The educated, privileged, and protected believe, against millennia of evidence, that all human problems can be resolved through discussion. We might as well expect Atlantis to rise from the sea at the solstice, teeming with wizards and ad-free social media. Throughout history, the only effective response to remorseless force has been resolute force. Strategy’s prime currency is blood.
We’d prefer to chat.
That drooling offspring is our mindless insistence that better “messaging” will dissuade aspiring, home-grown terrorists from violence, while simultaneously persuading foreign actors committed to mass murder, Internet beheadings, and a quick bit of rape on the side (in Allah’s name) to stop their nastiness.
And so we assign Ivy League grads to implement programs intended to convince men ablaze with revelation, rage, and holy frenzy that we understand their faith better than they do, that Muslims are just like Episcopalians, except for that alcohol thing. We assume that we can persuade men who, for the first time in their lives, have found meaning and a powerful sense of belonging that we know what’s best for them.
By embracing Islamist extremism and the terrorist mission, the misfit gains:
- Acceptance for the first time in his life
- A sense of belonging
- Structure (never underestimate the appeal of rigor to troubled souls)
- A comforting explanation for his failures
- Power and purpose
- Justification for hatred and his anti-social impulses
- Revenge and respect
- The thrill of torturing others and the ecstasy of killing human beings
- The prospect of fame
- Paradise, should he die on jihad, with a host of submissive virgins who cannot compare him to other, more potent, more appealing males
And what do we offer to those we hope to deter?
- A job stocking shelves at Walmart
And the bureaucrats and contractors entrusted with this mission of persuasion don’t know a single person who fits the profile of the potential recruit.
Our folly has grown so absurd that terrorist chieftains find it cause for merriment. When President Obama insisted in a public response to ritual beheadings that “That isn’t Islam!” the leaders of the Islamic State Caliphate (which, pace Obama, is all too real) collapsed in laughter. After wiping tears of mirth from their eyes, they mocked our chief executive exuberantly, asking when Mr. Obama became a qadi, an Islamic judge, or a Koranic scholar.
Consider our president’s utter lack of perspective (to say nothing of his self-importance): If the king of Saudi Arabia announced that Americans weren’t true Christians, how would we respond? And no, Obama’s childhood contact with syncretic Javanese Islam did not make him an expert on the stultifying bigotries and cruelty of Islam as practiced in its dreary heartlands. Like it or not, the Islam of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the rest is, indeed, a branch of the faith — because Muslims believe it is. Neo-Wahhabi fanaticism certainly is not all of Islam, but we lack the authority, credibility, or evidence to declare it un-Islamic. If Muslim fanatics justify their atrocities by citing the Koran, befuddled presidents and nervous prime ministers don’t get to contradict them.
The final nail in the “messaging” coffin is the fanatics’ easy dominance of the media. All of us associated with the news business immediately become hostages when word breaks of a significant (or simply titillating) terrorist event. On October 22, a lone terrorist with a rifle not only brought Canada’s capital to a standstill but became an instant star of global jihad. We in the media had to cover and comment on the event — that’s what the news business is about — but our unavoidable, all-but-exclusive focus on the unfolding attack gave the murderer-for-Allah riveting international publicity. Islamist terror got more air time for the price of one self-radicalized thug than any political candidate facing our midterm elections has managed to pay for.
The ubiquity of the news guarantees the ubiquity of copy-cats (whether lone-wolf terrorists or gun-wielding teens with mood swings). An individual determined to kill publicly can command the attention of a nation, even the world. The message to misfits everywhere of last week’s Ottawa tragedy was, “You can not only have your revenge, you can be a superstar.”
What messaging of ours would have deterred that shooter from running, armed, toward Parliament? What argument of ours might have discouraged the recent convert who ran down two Canadian soldiers (killing one) a few days earlier? Or the Tsarnaevs of Boston? Or Major Hassan of Fort Hood? Or the hijackers of 9/11?
Islamist fanaticism offers the powerless, bitter, and hopeless license on earth and luxury in paradise. We’re scolds who offer minimum-wage jobs.
Is the terrorist recruit truly irrational?
— Ralph Peters is a Fox News strategic analyst, a retired Army officer and former enlisted man, and a bestselling, prize-winning author.