Cowed by Terrorism

Apparently, terrorism works in Europe.  With Bulgaria having officially determined that Hezbollah was behind the terrorist bombing of an Israeli tour bus in Burgas on the Bulgarian Black Sea last summer, we’re getting some…interesting…responses in the rest of Europe.  These responses center on European continued hesitancy to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization, as other nations outside of Europe (and one and a half within the EU (the UK is only willing to designate, euphemistically, the “military arm” of Hezbollah a terrorist organization) have done.  We’re getting, for instance, things like the following.

The European Union’s Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (!), says,

The terrorists who planned and carried out the Burgas attack must be brought to justice…the High Representative underlines the need for a reflection over the outcome of (Bulgaria’s) investigation.

She can’t say the word “Hezbollah,” and since it was only Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian (the bus driver) who died, there’s still time, and need, to “reflect” on the meaning of the murders.

EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove, expanded on this reluctance:

There is no automatic listing just because you have been behind a terrorist attack…It’s not only the legal requirement that you have to take into consideration, it’s also a political assessment of the context and the timing.

It’s true enough that terrorist butchery has political overtones in the terrorists’ purposes, but responses to such murders have no politics at all involved—there are only morality and the duty of a government to protect its citizens.

Former French intelligence official Claude Moniquet adds

Calling it terrorist would limit France’s ties with Beirut and put French targets and personnel in Lebanon at risk of retaliation.  The Bulgarian report doesn’t alter this realpolitik. There were always plenty of smoking guns.

It’s important to avoid annoying terrorists, lest the latter turn their ire on us.  And there’s the standard offer of excuses for this carpet knightery.

Even the newspapers seem more interested in ducking and covering than in meaningful response.  Sylke Tempel, editor of the German magazine Internationale Politik, told the New York Times,

There’s the overall fear if we’re too noisy about this, Hezbollah might strike again, and it might not be Israeli tourists this time.

There it is again: don’t offend the terrorists; they might hurt us next.

All of this reminds me of Spain’s withdrawal from the war on al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan in direct response to a terror bombing of a Madrid railroad station.

Indeed, Europe’s reluctance to angrify Hezbollah is an old and venerable policy.  Spiegel International Online notes (the first link above),

For decades, European governments have preferred to avoid confrontation with Hezbollah as long as its terrorism was not directed at continental targets.  In spite of a 1983 Beirut bombing that killed 58 French peacekeepers and 241 American Marines, deadly attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994 (which Argentine prosecutors pinned on the group), and its military support for the embattled Syrian regime of Bashar Assad (whom the EU has repeatedly called upon to step down), Brussels has resisted naming Hezbollah a terrorist outfit.

The problem is that this timidity does not affect only Europe.  Like paying the kidnapper’s ransom, it puts the rest of us at risk, also.  It rewards the terrorists for their actions rather than contributing to their destruction.

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