Picture this. It is September 11, 2001. I am 31 years old. I have settled in the Netherlands, where I have essentially assimilated into Dutch culture. I am living the life of an average Dutch 31-year-old. I live in Leiden. I commute into Amsterdam for work. I share a flat with my boyfriend. I drive a car. I go on holidays. I had arrived in Holland in 1992, a refugee from Somalia—and in a mere nine years, I am living a life no different from that of any of my Dutch friends.

When I started my job at a social-democratic think tank in Amsterdam, they were so happy to have me. I was this success story of racial and social integration. I had earned my degree from Leiden University in political science; I was arguing with my peers about the legacy of various prime ministers of Holland.

It was at this think tank that I first came across a man who was the perfect representation of a type I later came to think of as “Mr. Consensus.” His name was Job Cohen, and he was the chairman of the board of directors. When I started the job, he had just become the mayor of Amsterdam and undeniably a man of the establishment. He performed the civil marriage of the future king and queen and was particularly buddy-buddy with her. Cohen was sitting at the time on many of the nation’s important boards—not just of the think tanks, but also in art and in politics. He was at the center of the intersection where politics, academia, and culture meet. He was hugely respected and, more important for him, a respectable figure.

His politics were firmly in the middle—that “old center left” that now seems positively quaint. He embodied and advocated a politics where the word “consensus” was thrown about before the discussion of anything that could be remotely controversial. He was Mr. Consensus.

And there were many, many throughout Europe and the United States who sounded and acted just like him. Mr. Consensus and his clones epitomized the leadership in the West from the period spanning the collapse of Soviet Communism in 1989 to September 11. What we have been witnessing, in the two decades since, is a crisis of the world Mr. Consensus made and the consequences of his decisions—or lack thereof.

To understand why the West has been declining under his leadership over the past quarter-century, you have to understand his worldview.

Before September 11, I was a huge admirer of his kind of politics—of all things consensus. I had come from a zero-sum society. It was a tribal society, a world of clans. In the society of my birth, shame and honor were the two most important social forces. To compromise in these societies is to admit shame. And to admit shame is unthinkable. So for me, to come to live in a society where compromise was king and the outcome of any conflict could be one that was characterized as “both parties won” was incredibly compelling. It took hold of me.

Another characteristic of Mr. Consensus is his love of “collaboration.” Mr. Consensus believes that any political outcome is virtuous only if it comes about through collaboration. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the emergence of a unipolar order with the United States at the helm, Mr. Consensus, who was so used to having the two powers of the Soviet Union and the U.S. on either side, scrambled for multilateralism.

When I went to the think tank, I was put on the immigration portfolio. I had wanted to be on the Europe desk. It was the most sought-after policy field. I wanted to do something more ambitious than immigration. And I certainly didn’t want to be the token diversity candidate. But I was flattered into it by Job Cohen, who told me I was such a good example of integration!

Things changed after 9/11. I started clashing with my colleagues at the think tank. Everybody began to argue that maybe America had it coming. What did America’s leaders think might happen? You would hear the whole roster of the misadventures of America. Nixon, Israel, oil—just an endless list of reasons why Bin Laden and al-Qaeda had attacked the United States.

But as time went on and we were getting more information about the 19 men who hijacked the four planes, it became as plain as day to me that the attack was not a response to American foreign policy. No, these men were driven by a theocratic political worldview that was completely alien to Western society—Islamofascism.

This was my first conflict with my colleagues at the think tank. My perspective was rejected outright because it was a narrative that undermined their consensus politics. They found themselves in the grip of cognitive dissonance as they struggled to grasp the idea that politics outside of Holland or perhaps the post–Cold War West might not be just about identifying estranged and competing interests and granting concessions that would make everybody happy.

Some people don’t want concessions. Some people are just your enemy. They hate you and your society, and they will do whatever they can to degrade and eventually destroy it. Even if it means the most hideous violence. Even if it means that they get destroyed in the process. Suicide killing is a maximalism that Mr. Consensus simply cannot compute.

In the wake of 9/11, because I was a young, naive, black, female immigrant, everyone in the media in the Netherlands immediately began latching on to me to get my opinion on these things. And of course I gave it. I applied the methods I had been taught at Leiden, their most prestigious university, and came to my conclusions using those very methods—in addition to formulating them in the vocabulary they taught me.

They asked me to research the failure of Muslim immigrants to integrate into Dutch culture. I wrote up my research findings, citing the best scholarly works available. I told them that guest-worker migrants from Muslim countries sent their children to Muslim-only schools, listened only to the radio and TV channels dedicated to Muslim teachings, and were marrying only inside their communities. There was no vehicle for integrating them into Dutch society because they were essentially living a parallel life in a parallel society.

I was a refugee, not a guest worker, and I had escaped from my family, so I wasn’t subject to the same stifling social control that most Muslims were enduring in Holland. But I could see why those who were caught up in the ghetto were failing.

At this time, there was another politician emerging in the Netherlands. His name was Pim Fortuyn, and he was a clear opponent to Mr. Consensus, both in the sense that he struck Job Cohen as polarizing but also in the way he ran counter to the prevailing political dogma on Islam and immigration. Fortuyn was anti-Islam. He called Islam backward and argued that Dutch society would be changed irreparably by mass immigration from Islamic countries. And when journalists hounded me about the comments Fortuyn was making, I couldn’t really disagree with him.

Using the circuitous language of Mr. Consensus, this was the kind of dialogue I would find myself engaging in on television.

Journalist: Do you then agree with Pim Fortuyn that Islam is a backward culture?

Me: If you apply the criteria documented in the Human Development Report published by the United Nations, dated 2002, I think that Pim Fortuyn is correct in stating that Islam is backward. Those criteria were the three deficits of freedom, knowledge, and women’s rights. The report was researched and published by a cluster of Arab men most of them Muslim. So, there you have it.

For saying these things, I was threatened by many Muslims in the Netherlands and Europe, including members of my extended family.

And the social-democratic party I was a part of, the ruling party of the country, found itself in an uncomfortable situation. On the one hand, I was embarrassing the social democrats by giving points to their opponent. On the other, they were compelled to provide me with police protection from the threat of these very Muslims whom Pim Fortuyn had identified as backward.

So the leadership of the country’s center-right party reached out to me to join them, and I accepted. It helped me solve my own cognitive dissonance; it was a relief. By defecting to the center-right party, I could defend the ideas of free speech, the emancipation of women, freedom of conscience, the free market, the free press—all these things that made Holland great but that many of these new immigrant Muslim populations did not care for.

And I knew, from my studies, that there was a huge mass of people in Europe who were saying they wanted to establish Shariah law inside Western countries. At the time, we knew what radical imams at subversive mosques were saying only because of brave journalists going in with hidden cameras and exposing them. But this was before the era of social media, when people can recirculate such videos and make sure others could see for themselves what was happening in these communities. So the pushback from the elite media was instantaneous. They argued that these examples of hate—hatred of the Netherlands, of the West, of the Jews—were rare cases; that those brave journalists were bad-faith actors; and finally, of course, that “Islam is a religion of peace.”

If we fast-forward to today, all I can say is that I wish they had been right, and that Pim Fortuyn and these journalists had been wrong. Instead, they hounded Fortuyn, smeared him, and made him out to be evil for saying things that were worth publicly debating. And in the end, this man who could have been the future prime minister was assassinated on the street by a vegetarian activist who had been convinced that Fortuyn was the next Hitler.

_____________

I relocated to America in 2006, and I found something different. In the United States, the problem of radical political Islam had been misidentified as a foreign threat—a violent threat posed by extremist groups or lone-wolf individuals.

The American Mr. Consensus sought to use military and surveillance means to deal with the foreign aspect of Islamist terror and use the police and the courts to deal with the violent jihadis on American soil. But the nonviolent subversive actions of the political Islamists were either ignored or inadvertently enabled by the American Mr. Consensus—using the exact same arguments of bridge-building and inclusivity that Dutch and other European leaders had been using.

The work that I and several other European and American academics, journalists, activists, lawyers, and other national-security experts did to draw attention to the danger of the subverters was ignored, or we were mocked or demonized as Islamophobes.

Nearly a quarter-century later, there are more people in the West beholden to Islamist dogma than ever before. It has metastasized. It is in our universities, in our streets, and in our political institutions—where they are now dictating policy and threatening to swing and affect elections if they do not get their way.

The reality, which Mr. Consensus is in denial of, is engulfing everyone in Western Europe. In Europe, the concessions Mr. Consensus made regarding national borders have led to the ghettoization of Islamists in European cities. Illegal immigration has resulted not in utopia but increasingly in drug and human trafficking, violent crime, and an epidemic of rapes.

The leadership that has emerged to cope with these crises, and which I first saw personified in Job Cohen all those years ago, tossed aside the old wisdom that a leader must deal with the reality he finds on the ground and not the outcome he desires.

In international relations, there is the long-standing debate between realists and idealists. After the end of the Cold War, decision-making fell to the idealists. It did not limit itself to foreign policy. How could it have, in a rapidly globalizing world? Foreign policy was economic policy; and was domestic policy; and was social policy.

If in hindsight we have come to question and openly regret policies such as taking away Ukraine’s nuclear weapons; Germany’s choice to depend on Russian oil to meet her energy needs; the disproportionate power shift from national governments to supranational bureaucracies; the decision to negotiate with the Islamic Republic of Iran; the degradation of national borders; and the exaggeration of the climate challenge, then we must question and reflect on the leadership qualities of Mr. Consensus.

In Mr. Consensus’s view, the world is and should be enmeshed and connected through the UN, the World Trade Organization, the IMF, and the EU. Their prominent roles are based on the belief that through trade, through aid, through humanitarian, planned migration, we will be protected from all the forces that seek to subvert our societies and wish us ill. By indulging in this unfounded faith in soft power alone while starving our national defense budgets, we find ourselves willing to contemplate concessions to Iran, China, Putin, and even Hamas!

Concessions—surrender—dressed up as negotiations.

A leader must work with things as they are. The idealist insists on consensus rather than the requirement, at times, to go it alone. He does this because he is a coward, too frightened to face the real world.

The former mayor of Amsterdam recently gave an interview that intrigued me. He is retired from politics and lives in the beautiful, leafy town of Haemstede, in quiet luxury outside of Amsterdam.

He is the head of the Voluntary Euthanasia Foundation.

In the Netherlands now, there is a growing number of people who believe, as Job Cohen believes, that everyone who wants to end his life should have the backing of the state to do it. A Supreme Court judge in the Netherlands named Huib Drion imagined a world in which death could be brought on at the time of one’s choosing by the consumption of two small pills. In a way, I imagine that Job Cohen walks around feeling as though he has Drion’s pill in his back pocket. Mr. Consensus has, for all these years, managed to insulate himself from the negative impacts of his decisions by living a cosseted life. He has put himself in a sheltered neighborhood that remains in every form traditional and European. He travels around in cars. He doesn’t really know, or maybe even care, about what happens now in the neighborhoods where I’ve spoken to women who are harassed by lewd immigrant men when walking their young children to school and whose husbands have been beaten up while accompanying them and trying to keep them safe.

Mr. Consensus and his clones made decision after decision after decision that collectively have alienated their populations and made them unsafe. They have effectively abolished the Christian God and replaced him with an abstract “do-goodery” in the name of consensus. For them, to be an atheist, as I formerly was, was to be in the echelons of the highest attainable intelligence. While there are radicals on the streets waging war against the very foundations of our societies in the West, Mr. Consensus carried himself with an aristocratic indifference. He chose not to believe in anything. He has the pill of Drion in his back pocket.

This kind of leadership has to go. We need a paradigm shift. We need an emphasis on restoration. We must challenge Mr. Consensus and hold him accountable. The Islamists and the useful idiots who call themselves “woke” and chant their death slogans were able to thrive in the moral and policy vacuum created by Mr. Consensus.

We don’t have Mr. Drion’s pill in our back pocket. And we don’t want it. We want something stronger. More powerful.

The globalists a couple of years ago, from Macron to Biden to Trudeau, had this lazy slogan: “Build Back Better.” I put it to you that I think we should go for something more meaningful. Something meatier. We want to know that our societies were founded on the hopeful idea that there is Something and not nothing. Only with this can we mount our challenge and restore the institutions that have begun to crumble in the West, because of the politics of consensus. Let us promote the goodness of our societies in the West and let’s assert their foundations. Rather than “build back better,” we must “build back biblical.” Rather than Mr. Consensus, let us find Mr. Courage.

Photo: AP Photo/Peter Dejong

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