We have been here before, too many times: 9/11, the Madrid train bombings, the Bali bomb, 7/7, the Mumbai killings, the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the slaughter of British tourists on a beach in Tunisia, and countless assaults on civilians in the benighted cities of the Middle East. Each time, in the West, the response is much the same. Expressions of shock and horror by the survivors and their fellow citizens; condemnation by political leaders engaged in a quest for yet more superlatives to express their revulsion; tightened security; a hunt for the perpetrators of the atrocity and their accomplices; revelations of police blunders that enabled the attackers to strike; and vague talk of military action against the terrorist masterminds.
All this we are witnessing in the aftermath of the inhuman cruelty of the Paris shootings. President Hollande has accused Islamic State (IS) of an “act of war” against France and vowed a “merciless” response. Security has been stepped up in cities across Europe. Special forces are on the streets on London. EU leaders have issued a joint statement pledging to crush IS by all means possible.
Tearful young Parisiens attempt to console one another by hugging in the streets. But no amount of candles, flowers and teddy bears or cries of defiance will change anything. “We are young, educated and liberal. This is what they hate”, declaimed the headline in The Sunday Times. But that fails to get to the heart of the matter. They hate us because we exist. And they have done these terrible things because we are weak.
France and by extension other Western nations have been badly served by their political masters. Nearly 15 years ago, in response to the 9/11 al-Qaeda assault on the Twin Towers, which claimed nearly 3,000 lives, the West, led by America, embarked on the war on terror. But as the war turned sour, failing to produce the instant victory demanded by the video games generation, public support ebbed and the resolve of presidents and prime ministers faltered. The boys were brought home, creating the power vacuum in the Middle East that led to the rise of IS and the mayhem on the streets of Paris this weekend.
Had America maintained the near 200,000 troops it had in Iraq during the 2007 surge would we now be witnessing the implosion of Syria and Iraq and the migrant exodus that threatens to overwhelm Europe and bring in its train a fifth column of young jihadists ready, willing and able to emulate the brutality on show at the Bataclan concert hall?
After Charlie Hebdo in January, political leaders such as Hollande, Merkel and David Cameron led a march of millions of people through Paris to parade their defiance of the jihadi killers, their love of freedom and their solidaity. Je suis Charlie, was the cry, just as today we hear, in more troubled and muted tones, Je suis Paris.
But is a mass emote all they can do? Isn’t this all about them and not the poor young men and women mercilessly gunned down on Friday night? More pertinently, do our leaders think that all they have to do is parade their virtue – their sorrow, their sympathy, their compassion, their humanity – and all will be well? Can you imagine a Churchill or a Thatcher responding to an atrocity like Charlie Hebdo or this latest horror with empty gestures of defiance?
Churchill might have said jaw-jaw is better than war-war, but one imagines he would find a weightier response than going for a walk with the Prime Minister of Denmark.
Yet the culpability of the West’s leaders and their hangers on, the wet, liberal elite who dominate much of European and American politics, goes much deeper than their fondness for confronting Kalashnikov-wielding brutes with photocalls. The likes of Hollande, Merkel and Obama have built a Potemkin Village Europe, a grandiose facade with all the trappings of a superstate – five presidents no less, a currency, a parliament, a bureaucracy, a supreme court, a flag and national anthem, a diplomatic service and a half-baked army – but none of the attendant resolve or muscle. And Obama is as much to blame as anyone for deserting the world’s trouble spots while encouraging the growth of this ridiculous and suicidal charade.
Potemkin Europe has the reverse Midas touch. Unwilling to intervene in Syria? Then throw open the doors to unprecedented mass migration by peoples who within their ranks contain fanatics dedicated to destroying Western civilisation, built, as it is, on Christian foundations. Want to make life easier for terrorists planning a day trip? Then scrap all border controls. Want to posture at world summits? Then cut your military spending to the bone. Want to pose as a financial superpower? Then invent a currency that beggars half the Continent. Want to take decisive action? Then call a debate in the European Parliament.
Paris demands a rethink. A rethink of the self-aggrandising, ineffective, liberal nonsense that has dominated European politics these past 25 years. Britain, France and Germany (not the meaningless EU) should join with the US and Russia and sort out a military plan to eliminate IS (which will mean ground troops), restore order in Syria and halt the migrant flows. Continental countries should restore border controls and introduce sensible managed migration policies that do not overwhelm the indigenous culture nor its public services. And concerted efforts will have to be made by individual European countries (working together when required) to track down and halt the jihadists in our midsts.
All the rest is window-dressing.