quinta-feira, 19 de novembro de 2015

Paris attacks must shake Europe’s complacency

Paris attacks must shake Europe’s complacency
The idea that the west should shoulder blame rests on a corrosive moral relativism

Philip Stephens

There is an impulse in Europe’s political discourse, by no means the exclusive property of the left, that assumes nothing bad happens in the world without it being somehow the fault of the west in general and the US in particular. This is the mindset that casts Saddam Hussein as a victim, Hugo Chávez a hero and Russia’s Vladimir Putin as a bulwark against Nato expansionism. The mass murder of Parisian concertgoers and Russian tourists may be crimes, but they are surely also the product of unprincipled great power intervention.
Listen to Jeremy Corbyn. The leader of Britain’s Labour party cannot censure the outrages of extremist jihadis without reference to the supposed crimes of the US: the siege of Falluja, say, or killing rather than arraigning Osama bin Laden. “We have created a situation where some of these forces have grown,” was Mr Corbyn’s reflection on the slaughter in Paris.
There is no shortage of criticisms to be made of the west — and they do not start or end with the invasion of Iraq. I find it shocking that Saudi Arabia is still treated as a staunch ally even as it exports the extreme version of Islam that informs the murderous credo of the jihadis. Then there is a welcome afforded Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi whose violent repression of the Muslim Brotherhood opens the door to Isis. With its oil and autocrats, the Middle East is a graveyard for anything pretending to be a principled foreign policy.
None of these hypocrisies can be held up in exculpation of the tyranny of the self-styled Islamic State. Those who think it better to explain than condemn forget that by far the greatest number of victims of Isis’ crimes are fellow Muslims in Iraq, Syria and, most recently, Beirut. Or that the caliphate replaces liberty with theocratic intolerance, subjugates women and murders homosexuals. The idea that the west should shoulder blame rests on a corrosive moral relativism blind to the essential evil of those who kill and maim. Indiscriminate murder is wicked. It demands unvarnished condemnation. Full stop.
You could ask whether anyone cares what Mr Corbyn thinks. The Labour leader’s formative memories are of the Vietnam war and the nasty campaigns waged by the CIA in central and Latin America during the 1970s. He has not stepped out of the time warp. He will never be prime minister. Even Fidel Castro thinks it is time to move on.
Yet Mr Corbyn’s response illuminates a broader strand of European thinking — a complacency that takes for granted the Enlightenment and has sapped the willingness to defend its essential underpinnings. Somehow it is easier to blame the west than to admit that there are those for whom freedom, tolerance and the rule of law are natural enemies.
We saw this when Mr Putin overturned the continent’s postwar security order by sending his army into Ukraine. The reaction of many on the right as well as the left was to mutter that the fault lay with Nato’s decision to welcome the new democracies of eastern and central Europe.
Paris Attacks
There are many more who have decided in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations that the principal threat to Europe’s freedoms comes from the electronic “snooping” of domestic intelligence services rather than from jihadis wielding Kalashnikovs and wearing suicide vests. Hopefully the balance will shift somewhat in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.
The original sin was the assumption that the end of the cold war did indeed mark the end of history. The complacency straddled the boundary of economics and politics. Liberal markets would create permanent prosperity, while political pluralism would become the default system of governance. The international order would be remade in the image of European multilateralism.
The first of the illusions was shattered by the financial crash of 2008, but governments and electorates have held on more tenaciously to the idea that democracy is the natural destination of politics. When things have gone wrong — the terrorist attacks of al-Qaeda and now Isis and Russia’s revanchism — the instinct has been to treat them as exceptions. The curtains, though, have now been torn open, not least by the influx of refugees fleeing violent chaos on Europe’s periphery.
What is required is a readiness to fight. This means a lot more than simply sending more warplanes to attack Isis in its strongholds, though the case for fiercer military action is a strong one. Fighting means recognising that the values that form our societies cannot be taken for granted; that the postmodern order imagined after 1989 is at very best some way off; and that even as they confront the enemies of freedom and tolerance European governments must address deprivation and marginalisation within their societies.
This in turn demands a willingness to admit there will be costs. But then anyone who has glanced at the history of the 20th century will know that today’s liberties came at a price. Nor should we imagine that governments will not have to make ugly compromises — not least in Syria — if some order is to be restored.
Above all, it is time for Europeans to celebrate what they have built and recognise it is under threat. The streets of Paris this week have seen a heartening resolve not to be cowed by the murderers. If Europe does not stand up for its values, who else will?


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