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"On major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus. They agree on little and understand one another less and less." So wrote Robert Kagan in his masterpiece Paradise and Power.

If anyone doubted the truth of Kagan's statement when it was first published in 2003, the weeks since the death of Osama bin Laden must have made them think again. After President Obama had announced the death of the most prominent mass-murderer of Americans in recent history, crowds came onto the streets of Washington and New York: sometimes in vigil for the lost lives of September 11, 2001, sometimes more raucously, but all grateful that the most prominent foe of their country was dead.

"Muslims Against Crusades" march in London after bin Laden's death (Mirror Image Photos/Demotix)

In London, a city that had also reverberated to the effects of bin Laden's death-cult, the reaction was rather different. Prime Minister David Cameron was careful to stress the ecumenicalism of bin Laden's victims. From Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury explained that he felt "a very uncomfortable feeling". Very well, one might say, he is a man of the cloth, unlikely ever to declare himself delighted at the news of bin Laden's death.

Then the high priests of the new secular church of human rights joined in, though with less humility. Geoffrey Robertson QC and Michael Mansfield QC both proclaimed that the rights of bin Laden had been most shamefully abused. They argued that the American forces who entered the compound of the world's most wanted terrorist should have conducted themselves differently, preferably arresting him and bringing him to trial in a proper internationally approved court. 

The Guardian and other newspapers picked up on this line, but the main point of the story had swiftly changed. It soon became not about the demise of a celebrated terrorist, but doubt about the wisdom of America's actions. It was self-doubt that spurred it. By the afternoon of the announcement a radio presenter in London asked me if we shouldn't be wary of expressions of glee over bin Laden's death. After all, he said (apparently forgetting that for ten years we have been told that bin Laden has no connection with Islam): "Don't we live in ‘a multicultural society' where we must respect the feelings of Muslims?"

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JC Foreman
September 20th, 2011
10:09 PM
Yes a "post-historical paradise". That is what we currently occupy. Simon Reynolds recently released a new book titled: "Retromania Pop Culture's Addiction to its own past". It covers a similar theme to this from a music perspective, that we have entered a post creative artistic world. All the new music being released or is rehash of earlier music. The big question is whether this is just a European or American phenomenon or an inevitable human destiny and that we are simply ahead on the curve, a post-historical humanity?

June 12th, 2011
1:06 AM
totally agreed with the ny reader

A Reader from NYC
June 10th, 2011
1:06 PM
If President Obama's self-congratulatory announcement of Bin Laden's death did more to set himself up as a punchline rather than a paladin, the ensuing drunken "frat party" atmosphere that desecrated Ground Zero, where the remains of countless victims are still interred, was - or should have been - an embarrassment to the whole country. As I watched the U.S. news networks get caught up in this festal mood, I wondered whether one brave reporter might dare show a side-by-side shot of the pandemonium at Ground Zero and footage of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who danced on their rooftops on 9/11. None did. While I make no analogies between the deaths of 3000 innocents and the one tyrant behind their murders, as an American, I would argue that, even if the joy felt by many is perfectly understandable and justified, this cannot and must not be a license to abandon all reason and dignity, particularly when the world is watching. Therefore, while I applaud Mr. Murray's candid analysis of reactions across the pond, the unseemly conduct of the relative few in my own backyard has cast a large shadow on a nation whose global influence continues to diminish and whose position as Leader of the Free World is now more a matter of perception than fact.

Wes Brown
June 4th, 2011
11:06 AM
A sad time. United States forces kill leader of a Islamo-fascist cult engaged in war with the West, and all our 'morally superior' Leftwing friends can do is find even more tenuous and extravagant ways to critique America.

June 2nd, 2011
11:06 AM
"States are only able to feel beyond history because there are other states, like Israel and America, who remain in it, who kill our enemies for us and keep us safe because we do not have the inclination, the time or the money to so distract ourselves from our pleasures." How true. And how shameful for us.

June 1st, 2011
7:06 PM
Excellent article Douglas, as too was your performance on Question Time. If its any consolation, I for one was very happy to hear that Osama had been killed. Well done America! Jim, I have to agree with John. You comment is dreary and ill-informed.

May 30th, 2011
5:05 PM
Another top article Douglas keep up the good work. As for the below comment by Jim Graham, why don't you have some respect instead of labelling someones writing as ''bollocks.'' Nobody is asking you to agree with it, showing respect is the least you can do, but of course you're so up your own backside thinking you know it all yourself you haven't even got the decency to do that. You just sound like a miserable old fart quite frankly! Haha

Jim Graham
May 27th, 2011
11:05 PM
Nearly ten years after publication, Douglas Murray comes up with a badly written rehash of Robert Kagan’s Paradise and Power (hardly the masterpiece that Murray makes out). Kagan’s thesis is well written, forcefully argued but mostly his analysis is skewed and his conclusions are wrong. Murray attempts an analysis of supposed European attitudes to the death of Bin Laden and then interpret it within Kagan’s framework. Bad writing is the sure sign of confused and lazy thinking. Instead of sticking to his proposal and marshalling appropriate evidence he uses the death of Bin laden to turn in and out of so many blind alleys and one way streets. The most egregious example being, “as physically obese and morally decadent as it is possible to be” when talking about the results of European welfare arrangements. Now I’ve travelled a bit, both in Europe and the USA, and I must say it is only in the USA that obesity is noticeable as an everyday fact. When I hear the phrase “Morally decadent as it is possible to be”, I think of Caligula, The Hellfire Club, Sodom and Gomorrah not welfare queens living in council estates. This is simply bollocks and the whole article is littered with this stuff. As it turns out his whole piece is based on a couple of liberal lawyers asserting a preference for a courtroom, some beards protesting outside the American embassy, a Guardian editorial, some handwringing from the Archbishop of Canterbury and, most comically, Murray’s own appearance on question time. When I pay £4.50 for my copy of Standpoint I expect better than lacklustre and thoughtless prose and a weak rehash of an old book.

May 26th, 2011
6:05 PM
Bin Ladens death was suiside by soldier. He could have surendered...

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