Friday, March 12, 2004

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Now that war has come to Europe we can look with more sympathetic eyes at the magnitude of the tragedy which they had hoped to avert. Unlike the United States, whose Islamic population is growing but still small, the peoples of North Africa and the Middle East have sunk their roots deep into the Old Continent's soil. It was natural that European leaders had hoped this cup would pass away. They knew the challenge, if it came, might be beyond the limit of their waning strength. Sapped by two world wars, cynical, burdened with an aging population and with no horizons left it was overcome with an immense desire to slip away in peace.

It now awakens to the very nightmare which it hoped, in its uneasy, guilty holiday from history, never to face. Now face the horror it must, exactly 911 days behind America, lagging in all things, and most of all in hope. Whether the culprits of the Madrid train bombing are the ETA, grown monstrous on the assistance of Al Qaeda or the Al Qaeda itself makes no palpable difference. If a handful of Marxist terrorists can be responsible for the worst carnage on European soil since World War 2 it is almost comforting to hope that a more practiced demon, rather than a resurgent imp, had been the culprit. In the blackness of despair one can distinguish between shades of night.

The strategic choices facing Europe are stark. They can, like France, continue their policy of appeasement. Yet while the status quo may hold out that hope, it is forlorn. Maybe not this terrorist attack, but the one afterward and those still yet to follow will dash any expectation that a little more money siphoned from depleted coffers or a little more toadying will buy any more years. The months now will come too dear. Rather better, some will say, to face the enemy while some strength remains. Yet there can be no joy even in the most militaristic of hearts for what lies ahead, beside which the horror of the Balkans was but a small foretaste. The battle against Islamofascism will be fought on Europe's borders and Europe's soil.

In this hour the figures of Schroder and Chirac occupy the same relative positions as Chamberlain and Petain. Little men overwhelmed by events. Tony Blair, alone among the major leaders of Europe had both the wit to see the danger and the fortitude to face it. He is a flawed figure, beholden to the social policies of the British Labor Party, yet for all that the only one with a sure voice, the only captain fell and terrible now that the issue is joined. And like another British leader thrust unwilling into the crucible he can count on the immense potency of the United States of America on that dark plain whose end he cannot see. In this trial God send us wisdom that we may triumph, not under the banner of hatred which is the enemy's own standard, but under our own, mournful but unashamed.