The Aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo Murders

There has been an arson attack on the offices of Hamburger Morgenpost, a German tabloid that re-ran the caricatures of Mohammed originally published in Charlie Hebdo:

Berlin (AFP) – A German tabloid that paid tribute to those killed at Charlie Hebdo by reprinting cartoons from the French satirical paper mocking the Prophet Mohammed was firebombed Sunday, police said.

With security services on high alert after a jihadist killing spree in Paris, police in the northern German port city of Hamburg said no one was at the headquarters of the regional daily Hamburger Morgenpost at the time of the attack, which caused only slight damage.

In France more than a million people have participated in demonstrations in solidarity with the French people and in tribute to the French cartoonists murdered in the terrorist attack earlier this week:

More than a million people have taken part in a unity march in Paris, after 17 people were killed during three days of deadly attacks in France’s capital.

The government has described it as the largest march in the country’s history.

More than 40 world leaders joined the start of the march, linking arms in an act of solidarity.

The marchers wanted to demonstrate unity after the attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, police officers, and a kosher supermarket.

“Paris is the capital of the world today,” French leader Francois Hollande said.

Other solidarity marches took place in London, Madrid, Cairo, Montreal, Beirut, Sydney and Tokyo. For more news and opinions on the incidents described see memeorandum.

The word used in the AFP headline in English for the attack in Germany is “firebombing”. The German language press seems to be using the word Brandanschlag, literally “fire attack” although a better translation into English would be “arson attack”, which seems to be a fair description of what happened.

The editors of Bloomberg remark on European official reaction to the incidents, which largely consists of proposing better databases to monitor travel and stronger security apparatus:

What is the best way for authorities to deal with any of the thousands of people they find clamoring for blood in Internet chat rooms? And how does the answer to that question change as technology makes relatively simple plots easier to hatch and faster to execute?

Law enforcement can certainly get better (despite last week’s impressive operation, France’s security services have had their share of embarrassments lately). And new tools, such as a common database for air passengers entering and leaving the EU, may prove useful.

Yet Islamist terrorism is a menace that European nations, with their colonial histories and large Muslim populations, will be fighting for years if not decades to come. Defeating it is a task larger than any security service. The hatred that motivated this attack, and others like it, can only be defeated by society itself.

I have been asked what I think the West should do in response to the incidents. In preface I should mention that I object to the framing. I do not believe there is a “West” in any meaningful sense. Whom does it include? Western Europe, the British Commonwealth, Canada, the U. S., Japan, and Israel? More? Less? I think that the term was originally coined to distinguish between Greece on the one hand and the Persian Empire on the other and was resurrected at the turn of the last century to unite the United States with the older, presumably more sophisticated United Kingdom and Continental Western Europe. After World War I, it received new currency to tie the United States to Western Europe against Russia and its satellites. I think that distinction has largely lost its meaning and is no longer helpful to the United States.

However, I’ll divide my response into two questions. What should we (the United States) do? What should the countries of Europe do?

I don’t think we should do anything. France has its own distinct issues, quite different from ours. France is quite capable of dealing with its own problems and its citizens need to decide what response if any is appropriate.

What should the countries of Europe do? They really have only three alternatives. They can push their Muslim populations farther away possibly alienating and radicalizing them in the process, they can do nothing and determine that occasional mass murders by radical members of that population are an acceptable risk, or they can take affirmative steps to integrate their Muslim populations more closely into their societies.

I think it is up to the citizens of those countries to decide what kind of countries they wish to be. My preference would be that they accept their Muslim populations whether citizen or resident, not relegating them to second class status as is too frequently the case but that’s not a decision for me, an American, to make. They should do as they think best in the full knowledge that whatever they decide will have implications.

44 comments… add one
  • Ken Hoop Link

    You say France has its own distinct issues, different than ours.
    And nobody frames this reality better than Marine LePen who has wanted to promote ties with Russia, detach France from aligning with Israel-dominated American foreign policy, and promote Palestinian rights while maintaining a firm hand against the Islamicization of France.
    She is the only leader I am aware of who could encourage Muslim loyalty to France as Putin has done with Russia’s Muslim clergy, members of whom acknowledge the primacy of Orthodoxy in Russian identity. French puppets will always encourage disloyalty by aligning with American agression in the Mideast which paradoxically can involve gambits like funding and training jihadists to overthrow
    Russian aligned secularists like Syria’s Assad. Blowback inevitably occurs.

    LePen has admittedly been inconstent over past years on some of this policy, but at her best and her father’s best, France would be and would have been much the better off.

  • Guarneri Link

    As I do not believe jihadists represent the majority of Muslims or their values, and are therefore not interested in acceptance, I think the three options amount to a three pronged Morton’s Fork.

  • PD Shaw Link

    I think the U.S. should continue to describe the situation in terms of good Muslim and bad Muslim. The Left tries a bit too hard to avoid the Muslim part of this, and the Right tries too hard to avoid the good/bad dichotomy. My closest personal experience with Islamic terrorism was a white(*) prison-convert that tried to blow up the courthouse a few blocks from my office. He was intercepted by the FBI early and reading between the lines of the information that was made available, I believe he was turned-in by Muslims at the prayer center he was trying to excite with his little jihad adventure. Unfortunately, Muslims have a unique role to play in this, and I appreciate it.

    The Boston bomber case suggests we should probably be more reluctant to give asylum in certain parts of the world, and the fact that the family went on government support is a red flag.

    I do not understand the situation in France well enough, particularly its inverse suburbanization problems.

    (*) Red-neck.

  • As I do not believe jihadists represent the majority of Muslims or their values

    I agree completely. However, the situation is another good example of the quote from Mao I deployed not too long ago: “Guerrillas move among the people as fish swim in the sea” and that’s the reason that the alternatives I outlined constitute the realm of solutions. You can try to go after the “guerrillas”; you can ignore them; you can prevent them from swimming freely.

  • PD Shaw Link

    I think the “West” has a useful meaning in that it includes what was claimed by “Western Christianity” around 1492, plus those areas successfully colonized therefrom (mostly the U.S. and the British white dominions). For example, West includes Finland, Poland and Croatia, but not Greece. I think the importance is that these countries for historical reasons share common values, as indicated by the Freedom House map. There are border areas, particularly in Latin America, India, South Africa and East Asia. The non-West cannot be lumped into one group, however.

    To me the importance is that we should at least watch and learn from how France and other countries deal with this problem, because the extent to which we face it, we will be confined by a similar value system. We don’t watch how Russia deals with its southern border problems; we try to look the other way.

  • I believe he was turned-in by Muslims at the prayer center

    Yeah, that’s pretty much my point.

  • PD, I’m not as confident as you are that “the West” as you define it actually shares values. Heck, I’m not sure that Red States and Blue States share values any more.

  • ... Link

    Not just grants of asylum, PD, but any immigration.

    I just think of a friend of mine back in the early 1990s. He was an Arab American, and not much more religious than anyone else I know, if he was at all. And none of us were overtly religious.

    His family had immigrated from some Arab country to somewhere in the Caribbean decades before, and his parents had immigrated here around the time he was born. They had done quite well for themselves. For example, when my friend would get punished, he would be forced to drive the TWO year-old Caddy instead of the newer Caddy he preferred.

    So successful, and at least he was well-integrated into society. (He had that handsome Arab thing going with the ladies.)

    When the first Gulf War started, he reported to me that his mother & sister were actually rooting for Saddam. He seemed stunned by that fact, but there it was. I lost track of him about a year later. (Just natural drift.)

    But it always stuck with me that members of this successful, seemingly integrated family switched like that. And the reason? Because Saddam had tried to attack Israel. That was enough.

    How much integration can possibly be enough?

  • Andy Link

    “LePen has admittedly been inconstent over past years on some of this policy, but at her best and her father’s best, France would be and would have been much the better off.”

    Better off how? Based on what criteria?

    I think the “West” is a definition kind of like “right,” “left,” “conservative” and “liberal.” It’s not meaningless, but it’s also not very useful. I admit I use it too often.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Ellipses, the difficulty is the second or third generation problem. I suspect that America’s distance from the Middle East, reputation for religious (Christian) zealotry and dog-eat-dog Capitalism gives us a different mix than Europe. Where I live, Muslims tend to be high-paid immigrants from South Asia, working in the medical field and they tend to be heavily involved in local charities. Their children seem far less certain of their place.

    I wonder . . . (WARNING! WARNING! GLITTERING EYE STREAMS ABOUT TO BE CROSSED) I wonder if the problem is that it’s easier to go into the healthcare overseas than in the U.S.?

  • Andy Link

    PD, I think we only have a reputation for Christian zealotry among a few countries. To most of the world, we are a very secular nation.

  • CStanley Link

    I always assume “the West” in this context refers to countries that share some basic liberal values like democratic government and support for individual rights.

    I think defining shared values is key, and in that regard I think the positive affirmation of the rally was a good step. As for assimilation, to what degree do the immigrants self segregate as opposed to being relegated to second class status by the native population? If given a clear choice to accept the values and rules of their host country or exist in pockets where they live by their own codes, which will they choose? And have they already made that choice, or was it forced on them?

  • I think that the values we actually share with Western European countries are much exaggerated. More honored in the breach than the observance. The UK, with which we share the most in language, culture, history, and law, has an official secrets act and libel laws which severely restrict the freedom of the press, at least by our standards. Religion is a compulsory subject in public primary and secondary schools, something to which we object.

    They think of healthcare as a fundamental right—that’s a view shared across their political spectrum, the “third rail” of UK politics. Despite the assertions of supporters of the PPACA, we don’t. The farthest we’re willing to go is to declare access to insurance a fundamental right, a significant difference.

    In terms of government all European countries are much more centralized than we are. Orders of magnitude so.

    And so on.

    I think that Andy’s observations were spot on. My basic point is that the distinction is mostly a historical and instrumental one and it has lost its currency. In practical fact, we’re probably as much like Mexico now as we are like England.

  • CStanley Link

    I can see that, but I also think that we have more values in common with the other “Western” countries than we do with the countries that have a Muslim majority, and that those sharp distinctions from the basis for the current conflict.

    Increasingly (from my perspective reading you, not necessarily an accurate reflection of your own views) you sound isolationist. If you aren’t willing to concede and attempt to shore up the commonalities that have formed our alliances since the WWI era, then what basis would you use for determining our interests?

  • CStanley Link

    That should read “form the basis of….” I case it wasn’t obvious.

  • I’m not isolationist. I just don’t believe that using military force as a first resort, our preferred approach these days, is justified or effective. If not wanting to bomb everything in sight makes me an isolationist, I guess I am. Some times, maybe most times, we’d be better off doing nothing than sending in the Marines.

    I think that our interests lie more with the countries of the Americas and of Asia than they do with Europe these days and I don’t see how the construct “the West” facilitates those.

  • CStanley Link

    If not wanting to bomb everything in sight makes me an isolationist, I guess I am. Some times, maybe most times, we’d be better off doing nothing than sending in the Marines.

    I can understand and agree with that. Since blogging generally is done in reaction to events or writings of others, I think it can skew the readers’ perception because we learn more of what you oppose rather than what you support. If current policy is hawkish then a moderate sounds like an isolationist when he speaks out against the status quo without giving as much detail to alternatives.

  • PD Shaw Link

    “In practical fact, we’re probably as much like Mexico now as we are like England.”

    Freedom House would disagree; Mexico is rated “Partly Free” (3 on the 7 point scale), while the U.S. has a top rating. Mexico has severe rule of law issues that undermine whatever aspirations it might have. The U.S. wonders why law enforcement officers carry weapons. Mexicans wonder about extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances by an ever-present military police force. Actual military, not Balko’s whining about cops wearing protective equipment.

    What’s interesting about the FH map, is that if you focus only on those countries that received the top rating, you basically have Europe to the west of the line defined by the Great Schism which divided Western and Eastern Christianity. Plus the U.S. and white dominion states (Australia, Canada, New Zealand) which were settled as neo-Europes, plus Japan which decisively set out to imitate Western Europe, and a couple of Latin American states (Chile and Uraguay).

    I think Dave is conflating interests and values. Our values make it hard to pursue interest with countries that don’t share our values. I think it’s useful to take note of this dynamic, and particularly understand that Western ideals like those of the Freedom House are not universal and shouldn’t be assumed.

  • Mexico has severe rule of law issues that undermine whatever aspirations it might have.

    Have you ever been to Chicago? 😉

    I’m reminded of Yogi Berra’s wisecrack. In theory there’s no difference between practice and theory. In practice there is.

    I’m not saying that we’ve become Mexico. I’m saying that we’re moving away from the Western Europeans more all the time both in interests and values.

  • Concurrently with this comment thread I’m having this discussion backchannel as well.

    So far several different definitions of “the West” have been proposed:

    – the Anglosphere (British commonwealth + US) + Japan
    – NATO + Australia and New Zealand + Japan
    – Europe + U. S. + Australia + New Zealand + Japan – Russia
    – any of the above + Israel

    I think that’s enough to suggest that the term has lost currency and should be abandoned. Our values really aren’t very much like those of Turkey at all. And I think believing that Japan shares our values reflects a lack of understanding of Japan.

  • PD Shaw Link

    I adhere to the definition given by Samuel Huntington in Clash of Civilizations: The United States, Canada, Western and Central Europe, Australia and Oceania. Map here:

    Civilizational borders, unlike territorial boundaries, are going to be fuzzy. One can argue that states like Israel and Japan combine Western and non-Western elements, but I don’t think such fuzziness nullifies the theory. I also don’t mean to imply that only the West can have high “freedom values,” just the concern for them is higher and more likely to be based upon Western assumptions.

    I think Huntington was pretty prescient about the Ukraine, as a cleft country (parts of the country look West, others look to Moscow), and that the U.S. has to be very careful about exacerbating a civil war. In this case, I think Germany and the EU were careless in advertising the benefits of joining “the West.”

  • I think Germany and the EU were careless in advertising the benefits of joining “the West.”

    It’s not the first time. I think the role that Germany played in the disintegration of Yugoslavia has not been sufficiently considered.

    One can argue that states like Israel and Japan combine Western and non-Western elements

    I think that’s true of the U. S., too, depending on how you define “the West”. If you define it in a U. S.-centric manner, that’s a choice that emphasizes the commonalities. If you use, say, Germany as your yardstick, the U. S. begins to look like an outlier.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Another depiction of different civilizations is in the Inglehart-Welzel cultural map. This suggests there are different value priorities from the European countries and the East Asian, Islamic, etc.

  • Note how that map places us as a sort of outlier within the “English speaking” world which I think is about right. One word: Jacksonians. Without the Jacksonians I wouldn’t resist the idea of “the West” as strongly. But a lot of Americans are Jacksonians.

    We’re much more religious than our European cousins, more extreme in our views on the First Amendment, we have a Second Amendment, and we’re much warier of centralized government.

    Bottom line for me: I think that during the 20th century we were exaggerating how European we were. I just don’t think that’s as important as it used to be.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Hmmm, Chicago or DuPage County Republicans appear to have invaded the city with double and triple-parking outside my office. Our “respect for rule of law” numbers must have just dropped 15%. The number of Toby Keith fans wearing Brooks Brothers shirts has certainly at least doubled today.

  • TastyBits Link

    “The West” as a concept is built upon the philosophy of the later ancient Greeks. This philosophy was atheistic, and it was concerned with man as an ideal to be achieved. Man’s greatness was never achievable, but his greatness would be measured by how close he came.

    This was transmitted through the Hellenized world and into the Roman Republic. It lasted through the Roman Empire, and though they never were totally eradicated, the Renaissance brought forth the ideals to the forefront once again.

    The Democratic form of government is an outgrowth of these ideals not the other way around. Judeo-Christian values have always felt awkward because they were bolted on after the fact. The Eastern Roman Empire & Church more closely adhere to Judeo-Christian values.

    The Catholic Church had to adapt to Democratic ideals, and these are man centered. Notice the amount of nudity in a Western vs Eastern Church. Much Catholic art is downright erotic. It is this tension that has shaped much of the West.

    Christian values place God’s greatness above all else, and man is to strive not for greatness but for humbleness. Splitting the Church and State has some resolved the problem, but it has not been quick or easy.

  • Keep in mind that we know almost nothing about classical antiquity that Christians didn’t tell us.

  • TastyBits Link

    The scribes almost certainly knew nothing about what they were transcribing, and it is likely that most translators did not have the philological knowledge to fully understand the texts. Had they fully understood them, many of them would have been burned.

    Greek philosophy is the antithesis of Christian theology. Socrates was rightly convicted of corrupting the youth into godlessness. The Greek ideal removes God, or the gods, as the setter of standards, and a timeless immutable concept is substituted. Neither God nor the gods can change the Greek ideal.

    It is a dangerous concept, and Socrates’ accusers understood it. If the Church had fully understood it, I doubt he would have fared any better.

    In any case, there is no way to erase or change an entire culture. It permeates through the entire civilization, and eventually, the record is corrected. Paintings, frescos, pottery, sculptures, plays, architecture, government type, society type, farming techniques, trade practices, military prowess, and many more attributes form a civilization. In some cases, what is missing is also important.

    Troy was believed to be a myth, but it is now known to be fact. Archeology was able to correct literature/history.

    Without an actual dinosaur, there is no way to know if the bones have been reassembled correctly, and in at least one case, they had to reassemble a museum display. This is assuming they actually were living creatures.

  • Almost exactly the opposite is true. Copying was an expensive proposition and careful choices were made about what was copied and what was not. Various editorial changes were made, interpolations created, and errors introduced—all by Christians and with a Christian slant.

    The Aeneid was a favorite for preservation because it was believed to prefigure Christ. Works were preserved because they bolstered Christian belief or the authority of the church.

    This stuff has been studied carefully for hundreds of years. The idea that the legacy of antiquity was transmitted completely and inerrantly over two millennia by monks working as automata is just nonsense. So, for example, the earliest complete text of any of Aristotle’s works dates from just about a millennium after he died. We simply have no idea of what the relationship between what he wrote and what we have might be.

  • PD Shaw Link

    TB: I am not aware of too many significant doctrinal disputes btw/ the Eastern and Western churches that would account for the continuing differences in the political culture of the successor states. I can think two better explanations. One is institutional — when Constantine moved the head of state to Constantinople, leaving the Pope in Rome created a spatial division btw/ church and states in the West in which state power was contested. The other is geographical distinction is that the West was removed from the population pressures of the Asian land mass and not subject to the same survival pressures as Russia (or China).

  • TastyBits Link

    Greek philosophy holds together as a whole. It cannot be mixed and matched. The Greeks knowledge encompassed many subjects, and some are less controversial than others. Until Newton invented calculus, Greek geometry was the mathematics that built the Western world.

    Math and logic were understood, but the Greeks were much further along than the medieval scholars could imagine. Greek science was almost total garbage, and with few exceptions, the medieval scholars had no knowledge of what they were studying.

    Literary texts that have been translated are always subject to error, and unless the translator understands the cultural references, there are likely to be more errors. When Greek was the academic language, everything was translated into Greek. If you like, this is the second filter for many texts.

    There are only three possibilities in a translation: (1) exact representation, (2) removal of material, (3) addition of material. A fourth might be rearranging the text.

    If the medieval scholars removed material, the ancient Greeks we know must have been children compared to the actual authors and thinkers. If the medieval scholars added material, they were brilliant beyond our understanding.

    Unless the medieval works have been authenticated by some objective method, I have no way of knowing that they are not later works. William Shakespeare has not been identified, and he could have been many different playwrights or a group.

    Where the original Greek texts are still available, they can be re-translated and placed into their proper context.

  • Where the original Greek texts are still available

    There are none. For most of the Greek classics the very oldest manuscripts date from the 11th or 12th century AD. For a handful we have older manuscripts—maybe 500 years earlier, still a millennium separated from when they were supposedly written. Earlier than that all we have are fragments, many no larger than a postage stamp. We do not have a single intact contemporaneous copy of any of the Greek classics.

  • A fourth might be rearranging the text.

    There’s an example of that in the Hebrew Bible. Genesis 20 repeats an incident from Genesis 10. It’s an obvious scribe’s error.

  • TastyBits Link

    @PD Shaw

    The Eastern Roman Church, Russian Orthodox, and Greek Orthodox are iconoclastic, ritualistic, dogmatic, and rigid. They do not allow for Greek philosophy. Islam is the same.

    The Catholic Church has an uneasy relationship with Greek philosophy. This is not intentional, but the Church developed in a culture with strong influences from Greek philosophy.

    Democracy is based upon the individual, and the Roman Republic incorporated democratic ideas into it. Even the Roman Empire pretended to be the Republic, and citizens were thought to be free individuals.

    The Catholic Church had to adapt to this culture, but with the fall of the Roman Empire, the Church begins to resemble the Eastern Church. The embers of the Greeks were never fully doused, and therefore a Renaissance was possible.

    The West is the West because of Greek philosophy which elevates man, and the goal of man is to strive for an unattainable ideal. The reward for this striving is honor amongst other men. There is no mention of an afterlife or otherworldly rewards.

    When you castigate non-voters, this is the basis, and you want those non-voters to be culturally aligned with the ancient Greeks. In other cultures, non-voters are encouraged to vote through violence. Not all democracy is the same.

    I only mentioned the two Churches to show the differences. The Roman Catholic Church is vastly different than the Russian Orthodox Church, and this is because the surrounding cultures are vastly different.

  • TastyBits Link

    I do not have a lot of time to do extensive research on the subject. F.F. Bruce seems to be the one who made this claim, and apparently, he was defending the Bible.

    There are more than a few scraps, but there are few full works that have survived. What is true is that these works were copied and recopied over and over because they would fade and the paper/papyrus would begin to disintegrate. A scroll that was rolled/unrolled and handled would not survive.

  • The overwhelming preponderance of the works attributed to classical antiquity that have come down to us are from the collection of Lorenzo de Medici and/or the Vatican Library. Most of those are medieval copies. If there are any complete contemporaneous copies of the Greek classics, I’m not aware of them.

    I think we can be confident that uncritical copying of works did not take place for a pretty simple reason. Both cuneiform and hieroglyphics were used into the Christian era. If the monks had copied everything, some of them would have been copied. They weren’t and the reason is pretty clear: the monks couldn’t read them but they could read the Greek and Roman classics.

    The works that have come down to us have been pieced together through an editorial process and we have no idea what the relation might be between the originals and what we have or between the works that have come down to us and the complete corpus of Greek and Roman literature.

    I think you’re taking an enormous amount on faith. The much simpler reason for the unity you perceive in the Greek classics is that they were filtered through Christian minds.

  • TastyBits Link

    Greek philosophy is not Christian theology nor are there any Christian influences. Greek philosophy is a-theistic. There is no way to reconcile the two except through misunderstanding. The medieval scholars would have to have been idiot savants. I would be equally amazed to learn that medieval scholars also wrote the Hindu Vedas.

    Specifically, Greek metaphysics and epistemology are un-Jewish and un-Christian, but they are the foundation of Greek philosophy. You cannot construct a democratic form of government without an individual. It is man made, and it requires an individual striving towards an a-theistic ideal.

    Today, we hear that the US is a Judeo-Christian country. Few of these people would agree with me, but even fewer could articulate anything more than, “rights come from God.” Medieval scholars in their own works did delve into free will and other similar topics, but as one would expect, these are theistic based.

    If they were to have re-written Greek philosophy, I would have expected them to have interjected God into it more. Instead, Socrates is portrayed sympathetically, but he is really guilty of corrupting the youth. It seems a little strange for a Christian to support a philosopher teaching the youth atheism.

    F.F. Bruce’s argument was that the Bible texts were more trustworthy because they were closer to actual events. I believe Caesar’s “The Gallic Wars” is one of his examples. He assumes that it disappeared for 700 years, and then suddenly, it sprung forth as a fully formed transcribed manuscript.

  • I believe Caesar’s “The Gallic Wars” is one of his examples. He assumes that it disappeared for 700 years, and then suddenly, it sprung forth as a fully formed transcribed manuscript.

    I haven’t studied the manuscript tradition of The Gallic Wars but I suspect that it was compiled from earlier sources to be what it has been for the last millennium: a textbook for schoolboys learning Latin.

  • TastyBits Link

    The number of comments on the main page and the post page are different by 4.

  • It’s an artifact. The number of comments includes comments of all types but only regular comments are displayed. Trackbacks are included in the number of comments but are not displayed.

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