In the aftermath of the attacks
in Spain, it seems the axiom “peace at any price” has
taken hold in Spain, if not throughout Europe. But by what means?
And at how high a price? The cowards behind the incident in Spain
represent a craven ideology that is perpetuated by glorifiing
murder and martyrdom. The aggressors who champion this philosophy
of hatred are bent on destroying Western civilization and must
be met by the full force of all free people. In the face of such
malevolence, we mustn’t be tempted by the temporary comfort
of appeasement and capitulation. How much are we willing to
pay for the peace we desire? History illustrates just how extraordinary
the cost of such spurious comfort can be.
In September 1938, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and British
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met in Munich to discuss
the future of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. It was Hitler’s
intention to revise the terms of the 1933 Treaty of Versailles,
which annexed this German land after World War I. Chamberlain
was convinced by Hitler’s argument that it was simply a
matter of “German self-determination” that gave Germany
title to this land. To avoid military confrontation, Chamberlain
agreed to Hitler’s terms, and the infamous Munich Agreement
It was the feeling in Europe at the time that the German threat
could be contained with diplomatic maneuvering and appeasement.
But the comfort bought in Munich was false and short lived.
In March 1939, the Germans occupied all of Czechoslovakia and
Poland before year’s end. The torrent of violence that
engulfed the globe during World War II was stoked by what the
French aptly referred to as “l’esprit de Munich” – The
Spirit of Munich. Peace at any price, in this case, came to
cost over 40 million lives.
Today in Europe, the principle allies of
the United States in the war against terror have been Spain,
the United Kingdom,
Poland. Spain, under Prime Minister Jose Aznar, was an unflinching
partner in the war against terror. Aznar risked political ruin
by aligning himself with President Bush during the outset of
the Iraq conflict, and he has proven himself a resolute leader
in the year since. Unlike some political opportunists who have
used emotionally based rhetoric to capitalize on the war in
Iraq, Prime Minister Aznar acted under no such self-beneficial
What motivates men like Aznar is an understanding of the stakes.
Aznar understands—as does President Bush and Prime Minister
Blair—that terrorism is born out of the frustration, hopelessness,
and strife that are endemic to the failed states of the Middle
East. While the warlords, dictators, and imperial cronies of
the Middle East live in luxury, their citizens barely survive
on the sustenance their looted economies can provide for the
unprivileged. To prevent their being overthrown by an insurrection
of the masses, the ruling class of the Middle East places the
blame for their citizen’s impoverished existence on the
West. Using murder, torture, and the mutilation of a peaceful
religion, these tyrants are able to channel hatred away from
their own failed regimes and toward Western culture. Until
prosperity built upon democratic governance is established
in the Middle
East, organizations such as al Qaeda will continue to recruit
multitudes of disenfranchised Arabs. It is for this reason
that tyranny must be defeated and democracy must flourish in
and throughout the Middle East.
Chancellor Schroeder of Germany, President Chirac of France,
and Prime Minister-elect Jose Zapatero of Spain refuse to recognize
this dynamic of terrorism’s origin or the means by which
it will be defeated. Though France and Germany committed troops
to Afghanistan immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, they have used
the disagreement over the ouster of Saddam Hussein to distance
themselves from the U.S. and the war against terror. In fact,
France and Germany do not view this as a war at all, and have
made clear their intentions to treat terrorism as a law enforcement
matter to be handled by the courts. Zapatero, too, expressed
his agreement with this point of view when, in a recent interview,
he lamented that “fighting terrorism with bombs ... with
Tomahawk missiles, isn’t the way to defeat terrorism,” and
said that “terrorism is combated by the state of law.”
By suggesting that the only U.S. means of
fighting terrorism is military force, Zapatero is either revealing
ignorance on the subject or a zealous form of rhetorical dishonesty.
The United States views the rule of law to be just as essential
as military combat in the war on terror. The Patriot Act is
one example, if controversial, of this administration’s
commitment to a multi-lateral offensive against terrorism.
But our enemies
will not be defeated by rule of law alone. Any person fanatical
enough to die for his or her ideology is oblivious to the rule
of law. The suggestion that this enemy can be contained without
any armed conflict is both naïve and reckless. It will
take a combination of law enforcement, actionable intelligence,
military force to see this war through. The leaders of Europe
and the United States should heed the lessons learned at Munich.
For the old adage states: “He who does not learn from
history is doomed to repeat it.”
Editor’s note: Do we really
need to hark back to Munich to see the accuracy of this?
The recently televised hearings
of the congressional committee investigating the events of
Sept. 11, 2001 have made it clear that the destruction of the
Trade Center and attack on the Pentagon and Washington, D.C.
happened, in part, because the United States took no action
to retaliate for the terrorist attacks on in Lebanon, Yemen,