Europe in new terrain
I did not expect Spain to turn their anger over M11 towards their own government over petty issues, doing exactly what al-Qaeda wanted. I did not expect Europe to unite in anger towards Israel over the assasination of the Hamas chief. Damn, what's going on here? There's something more than the regular positions on old issues here. We have moved into new territory these last weeks. The nature of this territory follows, perhaps, naturally from our thinking about terrorism, Islam and the Middle East over the last decade, but we didn't have to take these extra steps. We didn't have to turn our apathy with terrorism and our relativism and our disgust with the US and Israel into apologism for Hamas, understanding of its methods, and rage towards the US and Israel at the exclusion of our real enemies. We could have gone the other way. Somehow I hoped we would, that seeing the horror of terrorism among ourselves would make us more aware of its nature, or that remembering what Hamas is and has done to Israel we would take lightly on assasinating Yassin, condemn it mildly, not make much fuss. But we didn't do that, we chose instead to take more steps towards apologism and support. Al-Qaeda and Hamas hate the Americans and the Jews. In response to their attacks, we ourselves have become more anti-American, and we have become more anti-Israeli.
There's an opportunity here for a renewed debate on Islamic terrorism. There always is when public opinion moves into new territory, as it has with Spain and Yassin. The old issues, the far-away war on al-Qaeda and the usual "cycle of violence" in Israel, had become entrenched, settled. These new angles - al-Qaeda in Europe, a prominent terrorist leader assasinated - opens for new debates, and there is a hope that sane Europeans may find the new consequences of their old ideas as disgusting as I do. Surely everyone don't accept the elevation of Yassin into a "spiritual" leader, a resistance leader you can negotiate with, surely some people must realize that their beliefs have taken them somewhere horrible. I hope so. But is there any sign of this happening? At all?
Example - this editorial in Nettavisen by Ole Berthelsen, not much different from most other views I've heard on the Yassin assasination:
The killings in Gaza on Monday increases the risk of new suicide attacks. In addition the continuing Israeli executions are clearly in violation of international law. Norway's protest against the rocket attack in Gaza was therefore appropriate. .. The Israeli government does everything to compare the fight against terror in the Palestinian areas with the American struggle with al-Qaeda. But the comparison halts. While al-Qaeda is a loose network which fights a vague war against the infidels, Hamas was founded to fight the state Israel.
I'm frankly amazed that the similarity between al-Qaeda and Hamas, though usually not acknowledged, is here denied. According to blogger Hans Rustad it was also actively denied by several prominent guests at an NRK debate yesterday. I keep assuming that when a large number of people believe in something there must be some grain of truth in it. A truth distorted, but a truth. And often there is. But this complete denial of the obvious, that al-Qaeda and Hamas represent the same ideology, one with regional focus and the other with global focus - I'm not sure how to respond. How deep does the ignorance go? Not just among the wacky and the apathic, but among our leading thinkers and politicians?
I have missed something here. I have misjudged our problem and our ability to solve it. I thought we had more to work on. Now I'm not sure what to think.
| 2004-03-23 21:51 | Link
"Prime Minister Sharon has shown that he prefers confrontation over negotiations."
If the Europeans believe they are evenhanded in the Arab-Israel conflict they are deceiving nobody but themselves.
Bjørn Stærk | 2004-03-23 22:22 | Link
Btw, I've noticed more and more anonymous postings lately. Please give a real name, or stick to a fake one if you don't want to be identified. Total anonymity reduces the barrier for flaming.
Kevin McDonnell | 2004-03-23 22:58 | Link
I have great sympathy for your state of amazement at the nature of the public "discourse" in all this, and I also sympathize with your display of what I believe are the first signs of actual... well I won't say horror or dread... as I know you tend towards anti-drama which is quite an admirably rational way to approach most large scale phenomenon (like mass "opinion"). But I would remind you nevertheless that there are times that "dread" is an accurate emotional state to reflect a true state of affairs. These are also the times when courage may be called for to see what is at work in the world. I didn't tread into that state of mind without circumspection Bjørn. Believe me.
I read you a lot... and I comment sparingly. (Though when I do its usually um... at some length) And I won't wax "too" philosophical here (hold your applause). But I will simply say this and follow up: Things are bad.
True freedom is always a function of freedom of information, the freedom to SEE what IS. It, and Liberty, are not and never have never been a legalistic process as per the UN/EU definition of democratic process for example. They have a closely bound metaphysical character much like Justice. Hard to truly grasp, yet the only thing worth striving for. In our satisfyingly nuanced relativistic discourse, impregnated with artful emotive icons drawn from social justice which mask as reason, freedom has become illusory. Hell... "meaning" itslef has become illusory.
The other day I heard a soundbyte from BBC World where some official of Blairs (I think) was commenting on the way the British government has reacted to the impending Spanish withdrawl of the troops from Iraq by saying that when faced with threats from terrorism which directly threaten our freedom and way of life we must resolve to stand firm, whereupon someone from the audience jumped up and, while actually sounding INDIGNANT, shouted words to the effect that he didn't give a hoot about standing firm or defending this or that, he just knew that he didn't want to risk being blown up. At that point the audience cheered. They cheered Bjørn.
I didn't hear the whole thing as I was running out, but whoever that official was, I have to think that if he were a statesman who was doing what he did because he had learned in his life that there were things worth standing for and that freedom and liberty were the only real road for human beings to find dignity and meaning in their fullness, then he must have been completely dumbfounded at that point. He must have felt a creeping and surreal dread as he looked out at his cheering countrymen so indignant in their moral emptiness and applauding the end of hope and courage. He must have thought that perhaps he was seeing, to invert Churchill: The beginning of the end.
This is what postmodernism has wrought. This is where the puffed up arrogance of intellectual socialism and neo progressivism has brought us. This is what happens when image is unleashed as equal to even just the act of striving for an objective Truth and relativism unleashes self indulgence as a moral "truth" as good as any other.
Nihilism and meaninglessness are always close companions, and they do not portend good things when they reign.
In other words... things are bad Bjørn.
Michael Farris | 2004-03-23 23:19 | Link
Spain and Israel are two very different issues.
I'm amazed that people who believe in democracy essentially believe that Spanish voters should vote against their conscience because of what nameless, faceless terrorists _might_ want.
Let's just imagine that you had iron-clad irrefutable evidence that your candidate of choice was favored by AQ and OBL. Would that change your vote?
I think one problem in Europe is the infantization of Arabs and Palestinians. They're just not taken seriously. The unfortunate fact is that no one can negotiate at present on behalf of the Palestinians, Arafat can't deliver anything and Hamas has said openly and repeatedly that they're at war with Israel and they don't recognize their right to exist apparently hoping that Israel would take them no more seriously than Palestinian sympathisers in NAmerican and Europe.
If Hamas is truly at war with Israel then Israel has no obligation to treat them with kid gloves. If they're not they need to say so.
Arvid Malm | 2004-03-23 23:35 | Link
"I'm amazed that people who believe in democracy essentially believe that Spanish voters should vote against their conscience because of what nameless, faceless terrorists _might_ want."
Things get a bit more complicated than that when you change your vote in an election to the "terrorist's candidate" in direct response to a major terrorist attack by said terrorist group.
John Ø. Welle, Norway | 2004-03-23 23:38 | Link
The depravity you're describing, could clearly be witnessed on an NRK debate tonight, with the assassination of Sheik Yassin as topic.
A researcher from NUPI  tried to downplay Hamas role as a terrorist organisation by claiming that they first and foremost are working with social issues, such as providing health care and education (it didn't behoove her to mention that this 'education' is used as a way to brainwash Palestinian kids into becoming suicide bombers.) When asked a question about the Israelis, she replied that she didn't know much about Israeli affairs, indicating that her primary area of interest is Palestinia. (Didn't prevent her from offering an opinion though..) This is frankly quite amazing, considering she was there to represent a professionally researched opinion.
Kaare Willoch was there, of course, former Norwegian prime minister (conservative), gone dove. He has risen to become an indispensable authority for the media to express the views on foreign policy they themselves would have liked to, hadn't they needed to pretend to be objective. He managed to equate Palestinian suicide bombings to the struggle any occupied nation has gone through in the course of history, among other absurdities. (They're freedom-fighters y'see!)
Torbjørn Jagland, yet another former prime minister (labour), was present through satelite connection from Jerusalem. He recently came up with a horribly stupid suggestion, embraced by France (always a bad sign) and some other European nations. It involves, in short, establishing tighter economic relations with the Middle East in exchange for Israel withdrawing to the '67 borders, and the Palestinians to stop freedomfighting. Yeah right, that's the ticket, funnel more money into the corrupt regimes of the Middle East. They will of course spend their newfound money wisely, and eradicate all the social ills in the region, thus eradicating terror. (The prevailing theory in Norway, is that social ills is the sole reason for terror.)
And then there was Harald Stanghelle, editor of Aftenposten, with his usual commonsensical chattering, totally devoid of substance. I'm not going to bother reviewing any of his utterings, as they were essentially watered down parrotings of the abovementioned viewpoints. (Why am I mentiniong him at all then, you ask? Why, he is after all one of those responsible for the degeneration of a formerly proud bastion of conservative viewpoints into yet another leftist rag, soon to go tabloid. He deserves some bashing!)
 Norwegian Foreign Policy Institute
Michael Farris | 2004-03-23 23:52 | Link
"Things get a bit more complicated than that when you change your vote in an election to the "terrorist's candidate" in direct response to a major terrorist attack by said terrorist group."
Except there's essentially no evidence that that's what happened. Most polls had the PP losing ground and their lead was well within the margin of error (I remember 3.5 by one account a few days before the attack). The attacks may have meant more people voted, but I think Aznar's ETA spinning was what swung the election. More than one report from Spain has stressed that the spin was blatant and repelled a _lot_ of people (and it made the PP seem weak and ineffective against ETA even if it was them).
And to answer my own question; the day I take terrorist preferences into account when I vote, you can start shovelling dirt on top of me, cause it means I'm dead.
| 2004-03-24 03:45 | Link
Bjorn, another excellent post that should bring interesting comments. Here's mine:
I've noticed that in both the US and what I can learn about Europe via your blog, Samizdata, Merde in France, littlegreenfootballs, Mark Steyn, etc. is that the press and "intelligensia" in major universities (i.e. the "pundits") tend to be grown-up children of the 1960s and 1970s who have not experienced hardship, starvation, and warfare. Now I have to write only about the US because it's been too many years since I spent any time in Europe. OK, in the US millions and millions of people think that bad things happen only to "other people." (Speaking here only of war, not personal tragedies) They honestly DO NOT IMAGINE that all the good things they enjoy could actually disappear. They are naive to the point of being simpletons.
I'm sorry to report that I have to include my own children in this grim assessment. But I excuse them because they are products of the cozy world in which they grew up.
Totoro, Chicago, U.S. | 2004-03-24 03:46 | Link
I forgot to add my name to the above post. Sorry.
Sylvia, Denver | 2004-03-24 06:46 | Link
Europe is facing a number of issues and doesn't seem to be dealing with any of them head on.
There is an impending demographic implosion. It's pretty unlikely that a mass of unassimilatable, openly hostile immigrants are going to want to support a bunch of ageing Frenchmen. Unfortunately, many in Europe seem to gauge their worth by how generously they're supported by their "betters". Maybe it's some kind of feudal thing. For Europe to compete economically, bennies would have to be scaled back and a more flexible workplace created. Lip service aside, the EUrocrats seem to be doing anything but. To do otherwise would be too, er, American or something.
Europe is not dealing with Islam. Basically, this means understanding that a homicide bomber in an Israeli warehouse is the same thing as an explosives-laden backpack in a Spanish train station. More to the point, that Arafat's claim to Jerusalem is the same as Bin Laden's claim to Madrid. You could have a whole department of pseudo-intellectuals deconstructing this, but when push comes to jihad, it ain't gonna matter. To successfully fight Islamofascism, Europe would have to drop support for the "Palestinian Cause" -something that Europe basically created. Instead the Euroelites and their mouth pieces in the press have funded, glorified and romanticised the "Martyr". Turned it into a fashion statement for the unwashed masses even. You can't feed one head of the beast, while taking stabs at the other heads. In other words, to fight Islamofascism, Europe would have to drop anti-semitism (or anti-Israelism, same difference). Then the political spotlight would have to shine on the Euroelites, their dubious policies, alliances and agendas. That'll never happen.
If hordes of Islamofascists were rampaging through the streets of Madrid shrieking for the "re-re-conquista" of Al-Andalusia, it would still somehow, it's just got to be, it must be the fault of those horrible Jews. Them and their big, stupid American puppet. It could not, for example, be Europe's fault. Europe is sophisticated, enlightened; superior. According to it's leaders. So it must be something else. If only those horrible Jews would disappear, then the Americans would listen up! Then the superiority of - the elites aka European Culture -would be evident to all.
I don't think so.
Europe has two choices, and two choices only:
1. Go with the Americans, suffer heavy losses, and win.
2. Appease Islam, suffer heavy losses, and lose.
Pick one. I'm betting on number two.
Europe may very well go down in dhimmified flames.
Gal, Israel | 2004-03-24 11:40 | Link
Wasn't there a foiled Jihadi plot to asassinate the German president while he visits German soldiers in Djibouti?
Reid of America | 2004-03-24 11:51 | Link
Thank you Sylvania of Denver. Very well stated.
I have commented on Bjorn's blog a few times before in other threads that I believe Europe will wake up the Islamic jihadist threat eventually. But one of the biggest factors in the current avoidance of the problem is that it will cause a political and cultural civil war amongst the indiginous Europeans. The problem of jihad will only be taken seriously once it is fully underway. It is totally analagous to the way Nazi Germany was handled in the 30's.
Rune Kristian Viken, Oslo | 2004-03-24 13:17 | Link
Sylvia: I'm afraid Europeans see a few more choices. First off, you claim there are only two choices:
You are forgetting what at least I think most europeans think are their choice:
3. Go with neither the Americans nor Islam, try to suffer no losses, hope that things grow better without war.
Leif Knutsen, New York | 2004-03-24 13:18 | Link
I've written a lengthy piece on this in Heretic's Almanac, here:
Döbeln | 2004-03-24 13:41 | Link
"Except there's essentially no evidence that that's what happened."
Not evidence as "admissable in court", for natural reasons. "indications" were plentiful, however. (Your argument is based on percieved opinon-poll trends. Mine on the actual situation.)
As for the exact rationalization used by the voters in question, they are rather inconsequential - Al Qaeda still got what they wanted, and as such we can look forward to more exciting "bomb-the-vote" extravaganzas in the future. Yay!
Pato | 2004-03-24 17:42 | Link
anyone who attempts to claim that the spanish vote was NOT an appeasement to the islamo-fascist cowards is so completely full of shit they are not worthy of a debate.
Bjørn Stærk | 2004-03-24 18:14 | Link
Pato: You must have failed to read the rules for posting, at the bottom of this page. There are - by definition - no stupid people writing comments here. Wrong, but not stupid. If you disagree with that, keep your views to yourself, or go somewhere else. Also - everything that is related to the entry you're commenting on is "worthy of debate", _especially_ from other points of views. If you don't like what you read, argue back.
Michael: "I'm amazed that people who believe in democracy essentially believe that Spanish voters should vote against their conscience because of what nameless, faceless terrorists _might_ want."
The document found by FFI seems to indicate that influencing the election was the intention. We don't know that it was written / read by anyone involved with M11, but there's a good chance of that, or at least of more than one person having that idea.
It seems clear that some Spaniards were angry with Aznar for blaming ETA longer than supposedly warranted, and it's a good possibility (if not certainty) that this changed the outcome of the election. But what _is_ clear is that they elected the one leader who would do what al-Qaeda most wanted Spain to do - pull out of Iraq - and that al-Qaeda will see this as weakness. This was dumb. Of course you must take terrorism into account when you vote, like you take any threat into account. Some times it is more important to send the right message to your enemy than to support the leader who - had there been no enemy - would have done the best job for your country. Spain failed to do that, and considering the enemy we're up against that was really, really dumb, and something many of us will pay for in the coming years. That's more important than Aznar's possible media deception.
Herbie, NYC | 2004-03-24 18:50 | Link
I expect to see soon a headline in the news something like "Israel must stop killing innocent terrorists or building walls to protect itself"
Ali Dashti | 2004-03-24 19:43 | Link
Reid of America, I hope you are right about Europe waking up to the Islamic threat. But what does it really take, when even the bombs in Madrid didn't do the trick? Look what's going on right under our noses, and nobody is doing anything to stop it:
The obligation of inciting religious hatred
This Saturday's LIVE talk on Paltalk will discuss one of the greatest forgotten obligations in Islaam - Inciting religious hatred.
Allaah (swt) orders the believers to hate all other religions, way of lives, creeds, doctrines and beliefs that contradict with Islaam, and one cannot be Muslim without to declare animosity and hatred towards kufr, bid'ah, shirk and nifaaq (Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Democracy, Freedom etc.).
xxx, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA | 2004-03-24 20:57 | Link
Apologists for the Spanish election seem keen to blame to result on Aznar's "spinning". I accept that it is possible this was the reason for the PP's stunning defeat; but whatever the perception was among voters, Aznar's actions and assumptions appear to have been perfectly justified.
To read Aznar in English rebutting the charges:
"...grown-up children of the 1960s and 1970s who have not experienced hardship, starvation, and warfare."
Far worse are the elderly teenagers who never left the universities, who became professors so they could continue their bra burning and Marx-worship full time. Their hectoring self-righteousness has become so rabid that today's youth are beginning to question the sanity of leftism. In time, ideologies beget counter-ideologies—take heart :).
Susan | 2004-03-24 21:55 | Link
A while back some sanctimonious Australian dude excoriated me for referring to Europe as a "continent of darkness" on this blog.
The current European deification of the Killer Sheikh (AKA "spiritual leader") doesn't do much to convince me otherwise.
Europe's prevailing code of morality and ethics is just as skewed as Islam's.
Sandy P. | 2004-03-24 22:29 | Link
The funny thing is, maybe on LGF, I can't remember where I read it today, but Israel taking out the heads, (and w/the wall) murder is down 30% in 2003 from 2002.
And now Hamas has said they have no intention of killing Americans. (at least officially, I think.)
I've visited Iberian Notes since 3/11. I especially love that one of the Spanish mouthpieces said that AQ should not take the vote as a sign of appeasement since it wasn't.
However, seems Mr. Bean's willing to send some troops to Afghanistan to help out. Because they're not appeasers.
I really don't think he expected the blowback he got. And he didn't handle it well at all.
Pato | 2004-03-24 22:32 | Link
It seems to be that the majority of those in the "eu" simply have not forgiven the US for liberating them. Grown men feeling humiliation? Is that possible?
George Lee | 2004-04-02 15:29 | Link
Bjorn--I am genuinely surprised to read that you have been harboring hopes that Europe would snap out of it, so to speak.
Having read your blog since just after Sept. 11, I'd come to believe that you recognized the hopelessness of the situation in Europe but were just too decent and normal not to voice your dismay and not to gig the wretches that surround you there.
I admire an attitude of going down fighting to the last, but, with your energies and intelligence, you could do a lot more for the cause of civilization if you just moved to America.
The heck with going down fighting to the last. We are going to win because of people exactly like you--except they are here in America, not in the midst of spiritual derelicts stumbling across the psychic rubble of Europe.
We Americans are all that is left of Europe. I suspect you'd feel more at home here than anywhere in Europe, and in a few years you'd be able to vote.
Bjørn Stærk | 2004-04-04 16:37 | Link
George: I keep being amazed that people who believe in Arab democracy have given up all hope for Europe. I do share some of your hopelessness, in that I don't believe the climate here will change easily or quickly. But why should that be a reason to leave? First, we're not talking about a sinking ship here. Don't let anyone fool you into believing that Norway is a bad place to live, or even that it's not one of the best. If I wanted to make a career in business I might want to leave for a more business-friendly country, but I find it difficult to imagine a turn of events that could rob me of the opportunities I need to do what I want with my life.
Second, I don't do what I do here because I believe I can fix anything. There's always a possibility of individuals making a difference, but nowhere near enough to be a motivation. I do this because I like it, and because it's right.
"What we do don't matter. All that matters is what we do."
Hope doesn't enter into it, and so neither would hopelessness.
George Lee | 2004-04-04 19:10 | Link
Bjorn--Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Suggesting that a person consider leaving his homeland and start a life in another country is not something that anyone should do lightly, and when I make that suggestion to you or to certain other Europeans, it is out of a concern for your happiness and effective productivity.
My own were hamstrung by living in a place for years where my values were alien. My hopes were my all my neighbors' dreads and vice versa. What I cherished, they scorned. My excitements repelled them. After I left and began a new life in the midst of folks working towards the ends I valued, I was a lot happier and more effectively productive.
But even if every reason I could offer was persuasive, it would still mean leaving a place which holds innumerable wonderful mememories for you, a place whose flora and fauna, changing seasons, delightful cultural features, and just plain old fun have all loomed large in your life.
I hope sometime you get a chance to spend a good chunk of time in America. I should think that practically nothing you vote for in Norway, actually becomes public policy. You must lose nearly every battle. Here, you could reverse that experience, or at least have a real shot at bringing about what you desire.
My hunch is that you'd wind up feeling more at home here than in your birthplace, despite a permanent affection for what was dear to you about it. You are energetic, decent, and normal. A wag might ask, "What the Hell are you doing in Europe?"
I also have selfish reasons for encouraging folks like you to immigrate. We need you and could put you to good use. People like you made America the wonderful place it is in the first place. Nobody could create a Heavenly Utopia, but mighty few Europeans decided to go back to Europe. What they found and improved was better than what they had in Europe.
If ever you have a moment when you think, " "Banging my head against this wall isn't good for my head and has no effect on this wall," buy a plane ticket. We are having a Helluva lot of fun here. We attempt noble things, and, even with our shortcomings, we accomplish quite a few.
Taks a mikkit (as an old girlfriend used to say!)
Gilda-Spain | 2005-12-06 15:46 | Link
I have read your postings with great interest. However, I know for a fact why the Spanish peoples' vote turned round so suddenly. I can assure you that it was not to appease the terrorist or the Islamic cause. It was much more darker and sinister than that and the Spanish people knew that Aznar was lying to them about various things that happened connected to 11th September bombings in New York. Had he acted upon these, 191 people killed in the Madrid bombings would be alive today. This I can assure you. Aznar and his party had all the information about these happenings but done nothing to prevent or address them. In the long run he was found out and used as a whitehouse pawn to be an allie to Bush and Blair and offered the young Spanish men and women soliers to be posted to the war in Irak. Many coming home in body bags. I believe he works in America now, if my memory serves me correctly.
I am very surprised the jounalists had not picked up on this or those who had chose to keep it quiet.
President Zapatero tried his best to bring it out in the open, but even his high powerful influence in the commission probe failed to bring it to light, many scared of losing their high paid jobs no doubt. Therefore, the Spanish people done the right thing and good luck to them and their president. He is doing a good, honest job for his people. Vive Espana!!
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