If you want to shed any illusion of a robust democracy, you just need to look at the rants of aging progressives: “The terror warnings of the German Secretary of the Interior,” they argue, “are nothing more than attempts to divert attention from cuts in social services. It’s an old tactic of the power elites.” That is roughly what could be heard on various radio programs, read on the opinion pages of the newspapers and sensed in allegedly enlightened progressive circles. But the truth is that this group has retreated into irrationality. They turn hysteric about issues that have no tangible impact on their lives and well-being.
The instincts of the civil society fail
In Germany, fear is only felt if it is guaranteed to be abstract and does not signal a concrete danger for heart and soul. Climate change, deforestation, genetically engineered food or Google Street View are such topics. They rallied civil society and turned ordinary citizens into sign-waving protesters. But when it comes to terror warnings – and the actual possibility of a threat – the instincts of civil society fail. There are obvious reasons for this: For decades Germany has been under the protective shield of the USA, nurtured in a protective atmosphere and free to develop its affection for quirky issues without the possibility of real danger. These ideas range from proposals that Germany must withdraw from NATO to arguments that the country’s political system is so bankrupt that it resembles a democracy in name only. The implication is that fascism still looms large after 65 years of political stability. This nonsense was only able to flourish because the US took on the responsibility of defending the freedom of the Western world. After World War II, this primarily meant the defense against communist totalitarianism fro the East. This sheltered upbringing is the reason why Europe never developed a keen sense for its freedom and an awareness of the forces that might destroy it. “Freedom” – many people here still think of it as hyped rhetorics and political kitsch from the United States. Many still have a problem to use the term “liberal-democratic constitutional order” without the ironic tone of the left-liberal rogue who is convinced that this is a combat term only used by soap-box orators. To him, there is no such thing as freedom because he never had to worry about it.
In the hinterland of freedom
Germans have never understood that the conflict in the middle East is important not because of the historical relationship between Germany and the Jewish people but because Israel poses the biggest provocation for Islamist extremists. This is not primarily because of religious differences. Islamists regard Israel as the outpost of a Western lifestyle in a region dominated by despotism. Israel upholds freedom of opinion, sexual freedom, the idea of a consumer society, gender equality and free elections. But if Israel is the outpost, we are the hinterland of freedom. Everything happening to Israel is going to happen to us one day. Apocalyptic Islam wages a war against against our way of life. The culture of decadence, as the totalitarian warriors perceive it, extends from North America across Europe India, Oceania and the Asian democracies. The terrorists have a hierarchy of targets. But the assumption that only the US and Israel are threatened is thoroughly wrong. And the conclusion that we must not actively defend our liberty is just as wrong – and cowardly. Cowardice and weakness are going to provoke the extremists who are geared up for final battle and driven by a lust for death. German policemen in combat dress in front of railway stations and airports – once dismissed as an “absurd” idea – might thus send the right signal to ourselves and our enemy. Public mortality would be a useful symbol for a democracy that is ready to defend itself. Whatever the effect might be – terrorists will surely not be impressed by a lesser display of determination. Policemen in funny base caps don’t make for a very good vanguard of a defensive democracy. We should prepare ourselves to adopt an Israeli awareness of life and its dangers. Terror can strike anytime, anywhere, even if Germany is a target of lower priority in the international context. We have to strike a balance to maintain our liberal lifestyle and prevent the fear of terror from paralyzing society. Israel has practiced that for many years.