Monday, October 25, 2004

New York Sun Editorial: The Faces of Denial

by Ralph Peters

October 24, 2004 -- EUROPEANS insist that the United States overreacted to 9/11. Conde scendingly, they observe that they've been dealing with terror ism successfully for three dec ades, that it can be managed, that life goes on.
They're wrong.

What Europeans fail to grasp — what they willfully refuse to face — is that the nature of terrorism has changed.

The alphabet-soup terrorists of the past — the IRA, ETA, PLO, RAF and the rest — were essentially political organizations with political goals. No matter how brutal their actions or unrealistic their hopes, their common intent was to change a system of government, either to gain a people's independence or to force their ideology on society.

The old-school terrorists that Europe survived did not seek death, although they were sometimes willing to die for their causes. None were suicide bombers, although a few committed suicide in prison to make a political statement.

Crucially, their goals were of this earth. All would have preferred to survive to rule in a government that they controlled.

Now we face terrorists who regard death as a promotion — who reject secular ideologies and believe themselves to be instruments of their god's will.

Indeed, they hope to nudge their god along, to convince him through their actions that the final struggle between faith and infidelity is at hand. While they'd like to see certain changes here on earth — the destruction of Israel, of the United States, of the West, of unbelievers and heretics everywhere — their longed-for destination is paradise beyond the grave.

THE new terrorists are vastly more dangerous, more implacable and crueler than the old models. The political terrorists of the 1970s and '80s used bloodshed to gain their goals. Religious terrorists see mass murder as an end in itself, as a purifying act that cleanses the world of infidels. They don't place their bombs for political leverage, but to kill as many innocent human beings as possible.

Yesteryear's murderers of European politicians and businessmen by the old crowd seem almost mannerly compared to today's religion-fueled terrorists, who openly rejoice in decapitating their living victims in front of cameras.



When political terrorists hijacked airplanes, they hoped to draw attention to their cause. When Islamic terrorists seize passenger jets, they do it to kill as many people as possible.

The old terrorists were sometimes so rabid that they had to be killed or imprisoned. But others became negotiating partners for governments. From Yasser Arafat to Gerry Adams, some gained international respectability. (It even may be argued that Adams became part of the solution, rather than simply remaining part of the problem.)

For today's apocalyptic terrorists, negotiations are no more than a tool to be used in extreme situations, to allow them to live to kill again another day. And no promises made to infidels need be honored.

The Islamic terrorists we now face will never become statesmen. They wish to shed our blood to fortify their faith, to impose their beliefs upon the world, to placate a vengeful god.

That doesn't offer much room for polite diplomacy. Islamic terrorists have reverted to the most primitive of religious practices: human sacrifice. Their brand of Islam is no "religion of peace." They're Aztecs without the art. And it takes a Cortez to deal with them.

Europeans' experience of negotiating with political terrorists has allowed them to deceive themselves into a false sense of security. Forgetting the pain inflicted on their societies by tiny bands of assassins (whether the Baader-Meinhof gang, the Red Brigades or the IRA-Provos), Europeans refuse to imagine what tens of thousands of fanatics bent on destruction might do if not faced down with courage and resolution.

It wasn't the United States that didn't "get" 9/11. It was the Europeans, anxious that their comfortable slumber not be disturbed. They insist that terrorism remains a law-enforcement problem, refusing even to consider that we might face a broad, complex, psychotic threat spawned by a failed civilization.

EUROPE will pay. And the price in the coming years will be much higher than any paid by the United States. Europe, not North America, is the vulnerable continent. Our homeland-security efforts, unfairly derided at home and abroad, are making our country markedly safer. Yes, we will be struck again. But "Old Europe" is going to be hit again, and again, and again.

American Muslims not only become citizens — they become good citizens. Despite the assimilation hurdles that face every new group of immigrants, our Muslims have opportunity and hope. A disaffected few may make headlines, but American Muslims overwhelmingly support their new country and do not wish it harm. They see no contradiction between faith in their god and faith in America. Our worries are their worries, and their dreams are our dreams.

Europe is another, grimmer story. Not a single European state — not even the United Kingdom — has successfully integrated its Muslim minority into mainstream society.

While the United Kingdom has done the best job, countries such as France and Germany have time-bombs in their midst, large, excluded Muslim populations that the native majority regard as hopelessly inferior. If you want to see bigotry alive and well, visit "Old Europe."

It wasn't a random choice on the part of the 9/11 terrorists that led them to do so much of their preparation in Europe. They know that American-Muslim communities won't offer hospitality to terrorists. But Germany, France, Spain and neighboring states contain embittered Islamic communities glad to see any part of the West get the punishment it "deserves."

As the United States becomes ever harder to strike — and as we respond so fiercely to those attacks that succeed — soft Europe, with its proximity to the Muslim world, its indigestible Muslim communities and its moral fecklessness, is likely to become the key Western battleground in the Islamic extremists' war against civilization.

Europeans don't want it to be so. But they are not going to get a choice.

Europeans are simply in denial. They've lived so well for so long that they don't want the siesta from reality to end. One of the many reasons that continental Europeans reacted so angrily to our liberation of Iraq was that it made it harder than ever for them to sustain their myth of a benign world in which peace could be purchased and the government welfare checks would never stop coming.

America's crime was to acknowledge reality. It will be a long time before Europeans forgive us.

IN many ways, the civilizations of North America and Europe are diverging. Eu rope has a crisis of values behind its failure of will. Their anxiety to tell everyone else what to do reflects their own uncertainty. Corrupt, selfish and cowardly, old Europe has fallen to moral lows not seen since 1945.

The one factor that will finally bring us closer again is terrorism.

In this horrid election year, we've heard endless complaints that Washington needs allies. Of course, we already have many allies. The old-thinkers just mean France and Germany. But the truth is that France and Germany — weak, blind, duplicitous and inept — will need us far more than we could ever need them.

The nature of terrorism has changed profoundly. It's no longer about ideology, but about slaughter for its own sake. Nothing we could do would placate these terrorists. They must be fought and destroyed, no matter how many decades that requires. For Europe to pretend otherwise harms the general counter-terror effort. But, above all, it sets Europe up for calamity.

Ralph Peters is the author of "Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World."

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