“Dressed in the lion’s skin, the ass spread terror far and wide.” From the fables of the French seventeenth century poet, Jean de la Fontaine. After the murderous outrages in Paris on Friday, we ask: who now are the asses, dressed in lions’ skins, determined to spread terror far and wide? The answer may surprise us.
Obviously, the first port of call would generally be the murdering rag tag fighters who now occupy a large part of Syria and Iraq and who seem to be able to attract to their gang those disenchanted and bored young men – and women, for that matter – from Europe, whose normal daily lives make a Middle Eastern adventure so appealing. I suppose the handwringers of the PC brigade – were they actually bright enough – might try to equate this to young chaps dashing off to join the Spanish civil war, except that establishing a new caliphate doesn’t seem quite to have the same literary potential.
And to be fair, for a band of amateurs without air power, they seem able to cause plenty of havoc, both in Iraq/Syria and, as we saw last week, in Paris and elsewhere. Of course, they can easily be defeated as a military force. Following the G20 meeting in Turkey, brother Putin is rising to the challenge and suggesting that he might send 150,000 troops to finish them off. Other leaders have given a cautious welcome to this – cautious being the catch word here.
Because, despite the usual rhetoric and crocodile tears, western politicians still will not face up to the real problem. While Donald Tusk might write to the president of France prior to Sunday’s G20 meeting expressing solidarity and the platitudinous “This attack is an outrage against France, and against Europe as a whole,” and “We will make sure that Europe’s counter-terror strategy is fit for purpose to face the challenges of the months ahead,” Angela Merkel is way off message. “We believe in the right of everyone to seek his fortune and live, to the respect for the other and tolerance. We know that our free life is stronger than any terrorist. Let’s give the terrorists the answer by living our values confidently. And as we affirm these values throughout Europe. Now more than ever.” The terrorists are simply not interested in our values.
Yes, of course you don’t let the terrorists win, and normal life must continue unhindered, but nor do you defeat suicide bombers with teddy bears and tweets. Where is the resolve actually to defend these values that we all claim to love so much? Tolerance – you try expressing a view not in keeping with the PC zeitgeist and see what happens. The mad mullahs make it quite clear that they will be sending terrorists with the refugees, and yet Poland and Hungary are criticised for saying that in view of the dangers from terrorism, it might be a good idea to check who is actually arriving.
Western governments demand ever more powers to defeat terrorists. But this seems to mean snooping on their own citizens, and restricting their freedoms, while cutting back on defence – men, materiel and losing the will to fight. And ultimately, this is the real reason for the problem. The terrorists see this stupidity and exploit it; Governments talking tough while sacrificing common sense to the mistaken ideals of the PC grievance culture do not defeat terrorists.
So what is the answer? Actually, it is quite simple. First, to recognise where we are historically. As I have said here on number of occasions, and as Neil Fergusson said more eloquently in the Boston Globe (link here): “Like the Roman Empire in the early fifth century, Europe has allowed its defenses to crumble. As its wealth has grown, so its military prowess has shrunk, along with its self-belief. It has grown decadent in its shopping malls and sports stadiums. At the same time, it has opened its gates to outsiders who have coveted its wealth without renouncing their ancestral faith.”
Second, as I have also said, we should deal with the actual problem, not the one with which our politicians try to fool us. Sit down with Russia, Iran, and Assad and bring the local war to an end. Stop grovelling to those Arab states that finance it – especially Saudi – which do nothing for their Muslim brethren but which are happy to see Europe plunged into chaos. A historian once described the British Army of the First World War as lions led by donkeys. Looking at our politicians today, do we not see asses pretending to be lions – more fool us for accepting it.