On Sunday, June 12, ISIS won a dramatic victory. Without risking any of its terror assets and without having to spend one dime of its financial assets, an ISIS volunteer vindicated its strategy of inspiring terrorist acts and launched the deadliest attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. The act not only shattered the lives of the victims and their families. It no doubt inspired still more jihadists to plot their own attacks both at home and abroad. Facing battlefield reverses in Iraq and Syria, ISIS struck back at its chief enemy.
But the wins didn’t stop there. Incredibly, ISIS won not just in Orlando. It’s winning the aftermath. The American response to the attack has been beyond ineffective, veering decisively toward the counterproductive. We’re doing nothing more to deter or prevent terror attacks and everything to deceive our own people about the true nature of the threat. Rather than unite to fight a common enemy, we’re dissolving into partisan, polarizing stupidity.
Second, that means that it will still be able not merely to inspire terrorists but to continue to actively infiltrate Europe and, ultimately, America. While the true ISIS strongholds are in the Middle East, it has an undeniable presence in European capitals. France was attacked again this week, and more attacks are inevitable.
A Muslim kills gay people and ISIS’s Christian enemies face blowback? They couldn’t conceive of a more complete propaganda coup.
Fifth — and this is perhaps the most astounding aspect of the aftermath — leftist thought leaders are responding to the massacre by condemning Christians. In other words, rather than educating Americans about the truly vicious nature of jihadist theology and encouraging Americans to remain vigilant, the New York Times, CNN, and similar news outlets are training their fire on Republican governors and attorneys general. To the extent that ISIS follows domestic American debates, there have to be high-fives all around in Raqqa. A Muslim kills gay people and ISIS’s Christian enemies face blowback? They couldn’t conceive of a more complete propaganda coup.
I’m old enough to remember when a deadly attack on Americans — on American soil or elsewhere — triggered a unified, lethal American response. Instead, now we get divisive, idiotic polarization. The Obama administration stays the course with its slow-motion war against ISIS. The Democrats distract America with ineffectual gun-control proposals, and the GOP is tied to a man whose day-to-day “policy” pronouncements peel the onion of awful — every single layer makes sane people cry.
I can’t recall a better time to be an enemy of the United States. The message to the jihadist world is clear: Not only is it open season on Americans wherever they live, work, and play, but jihadist attacks will have the added strategic benefit of further dividing a polarized country.Al-Qaeda’s great miscalculation was the belief that a dramatic defeat would also demoralize America. Instead, it woke the sleeping giant. Al-Qaeda lost its safe havens and its terrorists died by the tens of thousands. ISIS is making a similar calculation, but with a different strategy. Instead of the big strike, it is attempting to inflict death by a thousand cuts, through a steadily increasing drumbeat of attacks. So far, it is succeeding where al-Qaeda failed. ISIS is killing Americans and dividing America. It could ask for no better outcome, and it is to our political class’s great shame that it can’t rise above its own pettiness to confront the true threat. ISIS won a victory on Sunday. It is still winning a victory today.
— David French is a staff writer at National Review, an attorney (concentrating his practice in constitutional law and the law of armed conflict), and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.