It says much about the endemic moral cowardice of Europe that Emmanuel Macron is being hailed as the saviour of the continent. For what? For having the audacity to utter a single word: ‘Islamism’. In identifying the ideology behind the wave of brutal terrorism that has swept Europe this century, Macron has also shown more honesty than his predecessors in the Élysée. He is to be commended, too, for taking the Financial Times to task in their shameful attempt this week to traduce him and his nation.
Now he has an ally in Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz after Monday evening’s attack in Vienna that left four dead. Kurz, who says he has spoken to Macron about possible initiatives to tackle the Islamic extremists, told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper: ‘I hope we will see an end to this misunderstood tolerance and that all countries in Europe will finally realise how dangerous the ideology of political Islam is for our freedom and the European way of life.’
It will be an uphill task. Boris Johnson, for example, while declaring he stood ‘united’ with the Austrian people, couldn’t summon up the courage to name their common enemy.
Meanwhile in France there is a small but growing number of intellectuals who are wondering if the country’s rich history of religious satire might have run its course. Anything for a quiet life.
Islamists will be delighted to hear such weasel words. Delighted, but not surprised, for they are skilled and experienced in the art of guerrilla warfare.
If I may digress for a moment. One of my heroes as a lad was ‘Mad Mike’ Calvert, one of the Britain’s finest irregular soldiers of the second world war. He made his name in the Burmese jungle with the Chindits, a guerrilla unit that hunted the Japanese behind their own lines. Later he commanded the SAS Brigade and, although I never met Calvert, I met many men who served with him and confirmed his nickname was well deserved.
He fought Communist insurgents in Malaya in the 1950s, and in later life drew on his combat experience to write about guerrilla fighting. In one essay, published in 1973, he explained how a guerrilla campaign can be won or lost:“‘The will to win and moral fibre of the metropolitan people who support the government must be maintained or destroyed, and therefore this will be one of the guerrillas’ main targets. To achieve this end the guerrilla must be knowledgeable enough to wage psychological warfare requiring an intimate understanding of the make-up of the population.’
Islamists know this. They are familiar with the depth of liberal self-loathing and lack of moral fibre.
The ignorant criticism from Justin Trudeau of Charlie Hebdo echoes that of Jimmy Carter in 1989 after the publication of The Satanic Verses. Carter was not alone in excoriating Salman Rushdie. John Le Carré, Germaine Greer and Roald Dahl were among several writers who joined in the attack, as did the historian Hugh Trevor Roper, who said of Rushdie: ‘I would not shed a tear if some British Muslims, deploring his manners, should waylay him in a dark street and seek to improve them. If that should cause him thereafter to control his pen, society would benefit and literature would not suffer.’
Europe’s intelligentsia must bear the brunt of the blame for the fact that the continent has been in the grip of a guerrilla campaign for nearly two decades. The judiciary is particularly culpable. The Vienna Islamist reportedly duped Austrian authorities into believing he had been successfully deradicalised, just as one of the killers of the Normandy priest in 2016 had made a mockery of a French court months before his attack. The mastermind of the Barcelona attack in 2017 that killed 13 people, reportedly used the Human Rights Act to avoid deportation.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic it was claimed that Islamic State had instructed its followers ‘to launch attacks against weakened and distracted western nations’. Those attacks are now underway. The Islamists have understood that we are a continent of moral cowards. They have been astonished at how willingly we have traded our liberty for supposed security believing it worthwhile if just one life is saved.
In the coming months the Islamic State will exhort its guerrillas to carry out more attacks. The more Europeans you kill, the more terrified they’ll become, until eventually the infidels will beg for peace at any price.
Gavin Mortimer is a writer, historian and leading authority on world war two special forces. His latest book, ‘Guidance from the Greatest: What the World War Two generation can teach us about how we live our lives’ will be published by Constable in August