Friday’s horrifying and depraved murders do not change a single thing about the jihadist threat we face, but they could make our fight against jihad more difficult by granting the other side a series of potent rhetorical weapons — including patently false claims of moral equivalency and incitement. How do we respond? With the truth:
First, we have to acknowledge the horror. One of the troublesome habits of Islam’s more radical defenders is their nearly inexhaustible capacity to excuse, minimize, and rationalize jihadist violence. Conservatives (at least the ones I’ve read) have not rationalized Friday’s evil acts, and America must do all that it can to help Norway track and destroy any additional affiliated terror cells. It’s a shame that Norway did away with the death penalty, because justice demands that Anders Breivik pay the ultimate price for his depravity.
Second, we must continue to expose the extent and reality of the “Grand Jihad.” Anders Breivik’s crime does not change a single fact on the ground in America, Europe, the Middle East, or Southwest Asia. It is still true that Europe has a large and growing problem with an unassimilated Muslim minority; it is still true that jihadists command tens of thousands of fighters and control all or part of Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Gaza, Lebanon, Sudan, and Pakistan; it is still true that a fundamentally anti-Semitic worldview grips much of the Muslim world; and it is still true that the Muslim Brotherhood is poised to take advantage of the Arab Spring in Egypt.
Third, we must hold the line on tactics. It is simply not incitement to advocate all the actions that Andrew McCarthey, Mark Steyn, and others have advocated in the decade since 9/11 (indeed, even longer). Calling for creative use of law enforcement, skillful and firm use of diplomacy, increased public awareness, and decisive application of military force consistent with the laws of war is not incitement. Anyone who equates, say, support for drone strikes, Gitmo military commissions, or hearings into the prevalence of jihadism with a call for vigilante violence is simply not to be taken seriously.
An utterly depraved, nominally Christian, bizarre right-wing extremist committed a horrific crime. Our hearts go out to the victims. Yet our commitment to fighting jihadists is undiminished — lest other attacks from other terrorists wreak similar havoc on the lives of the innocent.