CNN’s Sally Kohn has today been kind enough to provide us all with a perfectly distilled example of what, post-Paris, has become a popular progressive talking point. “Y’all realize,” Kohn wrote on Twitter this morning, that “ISIS wants to provoke a war, right? If we go to war, we’re doing exactly what the terrorists want.”
Assurances such as Kohn’s have been forthcoming since before the blood dried. In Saturday’s Independent, Sunny Mundal suggested that the West will only “win if we don’t get provoked into the response they want from us.” And what do “they want”? First, for us to “to attack them on their soil: in Iraq and Syria,” thereby creating a “backlash that would would play directly into their hands”; second, to “create division and exploit tension in our modern multi-racial societies,” and thus to cause “western Muslims to feel that they can only truly be at home at the Isis Caliphate.” If we react by going after them, Mundal predicted, we will only “create countless new recruits.” In yesterday’s Huffington Post, Nick Robins-Early made a similar argument, submitting that if Western nations respond to the abomination in Paris by slowing down the influx of refugees — or even by talking favorably about “Western civilization” — they will be playing directly “into the hands of extremists.”
What I am not prepared to do is take as a matter of unchallenged faith that the nasty little buggers who just wiped out scores of free people get to call the shots.
As is often the case with foreign affairs, I am not entirely sure what the best answer is here, and in consequence am happy to hear a wide range of opinions from those who know better. What I am not prepared to do, however, is to accept without challenge the suggestion that the nasty little buggers who just wiped out scores of free people should get to call the shots going forward. Upon closer investigation, it might well turn out that there are more efficient ways of eradicating ISIS than taking them on head-first. Likewise, we may discover that restricting the flow of refugees to the United States does little more than annoy the very people whom we need on our side. But for us to arrive at either of those conclusions, the arguments in their favor will have to be presented from the ground up. Merely asserting that a particular reaction is “what ISIS wants” will not cut it. Sometimes in life, we have to accept that a third party wants a fight and that there is no other choice but to give it to them — yes, even if that fight is likely to be messy and costly, and to have a series of potential downsides. Determining whether this is one of those times will take more than idle sloganeering.
— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.