Quotes of the day

“At a press conference at Lambeth Palace, The Daily Telegraph asked [the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan] Williams whether he thought the US had been right to kill bin Laden.

“After declining to respond initially, he later replied: ‘I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling, because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done in those circumstances.'”

“‘We’re back, not to square one, but perhaps square four in anti-Americanism,’ said Nicole Bacharan, a scholar of the United States at the Institute of Political Studies, or Sciences Po, in Paris. ‘Whatever happens, we need to prove we are different or better, that we are so much more refined and delicate and have such a respect for the law,’ she said, characterizing the European stance. ‘It’s very silly.’…

“Nicolas Demorand, editor of the left-leaning French daily Libération, on Tuesday bemoaned the ‘toxic rhetoric’ of the campaign against terrorism. From that rhetoric, he wrote, stems ‘this base, uncomfortable joy, unprecedented in a democracy, that blew yesterday over the streets of New York.’

“Even the editor of the centrist weekly L’Express, Christophe Barbier, cautioned, ‘To victory one must not add provocation.’ He added: ‘To desecrate the cadaver or the memory of Bin Laden is to revive him. To cry one’s joy in the streets of our cities is to ape the turbaned barbarians who danced the night of Sept. 11. It is to tell them the ghastly competition continues between them and us.'”

“[N]ow many of Obama’s erstwhile Euro-fans are feeling a twinge of buyer’s remorse. By ordering a covert raid on Pakistan that resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of Navy SEALs, Obama has earned the kind of condemnation [from] Europe’s cognoscenti once reserved for his predecessor, George W. Bush…

“The fashionable critique of Obama and the U.S. achieved its purest form on ARD Television, Germany’s equivalent of the BBC, where commentator Jörg Schoenenborn pompously observed that nothing good could come from Obama’s Bush-like breach of international law. ‘Al Qaeda will seek revenge,’ he asserts, ‘so, is the world any safer? No.’ Yet Americans dance in the streets, which Scheonenborn attributed to something essential, and essentially primitive, in the American character. The USA is, after all, ‘quite a foreign land to me. What kind of country celebrates an execution in such a way?’

“It never occurs to Schoenenborn that Americans might not be celebrating bin Laden’s death as such but the suddenly real chance that a long and costly struggle could end — and end in victory, no less. To be sure, optimism does not come naturally in Central Europe, for good historical reasons. And victory is not a word that comes readily to the lips of U.S. officials waging this war. But it’s actually quite rational to suppose that the decapitation of al Qaeda, plus the exposure of its Pakistani safe haven and the recovery of a vast intelligence trove may, in fact, hasten the organization’s end. Certainly the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter than it was before.”

“It is true, of course, that the killing of bin Laden raises moral and legal issues; but it has also exposed once again the unedifying strain of latent anti-Americanism among the liberal intelligentsia. When everything is taken into account, the ethical balance must come down on the side of Mr Obama, whatever ‘uncomfortable feeling’ this causes the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is perverse to portray the victims as the villains of the piece, and vice versa. The death of bin Laden should be a cathartic moment for the American nation, which has lost much blood and treasure confronting a terrorist evil. Mr Obama need not apologise for having done the right thing.”

“But the disdain for American joy about bin Laden’s death goes deeper than mere snobbery or concerns about local Muslims. It’s not just that Western European intellectuals don’t like the United States—they never have—but their unwillingness to countenance aggressive Western self-defense against Islamist terror is a function of their loss of belief in Western civilization itself. Many on the continent seem to have lost any sense that their countries and way of life as well as their faith is something worth defending. When it comes down to it that, and not the faux sophistication of Euro elites, is the difference between America and Europe these days.

“For all of our problems and divisions, most Americans still believe in their country. All too many of our friends across the pond have lost faith in theirs. And that crisis in confidence, not good taste, is why Americans and not Europeans are celebrating the death of bin Laden.”

“In blogs and online forums, some people asked: Doesn’t taking revenge and glorying in it make us look just like the terrorists?

“The answer is no, social scientists say: it makes us look like human beings. In an array of research, both inside laboratories and out in the world, psychologists have shown that the appetite for revenge is a sensitive measure of how a society perceives both the seriousness of a crime and any larger threat that its perpetrator may pose.

“Revenge is most satisfying when there are strong reasons for exacting it, both practical and emotional.”