In politics, as in war, success belongs to those who can seize the initiative.
I was having my omelette and chips with a journalist friend in a greasy spoon restaurant in one of the suburbs of London last week when our discussions inevitably turned to the latest spate of violence in France. Just as I had written recently in my blog in the Huffington Post, I reiterated my arguments and concluded that we in Europe are indeed being tossed about in rough seas at the moment, but that we have not drowned yet.
I half-expected my friend to agree with me. However, I was dumbfounded when his real anger and fear manifested themselves as he argued forcibly that the only way to eradicate this brand of terrorism would be to carpet bomb the whole MENA region where such Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) elements could be found in order to rid the world of their scourge.
As a lawyer and also as someone who knows both the EU and MENA quite well, I do not usually find myself speechless. But this was one of those occasions when I truly did not expect the vehemence of those thoughts that are in my opinion as nihilistic as those of the terrorists themselves.
World after 9/11
After all, given that radicalism is omnipresent, do we bomb everyone out of extinction everywhere? Yet, is it perhaps not inconceivable that some Europeans are now adopting this currency and believe that the only solution is to bay for blood and wipe out everybody in order to enjoy some peace and quiet?
It is almost a truism to add that the world changed after 9/11 when we woke up from our age of innocence. Mind you, 9/11 also introduced the Patriot Act and resulted in a disastrous war in Iraq whose rotten fruits we reap today.
But ever since those awful days and despite the successive terrorist waves we have witnessed in many continents, I believe this is the first time when Europe is both more resolute and also more fearful. Being resolute is good, since it is high time we pooled our efforts and fought all forms of terror – from the nascent to the institutional – fiercely and competently.
But fear is dangerous since it makes us ride roughshod over what defines our choices as a European society (admittedly, with its manifold blotches) and turns us into testosterone-driven primeval humanoids.
Successive high alerts
However, we cannot deny the successive high alerts – many of them justifiable – or lockdown of train stations across parts of Europe, nor can we disregard that France has resorted to Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty to call for a common defence and security response by the 28 EU member-states.
Nor, for that matter, the fact that the UNSC unanimously endorsed a resolution to spare no effort in the fight against ISIL albeit without invoking Chapter 7 of the UN Charter that endows such a decision with military muscle.
So today, let me share with readers my perspective of our latest European ordeal.
Is the EU witnessing a meltdown? I would argue that the jury is still out, but one answer surely lies in the way that we both interpret the painful challenges facing us today and how we manage them. Who knows, I could perhaps even convince my journalist friend that we need not consider draconian measures that defile our values when we are combating for our future – at least not yet.
Harry Hagopian is a London-based international lawyer, political adviser and ecumenical consultant on the MENA region. He is also a second-track negotiator and works closely with European institutions.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.