Monday, November 23, 2015

On Resolve

By Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

I wish I had the confidence that France and the rest of Europe have finally awakened to the dangers posed by radical Islam and will fight the necessary battle to save themselves, their culture, their way of life and their children’s future. But I don’t. As sincere as France’s President Hollande sounds – “we are at war” – there is a difference between capturing and killing the Muslim perpetrators of the horrific massacres last week in Paris and fighting a war with all means at one’s disposal against a global enemy. The former focuses on the event itself, an iteration of pure evil that even its frequency fails to inure us to its horror. That particular event will be dissected, mourned, investigated and even find its closure. But the war involves a relentless struggle against an ideology that threatens – and in many ways has already succeeded – in undermining the foundations of Western civilization.

It is a war to the death, in which, fortunately, the Western world still has the upper hand in terms of armed strength, weapons and capability, but that advantage will soon dissipate as Iran, a terrorist nation, and ISIS or other terrorist groups creep ever closer to attaining a nuclear capability for themselves.

Part of the gloom comes from the realization that the West has grown so intellectually flaccid and saturated in materialism that it cannot fight a long term war. The French people, overwhelmingly decent in their reactions to the recent ghastliness, want to be able to enjoy their lives – work, drink, party, celebrate, etc. Europe has a long and sad history with hatred, and so Europeans have uprooted hatred – even hatred for evil – from their hearts, to a large extent. But you can’t fight bombs and guns with candles and flowers. Lofty rhetoric about love and liberty is always welcome but it cannot compete on the battlefield with a doctrine of suicidal madness and homicidal mania. Evil cannot just be wished away.

One even hopes that the good guys exercise no “restraint” or even “proportionality” in their response to Islamic terror, notwithstanding that those are two of the clich├ęs always hurled at Israel in order to prevent Israel from prevailing in this war.

But much of the despair in the West is traceable to the decline and disappearance of American power and leadership under the catastrophic presidency of Barack Obama. Leave it to Obama to finally name the enemy of America, the free world, the West and all those who aspire to virtue and goodness – an enemy so vile, with an ideology so repulsive, that it must be singled out by name for exposure and derision. That enemy, to Obama’s mind, is not radical Islam, but… horrors… the Republican Party! Islam is uninvolved in any untoward activities across the globe, even if its “perverters” perpetrated a “setback” to Obama’s global vision of appeasement of radical Islam. Republicans are the enemy de jure because they nastily insist on pointing out the failures of Obama’s presidency, and they want only to fight evil overseas and close American borders to an influx of Muslims (and Mexicans). Republicans are so evil that they are not even worthy of negotiations, unlike more moderate adversaries of the US such as Iran, Cuba, ISIS and others.

Without American leadership – and American leadership is AWOL and Europe knows it – this war is going nowhere. We will become accustomed – again – to grandiose claims of success or “containment,” accompanied by videos of bombing raids that target facilities, training camps, and other empty buildings. This tactic is borrowed from the Israeli playbook of responding to Gazan terror by bombing empty buildings taken from the target bank, a bank that is so filled with such targets that withdrawals are always possible and real strategic gains are never made. Without the will to fight, success is impossible, and currently the people with the will are those who delight in murdering innocent civilians.

It is, of course, a coincidence that the week that ended with the dreadfulness in Paris began with the European Union decreeing that all Israeli products made in Judea and Samaria must be labeled as such in order to facilitate a boycott of those Jewish goods. One would think that Europe, of all places, would recognize the abomination of boycotting Jewish goods and the bad road down which that can lead. But, instead, the EU protested Israel’s comparison of this boycott to pre-Holocaust era offenses, claiming that such cheapens the legacy of the Holocaust. How ironic is it when the descendants of the perpetrators of the Holocaust dictate to the descendants of the victims of the Holocaust what precisely the lessons of the Holocaust should be, particularly in light of the singling out of the Jewish State for special treatment? Are there no other geographical areas of the world in dispute? Are those areas’ exports similarly labeled? The answers are yes, and no, respectively. It is another small act of appeasement to the Muslim world that will have no effect on the Muslim assault on Europe.

Count me among the Jews who find the moral preening of Europeans both tedious and tendentious.

There are reactions that are even worse than that. The American failure to respond appropriately to Muslim terror was typified by John Kerry’s ramblings this week, when he distinguished between the unconscionable and unacceptable attacks in Paris last Friday night and the assault on the Charlie Hebdo offices at the beginning of this year in which Muslim terrorists killed a dozen people. Kerry opined that the latter was “legitimate,” a word he quickly retracted, only to substitute that the latter had a “rationale” to it that the former did not.

In a normal world, such repugnant musings from a country’s lead diplomat would lead to his immediate termination. In essence he was suggesting that the assault on the journalists was understandable because they had provoked their deaths through their own insensitive misconduct. His words are nothing less than a justification for that and other future horrors; it excuses the delinquency of terrorists. It shows real contempt for Muslims, as if they are unable to control their passions as civilized people are habituated to do, and even more contempt for their innocent victims, as if they are not so innocent at all.

This might be construed as a slip of the tongue for a person notoriously awkward (if not a little pompous) in his speech patterns, but for this: Kerry pointedly did not mention theother terrorist attack in Paris on that same fateful Friday last January, the attack on the Jewish shoppers in the kosher supermarket that killed four Jews. Where, pray tell, do their deaths fit in the Kerry conception of terror? Was it an unjustified attack on innocents comparable to last Friday night in Paris, or did it also have a “rationale,” or was “legitimate” (wait, take that word back!) because the victims were Jews?

It is no stretch of the imagination to conclude that Kerry believes the latter. Attacks on Jews are never undeserved, in his mind, because of Israel, settlements, occupation, refugees, etc. It is why terror against Jews is never denounced unequivocally but always couched in the limp language of denouncing “violence on both sides” (as if there is an equation between the perpetrators of violence and those who attempt to thwart the perpetrators). That is why, despite PM Netanyahu’s best efforts, the Europeans and Americans fiercely resist the notion that they and Israel share a common enemy – radical Islam. It is why I fear that one result of the current crisis will be a renewed attempt to mollify the Muslim world by further weakening and eviscerating the State of Israel.

If that sounds preposterous, and I wish it did, note the remarks the other day of Sweden’s Foreign Minister, who attributed the attacks in Paris to the “desperate situation” that leads many Muslims to turn to violence, a lack of hope for the future, such as “the Palestinians” feel. What is the connection between the “Palestinians” and terror in Paris, aside from the fact that all are Muslim Arab terrorists? None – except it reveals that the secular mind (and Europe today, like Obama, possess only secular minds) cannot fathom religious violence because they have little understanding of religion. They do not understand its sources, motivations, or world view. They cannot understand why jihad is more attractive to many people than the right to party, and therefore they persist in believing that “poverty and deprivation” are breeding grounds for terror – and in some of the wealthiest countries on earth. They still cannot explain why, for example, Osama bin Laden, a multi-billionaire, was filled with grievances against the world.

As long as they cannot figure that out, the West will meander from one attack to the next, deliver one impassioned speech after another, and still wonder why their societies are collapsing and radical Islam is proliferating. It is why, sad to say, I fear the current resolve will soon dissolve into business as usual, with hand-wringing, pieties about Western values, refuges and Geneva Conventions, and attempts to assuage the “grievances” of the terrorists rather than give them something to grieve over themselves.

If there is one man who can reverse the tide, unencumbered by the faux moral pretensions of the Europe and the languid American president, it is Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Russia’s economic and military strength might be limited, but ISIS may rue the day it made an enemy of Russia. Ironically, that might be the best hope for the Western world.

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