The Cartoon Riots - Wake-up Call for Europe?


Postmodern Europe is a state of mind. Smitten by their version of the good life, Europeans enjoy fine wines, pension checks, and ten-week vacations while imagining themselves somehow removed from the prosaic demands of statehood and national security, which they relegate to certain international bodies. They have substituted their once fervent Christian faith and pride of nation with an abiding belief in socialist agnosticism and the soft power of - dialogue. Through reason, understanding, and negotiation, goes the new theology, all conflicts can be resolved. Most important, is to remain non-judgmental, for theirs is a world run not by force but by enlightened discourse. They are post national, pacifist, and anti-hegemonic; they look disparagingly on the hard power of military intervention, which they eschew as something vulgar - too agonizing even to contemplate from their sublime moral heights. That, they consign to the boorish Americans and that other obnoxious nationalism, its vexing and warlike little brother, Israel. Nationalism, to them, is a crass atavism, a primitive, tribal relic from a Paleolithic era when World Wars were fought. It is chauvinistic, uncouth, and counterproductive to the transnational, utopian vision of Europe today where liberal, progressive secularism prevails. Until of course, the barbarians are at the gates, burning down embassies, threatening beheadings, and warning of cataclysms to come over a couple of cartoons.

When a Danish newspaper published degrading cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, many Moslems took offense, which is their right. Many Moslems throughout the Moslem world also reacted violently, complete with riots, savagery, and death - which is not their right. There was no differentiation between the specific cartoonist and newspaper and the rest of Denmark or for that matter the rest of Europe. Anything remotely Western (a KFC in Pakistan!), became a suitable target in the collective mind of the seething mobs. They, of course, saved their greatest fury for perfidious little Denmark, a nation of five million placid souls and arguably the most dovish society on earth.

In their benevolence toward selected aggrieved groups (of which Moslems are the most important), Europeans have labored to fathom and pardon Moslem fascists - despite the obvious inconsistencies. Moslems have risen in anger over insulting cartoons but regularly trash Jews and Christians in their state run media. They have blown up 1500-year-old Buddhist statues in Afghanistan and destroyed churches in Iraq and Pakistan. They have killed one another with great abandon. There was 9/11, Bali, Madrid, and London - all done in the name of Islam - which never seemed to trouble Jihadists or raise questions over this far more serious desecration of their faith.

Europeans are also flummoxed because they assumed a cozy relationship with the Arab/Moslem world. They have let Moslems into their pristine universe, employed them, provided them with benefits, and sided with them on most issues. They have been, in other words, the perfect infidels. So what gives?

Europe has been downright stuporous in its response to the danger of militant Islam because so much of what it needs to do cuts against the grain of what Europe has become. Europeans are, in brief, slothful, decadent, and weak. They have emasculated themselves militarily and defanged themselves culturally, consumed as they are with self-loathing over perceived past injustices (racism, colonialism, war) - not unlike the American Left. With their will sapped by multiculturalism, their vision clouded by political correctness, they have ignored existential threats in their midst.

If Europeans are to mount a successful defense, they will have to change course quickly. They will have to begin by recognizing that appeasing murderers will not save them; that their vanishing birth rates and suicidal immigration patterns have left them sitting atop a demographic time bomb; that aspiring to be good secular socialists with empathy for the oppressed, will not protect them from those consumed by an ideology that is as vicious, intolerant, and totalitarian as any cooked up in the twentieth century. Most of all, Europe will have to get comfortable with some version of a clash of civilizations.

Will Europeans participate in the defense of Western Civilization, that wondrous entity that they themselves created, whose blessings of freedom, democracy, and human rights have benefited millions across the globe? Will they stand with their ally, the US, and other like thinking nations, and defend this most humane and noble enterprise - or will they continue to remain mired in cultural self-doubt and insecurity?

At last count, there were newspapers in a dozen nations in Europe that had the temerity and conviction to print the cartoons as a newsworthy item and in support of the principle of freedom of expression, compared with a mere handful in the US. Perhaps, the cartoon riots will be the event that aroused a slumbering continent from its sleep.


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