Belgian soldiers and a police officer control the documents of a woman
in a shopping street in central Brussels
Kindness and compromise is simply no match for suicide bombers. The West can no longer afford to play the compassionate democrat when it faces an enemy which respects no ethical rulebook whatsoever.
The latest Paris atrocities have conclusively demonstrated the utter folly of any attempt to appease, accommodate or “understand” the demands of Islamism. The murder of Charlie Hebdo staff in January was foolishly portrayed by some as a response to religious defamation.
In fact, the Western requirement for logical cause and effect has long insisted that terrorist attacks are a cry for justice at perceived wrongdoing.
But the murderous assault on Paris’ restaurants, bars, sports and leisure venues show that the jihadists’ only goal is death.
There is no discussion, no conversation to be had, because Islamists quite simply have no grievance. Their target is Western existence.
Consequently, there is no magic solution, no gesture which could be made that could ever turn off the poisonous tap of terrorism. While the West places supreme value on difference, diversity is the enemy of Islamism. The fanatics have handed the West a stark choice which can no longer be ignored. You are either with us or you must die.
To think that the carnage of Paris demands a mere reaffirmation of Western values is a fairytale- like delusion. Freedom and liberty have no automatic entitlement to defeat evil. In fact, it is these very Western principles which are viewed by the jihadists as the “Achilles heel” of its enemy. It is no surprise that one of the Paris terrorists seemingly infiltrated Europe posing as a Syrian refugee, taking advantage of Western beneficence.
To the Islamists, Europe’s eager embrace of the downtrodden is a weakness waiting to be ruthlessly exploited with devastating results.
And it is just one example of how Islamists keenly pounce on Western compassion to further the downfall of the civilized world. The terrorist group Hamas routinely uses human shields to protect its weaponry in the Gaza Strip, safe in the knowledge that Israeli forces will modify their operations out of concern for civilian life. Meanwhile, NGOs which should be a conduit for aid and relief are instead cynically enlisted as part of a complex network to finance terrorist groups including al-Qaida. At the same time, international bodies such as the United Nations, established as a democratic forum to solve global issues, are routinely hijacked as a platform for despotic regimes to garner international respectability.
Western freedoms are indeed precious, but left entirely without restriction they are inevitably abused by a determined enemy. Freedoms and rights can no longer be treated as sacred cows if the West and indeed democracy is to survive.
Democracies have continually evolved to best serve the needs of their time. Even in today’s world, the lack of any single uniform democratic system is further evidence that democracy is molded to suit specific circumstances. Consequently, limiting selected rights would not mean the loss of democratic meaning and purpose.
Far from it.
The brutal fact is that democracy must adapt or die. Intelligence services must be handed the tools needed to conduct effective surveillance on terrorism suspects, even if such powers compromise personal privacy. In what amounts to a war situation, security forces must be permitted to eliminate enemies, even when no complete judicial process is possible.
Europe will be required to re-introduce strict border controls in order to keep civilians safe, even if it restricts freedom of movement. And yes, above all, Western governments must commit themselves to using unrelenting military power against the Islamists in order to stop the forces of darkness in their tracks.
Major world powers have already honed in on Syria as the hornets’ nest of Islamic State.
But air-strikes can only achieve so much, they cannot deliver victory. This will require the commitment of Western military might, including ground forces. Such a campaign risks many casualties, both military and civilian, but the West can no longer fool itself into thinking that the defense of democracy can come without a price.
We may wish for an alternate reality, but wishing is not enough. We are immersed in a battle for civilization whether we like it or not. And the rules are clear – this is a zero sum game. There is no negotiation, no compromise. The West must adapt, it must take the fight to the enemy. Freedoms will be curbed and lives will be lost, but without such sacrifice Western democracy is destined to become nothing more than a long-forgotten empire.
Ari Harow served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu until earlier this year.
Colonel Richard Kemp was commander of British forces in Afghanistan and head of the international terrorism team in the UK Prime Minister’s Office.