe’s problems. When the United States whacks a hornets’ nest, the hornets fly to Europe, or so Europeans fear.

Even if you remove the anti-Semitic and anti-American undertones, and Europe’s developing-world fetish, fear of domestic reprisal ensures that a good portion of Europe’s leaders and its academic class will continue to oppose robust counterterrorism measures. Until the last European is standing.