Appeasement dies in Paris

Members of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, including cartoonists Cabu (L), Charb (2nd L), Tignous (4th L) and Honore (5th L), Julien Berjeaut aka Jul (R) and Catherine Meurisse (2nd D) posing in front of the headquarters of the weekly in Paris on March 15, 2006. AFP PHOTO JOEL SAGET (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, including cartoonists Cabu (L), Charb (2nd L), Tignous (4th L) and Honore (5th L), Julien Berjeaut aka Jul (R) and Catherine Meurisse (2nd D) posing in front of the headquarters of the weekly in Paris on March 15, 2006. AFP PHOTO JOEL SAGET (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

I have written before that the period after 9/11 has been a strange and neurotic time in Europe and North America. On the one hand, everyone knew that a murderously reactionary ideology mandated vast slaughter. On the other, actual Islamist slaughters were rare. Until the two assaults on Paris this year, there were just two large attacks since 9/11 on the rich world: in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005. Fear of violence without the experience of violence produces the ideal conditions for appeasement. You can imagine your own deaths and the deaths of those you love. But death never comes. You are not provoked into retaliation, but instead are overwhelmed by the desire to avoid danger by excusing and indulging. No one in Pakistan or Nigeria could engage in the wishful thinking of John Kerry. Only the nervous peace of a phoney war could produce the thought that we could have it all ways. We could carry on being good liberals respecting the rights of women and homosexuals, believing in freedom of speech and of religion, while conceding miles of ground to men who were against every liberal and democratic principle we avowed. As much as the admirable and essential desire to prevent our fellow citizens suffering anti-Muslim bigotry, as much as the narcissistic desire to indulge in Western guilt, the basic desire to save our skins and calm our fears has shaped contemporary culture.

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