November 23, 2002
DECLINE AND FALL:Among the Europeans: Living in two different worlds. (Benny Irdi Nirenstein, November 21, 2002, National Review)
I returned to Italy recently. What I find is frightening. Europeans no longer take for granted principles I came to understand in Israel. I assumed that anyone growing up in a democracy would understand that democracies are always superior to dictatorships. I never thought Italians who suffered so horribly during war and dictatorship would ever again find terrorism - the deliberate slaughter of civilians for political gain - acceptable. But increasingly they do.
I can no longer speak about the importance of freedom, liberty, and democracy in Italy without attracting the condescending sneers of a generation schooled by Europe's media, statesmen, and left-wing intelligentsia to look beyond such "simplistic" concepts.
To my European classmates, any suggestion that there is a connection between Islam and terror - even as self-identified Islamic groups slaughter schoolchildren in Israel, tourists in Egypt, and revelers at a Bali nightclub - is more racist than Islamists' targeting of civilians because of their religion. European politicians - Jacques Chirac, for example, unabashedly honors Hezbollah's Shaikyh Nasrallah, the same man who last month suggested that he would welcome the return of all Jews to Israel "to save the trouble of hunting them down later."
In Italian classrooms, political ethics are reversed. Terrorism is justified, but and defense of democracy is not. Military campaigns are roundly condemned, even though it was the military and not political appeasement that freed Western Europe from the worst tyranny. For many Italian students, professors, journalists, and politicians, there can be no justification for war. When the Baath party seized power in a coup, Saddam Hussein purged hundreds of political competitors. But to a new generation of Europeans schooled by Sixties radicals and liberal elites, Saddam is a legitimate nationalist leader and masterful tactician, while President George Bush, leader of the world's strongest democracy, is simply dismissed as stupid.
European arrogance has grown so great that even the most-ignorant student emerging with a failing grade feels justified in mocking the president of the United States. No countervailing arguments are needed to address those who understand the necessity of war, the right of self-defense, or the fragility of liberty in the face of tyranny.
The European relationship with America matters far less in the long run than the question of whether a Europe which places so little value on freedom and democracy can maintain what remains of each on their own continent. If a society determines that liberty isn't worth fighting for, how long can they expect to have it? Posted by Orrin Judd at November 23, 2002 7:26 AM