Ostrich Syndrome
The War on Terror—or, Rather, Terror’s War on Us

The past few day have represented an important mileston in the Global War on Terror—or, rather, terror’s war on us.

Over the weekend, a standoff ensued in Jordan between four gunmen and security forces after nine people were murdered in a shoot-out. By Sunday evening, the gunmen had themselves been killed. Then, the brazen, brutal assassination of Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey at an art gallery in Ankara dominated the news cycle yesterday. Finally, as evening rolled across Europe, a Pakistani man ploughed a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 and injuring dozens.

Angela Merkel, facing fire from the Right, admitted what was clear from the moment the news broke: “We don’t have anything for certain but we must assume it is a terrorist attack,” Merkel said. “I know that it would be particularly hard to bear for all of us if it was confirmed that a person committed this crime who asked for protection and asylum in Germany,” she added.

While those who don’t want the “war on terror” or, worse, the “war on Islamist terror” to get too much attention or to become a major focus of foreign policy and domestic politics have some points: the movements aren’t all related, there’s a risk of setting off the kind of clash of civilizations the terrorists want, there are other threats out there, and the need to work with anti-terror Muslims is vital.

But the weak point in the case is that terror’s war on us is real enough and serious enough that public opinion will reject any attempt to minimize or downplay what, to the average person on a commonsense basis, looks like a real war against a dangerous enemy.

Those who fear that “war on terror” rhetoric leads to poor choices in the conflict need to rebase their arguments—not on whether there is a war on terror but on how best to fight it. We need a smart discussion on this complex topic; those who try to drive the whole subject to the margins are actually making that conversation harder, not easier, to have.

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