While Americans spontaneously erupted with applause and expressions of glee when the news of Osama bin Laden’s death was announced, Europeans are more than indifferent. They are downright appalled at the unabashed patriotism of Americans and their desire to see their country triumph over its deadly foes. That’s the sense one gets from a lengthy report by the New York Times’s Steven Erlanger.
The piece is filled with Euro self-righteousness, especially from journalists and politicians. But perhaps the most honest evaluation of this lamentable trend comes from Nichole Bacharan, a scholar of the United States at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, who believes the hit on bin Laden will lead to a revival of the sort of anti-Americanism that Barack Obama’s election was supposed to quash. Bacharan told Erlanger:
“Whatever happens, we need to prove we are different or better, that we are so much more refined and delicate and have such a respect for the law,” she said, characterizing the European stance. “It’s very silly.”
It’s true that European snobbery is silly. But the factors underlying the Euro unwillingness to treat the battle with Islamist terrorism as a fight to the death are anything but a laughing matter. As Erlanger notes, the Europeans are genuinely afraid of the Islamic world, something that may have a great deal to do with the growing and increasingly assertive Muslim populations in Western European countries.
But the disdain for American joy about bin Laden’s death goes deeper than mere snobbery or concerns about local Muslims. It’s not just that Western European intellectuals don’t like the United States—they never have—but their unwillingness to countenance aggressive Western self-defense against Islamist terror is a function of their loss of belief in Western civilization itself. Many on the continent seem to have lost any sense that their countries and way of life as well as their faith is something worth defending. When it comes down to it that, and not the faux sophistication of Euro elites, is the difference between America and Europe these days.
For all of our problems and divisions, most Americans still believe in their country. All too many of our friends across the pond have lost faith in theirs. And that crisis in confidence, not good taste, is why Americans and not Europeans are celebrating the death of bin Laden.