George Weigel says that when it comes to the key problem facing France and much of Europe when it comes to battling Islamic extremism is that you can't beat something with nothing:
If all that Europe can say in condemning the despicable murders of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists and editors is “We are all Charlie Hebdo,” then what Europe is saying is, in effect, “We are all nihilists.” And how, pray, is nihilism—nothingness raised to a first principle, skepticism taken to the last extreme—supposed to defeat conviction, however warped that conviction is? If all that Europe can say to murderous jihadism is “Why can’t we all just get along?” its fecklessness will make it an even softer target for the kind of lethal fanaticism that recently turned Paris into a war zone.
There’s another aspect to this tangled and bloody business that’s worth noting, and that is the high price that Europe, and France in particular, is paying for culturally engrained (and sometimes legally enforced) political correctness. Virtually proscribing public discussion of the threat to European civility and order posed by Islamist maniacs has made dealing with that threat far more difficult: for citizens, for the security services, and for the public authorities. In the years since 9/11, the French public square has been dominated by the jihadists and the xenophobes; and in that volatile social environment, something very bad was going to happen. Now that it has, perhaps steps can be taken to bring the adults—and the real issues—back into the discussion.
“Liberty, equality, fraternity” can be a noble slogan, bespeaking noble aspirations. But freedom, justice, and human solidarity cannot be grounded in nihilism. If all Europe is Charlie Hebdo, then Europe is doomed.
I was not particularly outraged when President Obama did not attend the "unity" march in Paris after the recent attacks. While from a purely diplomatic perception perspective it would have been a good idea to have some high ranking US official put in an appearance, what was the point of the march other than an expression of feeling? What was the call to action? How were people in Europe, and throughout the world for that matter, now going to prevent future attacks and, more importantly, eventually defeat the various movements of Islamic extremism?
If the majority of Europeans truly no longer believe in anything (be it Christianity, Western civilization, or liberal democracy) then it is going to be difficult to rally them to fight a foe who does. Nihilists are not going to heed the call to man the barricades.