London Must Learn From Paris
“How much havoc do the jihadis have to wreak before Europe and America resolve to tackle the source of the evil?”
Outside the Bataclan theatre, the scene of one of the attacks (photo: Anna Harada Viot)
New York and Washington 2001; Madrid 2004; London 2005; Mumbai 2008; Toulouse 2012; Brussels 2014; Paris 2015; Copenhagen 2015; Sousse 2015; Sinai 2015; Beirut 2015. And now Paris again. Last month’s attack, even more devastating than January’s, has not broken French resistance: reports that Parisians were “gripped with fear” were false. But President Hollande’s declaration of war may be just an escalation in rhetoric.
How much havoc do the jihadis have to wreak before Europe and America resolve to tackle the source of the evil: the ideology of Islamism itself? How many have to die or be maimed — some 500 people in the Paris atrocity alone — before Western leaders recognise that the self-proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim, alias Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and his butchers of Islamic State wish to kill us — all of us, “Jews and crusaders” alike — not because of what we do but because of who we are?
This month’s Standpoint is dedicated to the victims. They deserved better of our leaders, most of whom have pretended that we were not engaged in a fight to the death against radical Islam. As the smoke cleared over Paris, President Obama was repeating his mantra that this had been an attack “on all of humanity and the universal values that we share”. No, Mr President: it was an attack targeted at Western civilisation, whose values are certainly not universally shared. Unless the free world’s leaders, above all the US commander-in-chief, defend those values, Islamists will only become more murderous — until we cashier the old leaders and find new ones.
What forms might such action take? We could do much more at home — if we keep our nerve. It is rare to see armed police or troops, let alone the SAS, on the streets of London. Police searches of mosques and in predominately Muslim neighbourhoods are even rarer. We shall have to get used to such things. There must be no deference to those who are harbouring terrorists or who are recruiting Islamist volunteers for Syria. Too often radicals “known to the police” resurface as terrorists. Not only policing but the law itself is unfit for purpose. Treason sounds harsh, but what other word fits the heinous crime of making war, by word or deed, against one’s own country? The time has now come to modernise the law of treason to defend our way of life.
There has been much debate about the proper limits that our intelligence services should observe in seeking to prevent such attacks. The services are mocked as “snoopers” by the human rights lobby, privacy campaigners and the rest. Only those who have never been on the receiving end of a terror attack could think that there is any “balance to be struck” between the threat of such violence and the pernicious notion that Western intelligence agencies are engaged in a sinister conspiracy to invade our private lives. In Israel, where vigilance is second nature because Jews have always struggled for survival against a hostile world, most people are relaxed about, even reassured by, security measures. As Islamists grow bolder, we shall have to learn to keep calm and let those whose job is to protect us carry on.
Our declared enemies are not the only ones, though: there are also the fellow travellers. After Paris some of them, such as the Stop The War Coalition — which should really be renamed Start The Jihad — came out in their true colours, blaming the victims and denouncing the West. Others, such as the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, were more circumspect — but their true sentiments were made plain enough.
Europe has long been more defeatist than America, of course, even if Obama seems out of step with ordinary Americans on his own failure to take the fight to the enemy. Hillary Clinton, as Obama’s Secretary of State, shares responsibility for that failure with him. We are only now seeing the terrible consequences of America’s retreat from responsibility. More will follow unless there is a radical change of course under the next president, such as Bret Stephens outlines in this month’s issue.
Another effect of Paris has been to demonstrate the huge danger posed by thousands of potential terrorists lurking among the millions of migrants now entering Europe from Syria and elsewhere. David Cameron should immediately halt his programme of resettling 20,000 people in Britain from the refugee camps. The risk is just too great and he should revert to his policy of keeping refugees in their own region.
Rightly, Europeans are wary of the Islamic world and especially Islam in Europe. If a reaction against Muslims is to be avoided, their representatives must clearly reject any moral equivalence between IS terrorists and those who fight them. That includes Israel: as John Ware reports, those paid to deradicalise are often anti- Zionists. It is right to expect from Muslim neighbours an openness to integration, tolerance of criticism and intolerance of extremism. “Moderate” rejection of the West and even support for IS are common. That has to change.
Paris, sadly, has a sanguinary history. From the jacqueries of the Middle Ages and the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572, to the Terror of 1793 and the Commune of 1871, the French capital has witnessed many bloodbaths. Worst of all was the Vichy regime’s role in the Shoah. Even compared to these crimes, the Paris massacres of 2015 will inspire fear as a mene tekel. Unless we learn from Paris that IS must be annihilated, London will suffer the same fate — and sooner rather than later.