mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
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.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Observe&Report

    There’s already a clash of civilisations going on. Islam started it, and the West has to finish it.

    • Fred

      Actually, it’s not a clash of civilizations; it’s a clash of civilization and barbarism.

  • bff426

    The initial report posted online by the New York Times correspondent in Berlin didn’t make any inferences as to what group might be responsible. The report did mention the Bastille Day attack in Nice. It was a real pretzel twister. The famously specific Times said the attack resulted in “more than 80” deaths (86). The reporter went out of their way to point out that no definitive link was established between the perpetrator and any group.

    Move along, nothing to see here.

    • LarryD

      And they wonder why we don’t believe them anymore.

  • Disappeared4x

    Have we not had enough ‘conversations’ past 8 years to know how many lone wolves can dance on the head of a needle before those lone wolves howl ‘Allahu Akbar’?

  • JR

    “those who try to drive the whole subject to the margins are actually making that conversation harder, not easier, to have.” you could have just said “Obama” and saved a lot of words.

    • Don’t forget Angela Merkel herself!

  • ——————————

    ” there’s a risk of setting off the kind of clash of civilizations the terrorists want”

    It is not only terrorists who want it…there are many of us here in fly-over country who are quite handy, armed, and would gladly oblige them….

  • Nevis07

    Interestingly, the same argument could be made for that of immigration. But again, many tried and are still trying to shut down genuine debate on the topic. I think the important point here is that in the immigration issue when first brought up by the Tea Party movement, people were labeled (and still are) as racists and bigots. And so, debate was prevented and the issue festered and became worse – this meant the politics, politicians and their “solutions” became more extreme.

    One has to wonder, if genuine debate of Islamic terrorism is handled similarly by the progressive left, how the politics and policies surrounding the issue will evolve. What’s the political equivalent of mass deportations and building a wall on the border to that of Islamic terror?

  • Beauceron

    Terror is a tactic.
    You do not wage war on a tactic.
    We are at war with a particular brand of Islam, not Islam itself or as a whole, but that particular strain that is supremacist, salafist and jihadist in its ideology. That is what we need to come to grips with. We are unable to even say it, much less fight it.

    • QET

      That’s like saying we were at war with a particular brand of German nationalism. I agree that “war on terror” is a vacuous slogan, but trying to intellectually compartmentalize Islam into various “brands” is no less an affair of empty abstraction. It will not be possible to defeat Islamic jihadis without collaterally damaging some non-fanatics, just as with Germany & Japan in 1941 – 45. Western left-liberals tend to elevate that collateral damage (and I am not speaking only of dead and mutilated innocents from drone strikes) far above the evil we are attempting to defeat in the moral scale, for reasons I find to be both incoherent and unconvincing in the extreme.

  • f1b0nacc1

    If the terrorists want a clash of civilizations, I believe that it is time that we oblige them.

    It won’t take long to conclude.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Those who wish to speak more of Islamic Terrorism or Islamist Terrorism or Islam-Inspired Terrorism (in a direct manner to always include reference to Islam) just won the American government. Whether increased use of the words will result in less terrorism is an experiment now underway. In any event, the new president is confrontational in tone. That too, is an experiment now underway with respect to getting down to the definitions of “confront who?” and “confront how?”

    • Jim__L

      Confrontational without willing to put boots on the ground… we’ll see how long that lasts.

      Although it would be interesting seeing what it’s like to have a president who actually plays with the goal of a US victory, in charge of these conflicts.

      • FriendlyGoat

        We have to remember that “boots” are actually American family members just as they were in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of the “experiment” now underway is gauging once again how much appetite really exists in America for large-scale deployments and permanent occupations necessary to hold Islamic places out of chaos.

        Or, maybe “U.S. Victory” means telling the Russians to do whatever they want wherever they want because we seriously do not give a fig. We’ll see.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Ostrich Syndrome!
    Te He He! I like it. It seems to have claimed all the Leftists in the World.

  • solstice

    In order to save itself, Western Europe needs to jail its current treasonous political elites and deport its Muslim population en masse.

  • Islam must seriously begin trying to reform itself from within…no system, religious or otherwise, that refuses to adapt to the modern day and age will be able to survive forever.

    • Jim__L

      Honestly, taking the fetters off of Christian mission work in the region — starting with branding as terrorist and physically destroying any government agency that punishes apostasy — would be the beginning of the solution here.

      Islam simply isn’t consistent with Modernity — as opposed to Christianity, that invented Modernity.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service