A French flag hangs from broken glass from a bullet hole in the window of a restaurant on Rue de Charonne
Why aren't we standing up to the enemy within? We have within our midst thousands of people whose lives are devoted to doing our society harm.
By Charles Moore
Forty years ago, as a student, I lived in Boulevard Voltaire, the scene of some of the killings on Friday night. Paris was not an untroubled place at that time. The violent events of 1968 were still a recent memory, and I witnessed plenty of left-wing demonstrations.
There were also some serious problems about immigration, mainly related to the French decolonisation of Algeria, but there was an overwhelming difference between then and now. All the arguments – even the postcolonial ones – were framed within the context of European civilisation. Even the pro-Soviet Left and Arab nationalists who dreamed of building better societies argued within that context. In France, both left and right invoked their own interpretations of the French Revolution to make their case.
'There is no reason why attacks just as terrible as those in Paris will not take place in London, Manchester, or Birmingham.'
So although many feared – and some supported – social upheaval, I do not remember anyone predicting what has actually happened. If I had said to my archetypally French beret-wearing grocer in Boulevard Voltaire, or even to some professor of political science at the Sorbonne, that in the next generation France would have to struggle against murderers waving the green flag of Islam rather than the red flag of Communism, and that their purpose would be not the transformation of Western civilisation, but its defeat and destruction, they would barely have understood me.
What is much more extraordinary is that a great many modern European leaders and policymakers still do not understand it. If they did, they would not be expressing "shock" at Friday’s attacks. They would have been expecting them.
There are respects in which France’s plight is worse than Britain’s. It has many more Muslims – its second city, Marseille, now has a Muslim majority – and they are perhaps more ghettoised than ours. It has land borders, and we do not.
It is part of the Schengen passport-free area, and we are not. It insists on secularism almost as the definition of citizenship, and we do not. But the similarities are much greater than the differences, and there is no solid reason why attacks just as terrible as those in Paris will not take place in London (or Manchester or Birmingham).
This is because of the implacable enmity of Islamism. It is a highly political version of Islam which cleverly mixes the modern blogosphere world of grievance and conspiracy theory with the sanctity of ancient texts ill-understood but passionately invoked. It has some advocates who are not themselves personally violent, but its entire idea is a violent one.
Essentially, Islamism is a doctrine which provides a reason to hate and kill everyone who does not subscribe to it. Start with the people in the front line of your malice – Jews, Christians in the Arab world, the professional soldiers of infidel countries. Progress to those who transgress your morality – "loose" women who do not cover their faces, homosexuals, people who drink alcohol, people who dance and sing. And then end up with anyone – everyone – who does not submit to the will of Allah, as interpreted by your pop-up theologians. Isil is the apotheosis of this: a would-be state based upon the annihilation of all diversity. The most beastly atrocities are, in its collective mind, the best proof of its purity.
It would be harder to imagine a clearer foe, yet we still have difficulty making policy in the light of the threat. After seven years in the White House, President Obama still cannot bear so much as to mention its religious aspect. He sees it all as a distressing misunderstanding arising from colonial wrongs and the fact that George Bush was President before him.
The whole of the West led – or rather, not led – by Mr Obama has failed to confront the effect of the civil war in Syria. It has therefore allowed Isil both physical and ideological space.
In Britain, Members of Parliament, including almost as many Tory as Labour ones, continue to think that by refusing to authorise intervention in Syria, we can avoid trouble. Such people may claim their view is reinforced by what happened in Paris: if we have nothing to do with the Middle East, its fanatics will leave us alone. They are like the eccentric political party in Denmark in the 1960s which briefly shot to about 25 per cent in the opinion polls with a defence policy of leaving a tape-recorded message for the Soviet Union in government offices saying "we surrender".
In fact, no civilisation can survive without the means of defending itself, and those means include an expeditionary capacity. Diplomacy, foreign policy and trade have to be backed up by the ability to project force across the world to support our allies and confront our enemies. In this generation, most of our leaders have abandoned this idea. Now they seem surprised that we are left weak.
What brings it all home, literally, is immigration. Even if it is true, as it probably is, that the great majority of Muslims are as peace-loving and decent as any other group of people, you have simple problem of numbers. If a million Muslims, thanks to Angela Merkel, are reaching Germany this year, and even if only one per cent of them subscribe to the doctrines of Isil, that still means 10,000 people dedicated to killing their hosts and assailing the society that accommodates them.
And such as the power of Islamist grievance culture and their infiltration of social media, charities, community groups, mosques and public-policy forums, that one per cent would be a very conservative estimate. The grim fact is that we have within our midst thousands on people whose lives are devoted to doing our society harm and tens of thousands more who are susceptible to the lies they tell. Yet still our policies magnify their voices and swell their numbers.