Forget Paris

Al­ter­na­tively, fi­nally learn the lessons such at­tacks teach

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Clifford D. May

For al­most two gen­er­a­tions, since Iran’s 1979 Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion, self-pro­claimed ji­hadis have been fight­ing to re-es­tab­lish Is­lamic supremacy and dom­i­na­tion in the world. Lead­ers of the na­tions they have been tar­get­ing have re­garded them as a prob­lem — but mostly not as dan­ger­ous en­e­mies who must be de­ci­sively de­feated. And so their num­bers have grown and their abil­ity to project power has in­creased.

The Is­lamic State, an al Qaeda splin­ter that arose af­ter Amer­ica’s with­drawal from Iraq in 2011, was quick to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for last week’s car­nage in Paris. This fol­lows by less than a year its at­tacks on Char­lie Hebdo and a French Jewish su­per­mar­ket. Also at­trib­uted to the Is­lamic State: a dou­ble sui­cide-bomb­ing in Beirut on Thurs­day and, in Oc­to­ber, a bomb­ing in Ankara and the blow­ing up of a Rus­sian pas­sen­ger jet.

The Is­lamic State’s ri­val is the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran, which prefers to pre­tend it was not be­hind such at­tacks as those in Beirut in 1983, Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994, Berlin in 1992, and Bur­gas, Bul­garia, in 2012; not to men­tion the failed plots to bomb New York’s John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional Air­port in 2007 and a restau­rant in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in 2011.

Also alive and well and lethal: Nige­ria-based Boko Haram, So­ma­lia-based al Shabaab, Pak­istan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Tal­iban in both Pak­istan and Afghanistan. I could go on.

As the blood ran red in Parisian streets, Pres­i­dent Obama re­sponded with ex­pres­sions of sym­pa­thy and sup­port for the vic­tims. He should not be faulted for that. Nor should he be ex­pected, at such mo­ments, to say any­thing in­ci­sive or in­sight­ful. What is dis­ap­point­ing — though no longer sur­pris­ing — is how re­flex­ively he dis­torts re­al­ity to con­form to his un­wa­ver­ing pre­con­cep­tions. The at­tack in Paris, he in­sisted, was di­rected against “all of hu­man­ity and the univer­sal val­ues that we share.”

By now it should be fairly ob­vi­ous that the ter­ror­ists are tar­get­ing only spe­cific sub­sets of hu­man­ity: e.g., Chris­tians, Jews, sec­u­lar­ists and other “in­fi­dels,” along with any Mus­lims who refuse to em­brace their me­dieval read­ing of Is­lam. And self-ev­i­dently, the ji­hadis and those cheer­ing for them do not share Mr. Obama’s val­ues, which means, by def­i­ni­tion, those val­ues are not “univer­sal.”

Time and again, the ji­hadis have demon­strated that they have other val­ues and that they are will­ing — in­deed, ea­ger — to both kill and die for them. Ig­nor­ing that, Western lead­ers have prat­tled on about “coun­ter­ing vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism” through jobs pro­grams and for­eign aid. They have main­tained that “there is no mil­i­tary so­lu­tion” and that we can rely on di­plo­mats to ef­fec­tu­ate “con­flict res­o­lu­tion” em­ploy­ing “soft power” and “smart power.” Mr. Obama has re­as­sured us: “The tide of war is re­ced­ing.”

Will Nov. 13, 2015 prove to be a wake-up call? French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande said: “We are go­ing to lead a war which will be piti­less.” On Sun­day, French planes bombed Raqqa, the cap­i­tal of the Is­lamic State.

The ji­hadis, how­ever, are con­fi­dent that France doesn’t have the stom­ach for a long war — what the bumper stick­ers call an “end­less war.” They view not just France but also the Euro­pean Union and NATO as spent forces — weak and war-weary, weighted down by the ever-bur­geon­ing de­mands of the wel­fare state. I’m afraid they have a point.

Iron­i­cally and in­con­ve­niently, the Paris at­tacks took place just hours af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama told ABC’s Ge­orge Stephanopou­los that, thanks to his poli­cies, the Is­lamic State had been “con­tained.” He elab­o­rated: “They have not gained ground in Iraq and in Syria.” That must seem cold com­fort to the peo­ple of Paris’s 10th, 11th and 18th ar­rondisse­ments.

Over the week­end, the Is­lamic State is­sued “A State­ment on the Blessed On­slaught in Paris against the Cru­sader Na­tion of France.” The “be­liev­ers” who car­ried out the at­tack, it says, re­garded Paris as “the cap­i­tal of pros­ti­tu­tion and vice, the lead car­rier of the cross in Europe.” The goal of the young war­riors, it added, was “to be killed for Al­lah’s sake, do­ing so in sup­port of His re­li­gion, His Prophet (bless­ings and peace be upon him), and His al­lies.”

When our en­e­mies are more hon­est about who they are and what mo­ti­vates them than most of our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, aca­demics and jour­nal­ists, we have a prob­lem. Who is pre­pared to be­gin fix­ing it?

Among those vy­ing to suc­ceed Mr. Obama is there any­one who strikes you as hav­ing the courage and the lead­er­ship skills nec­es­sary to fa­cil­i­tate what Churchill, at a mo­ment when the Third Re­ich seemed un­stop­pable, called “a supreme re­cov­ery of moral health and mar­tial vigor”? (Would most Amer­i­cans to­day even understand that phrase?)

The next com­man­der in chief must re­sume lead­er­ship of the Free World (an­other phrase that, sadly, has come to sound ar­chaic) and de­velop a com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy to de­feat ji­hadism in all its forms — Sunni and Shia alike.

Such a strat­egy will need to in­clude a mus­cu­lar mil­i­tary com­po­nent. That ne­ces­si­tates re­build­ing, rather than con­tin­u­ing to di­min­ish, the armed forces of both Amer­ica and Europe. Im­mi­gra­tion re­form is ur­gent — with na­tional se­cu­rity as the top pri­or­ity, not an af­ter­thought. Na­tions will­ing to fight ji­hadi forces re­quire much more sup­port from Wash­ing­ton than they’ve been re­ceiv­ing over re­cent years. A war of ideas — a war against ji­hadism and Is­lamic supremacism — is long over­due. Such en­dan­gered Western val­ues as free­dom and tol­er­ance must be de­fended. Cur­rently, that’s not even hap­pen­ing on Amer­i­can cam­puses.

If you can iden­tify such a can­di­date, he (or she) de­serves your vote. The al­ter­na­tive is to forget Paris and let this can­cer metas­ta­size for an­other gen­er­a­tion or two. By then, how­ever, our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren will be liv­ing in a very dif­fer­ent world from the one our par­ents be­queathed to us. Clifford D. May is pres­i­dent of the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies and a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times.


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