TCS Daily

The Temptation of Europe

By Allan A. Guldberg - April 22, 2004 12:00 AM

A week ago the Western world awoke to an outstretched hand from its modern nemesis, Usama bin Ladin. It was, however, outstretched only for part of the Western world. The Big Satan and the Little Satan, the US and Israel, were the notable and obvious exclusions. Europe was being offered a truce. Usama bin Ladin, assuming it was him, explained how the previous abominations in New York, Washington DC and Madrid were acts of revenge. With restitution thus properly meted out, there could be a separation of forces, and Europe and the Muslims could leave each other in peace. Of course, even with his own logic this doesn't hold. Then what about Bali? And what did the Europeans do before 9/11, and why leave America and Israel out of it? I thought that the Americans were the main force behind the alleged Western intrusions in the Middle East. So why attack Europe in the first place?

Bin Ladin knows what is going on in Europe. And he knows first and foremost the European inability to understand, or even sense, irrational thinking. He also knows the irrational wishes of the Europeans themselves, the wish for peace at all costs.

I guess that for many Europeans, and not least for their politicians, bin Ladin's equation makes sense. That now we're even, and we should pull out. But the offer, just like the equation, was of course a false one. First of all what did we possibly do in Europe to merit anything like Bali or Madrid. Bin Ladin tries to appear as a regular general calling for the withdrawal of his regular troops. Yet his troops are not regular, they could be all around us, and suddenly they strike, never caring whom they might hit. In Madrid it will remembered that a seven-months old toddler was among the victims.

Yet the Europeans will probably be unable to recognize the twisted and ultimately racist logic behind these attacks. Even if bin Ladin was claiming that these attacks were only retributions for earlier deeds, how could they possibly include the man (or woman or child) in the street? Notice that these people are not hitting military targets and then apologizing for collateral damage. They deliberately cause as much collateral damage as possible, because to them the Europeans, or the Franks, are all one and the same.

Far be it for me to condemn the genuine wish for peace among Europeans; we all wish for that. Yet one side wishing for peace just does not amount to much when the other sides is not only baying for, but claiming blood. This is something, by the way, also the more extreme parts of the Israeli peace camp should take to heart. There is no negotiated settlement possible with these people.

Spain withdrawal of troops from Iraq after the Madrid attack only begs the question: When is the next time they are going to murder our civilians, and we will react with an "oops, sorry", and make another concession? And another one, and another one. There is just no logic here. By all normal standards the attack in Madrid was an escalation, and should thus have been met with a similar response. Doubling the Spanish contingent instead of pulling out.

Bin Ladin obviously knows which buttons to push, and he just cynically did. His temptation of European leaders will probably be followed up by German and especially French remarks of "we told you so".

Dialogue and peace are both goods to be cherished, yet when there is war, there is war and it should be carried through. At least Israel has learned this. The Europeans should, too.

Allan A. Guldberg is a graduate student in Middle East Studies in Tel Aviv and a Fellow at Markedscentret think tank in Denmark.


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