National Security & Defense

‘Not Welcome’

A window of the Cafe Bonne Biere in Paris, France, November 14, 2015 (David Ramos/Getty)
Unsentimental after Paris

The Sunday after the shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, I attended Mass at a Catholic church in a very conservative suburb in a Western state where gun rights are in the main unquestioned. As he spoke about the massacre in Charleston, the priest, who showed no sign of indulging himself in ecclesiastical theatrics, grew genuinely angry — that such a thing had been done at all, and that it had been done in a sanctuary among Christians at prayer. Later I asked him what he would have done if it had been his church. “This congregation?” he asked with a little smile that was meaner than you want a priest’s to be. “Probably administer his last rites.”

I thought about that good pastor as reports of the horrors in Paris came in. There was the usual sentimental outpouring on social media, the tricolors and the invocations of the Marquis de Lafayette and the Empire State Building lit in honorary blue, white, and red. Professor Ebony Elizabeth Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania chidingly reminded no one in particular to report anybody who was engaging in anti-Muslim rhetoric on Twitter. All of that is useless, of course, but one feels the need to do something. But the only thing one can really do is the one thing that Parisians cannot do: shoot back.

It is better to be at war with al-Qaeda than with the Islamic State and its confederates. Al-Qaeda’s specialty is terrorist spectaculars such as the atrocities it committed on September 11, 2001. Though we failed to do so, attacks of that kind can be stopped: They require the acquisition of particular kinds of skills, transportation, logistics, and financial support, and a fair amount of communication to make all that happen, and these can be detected so that the plot may be disrupted. The attack in Paris on Friday — and the attacks in other European capitals preceding it — has more the character of an intifada: All you need is a crowd and the will to do evil. Guns, knives, gasoline, improvised explosives, motor vehicles — the weapons are commonplace, and they are incidental.

What an intifada needs is either easy passage across borders or a suitable domestic environment in which to hide. Paris offered both in the form of Europe’s open borders and the large population of immigrant Muslims in French cities.

The United States should see to it that we offer neither.

The United States should apply an extraordinary level of scrutiny to visitors from countries whose main exports are jihad.

Securing the borders — there’s an “s” on the end of that word, remember — isn’t just about getting control of territory contiguous with Mexico to make sure that Mr. Santiago from Ixmiquilpan picks no lettuce. Workplace enforcement (i.e., marching a couple dozen food-processing executives off to prison) would take care of economically oriented illegal immigration, and most of our illegals now arrive here the same way the 9/11 hijackers did: at the airport with U.S. visas on their passports. Not fake ones, but real ones.

That is something that we can, in fact, do something about.

The United States should apply an extraordinary level of scrutiny to visitors from countries whose main exports are jihad — before, during, and possibly even after their stays. And we should place severe limits on immigration to the United States from those countries. Europe’s ambulatory Syrian invasion has a number of Europe’s peoples, such as the Poles, asking themselves why a country that doesn’t already have a large unassimilated Muslim minority in its midst would want one, and there aren’t any convincing answers coming out of Paris or Stockholm or London or Frankfurt or . . .

#related#Yes, that would constitute an act of terrible callousness to millions of people seeking a better life away from base primitivism in Dar al-Islam, but the responsibility of the United States government is to United States citizens, not to the poor suffering people of Yemen and Syria. The good and the guilty will suffer together, in no small part because the good unwittingly provide the fertile soil in which the guilty cultivate jihad. That suffering will be inflicted in the interest of the citizens of the United States, including its Muslim citizens, many of whom came here precisely to escape the backwardness that thrives in Muslim immigrant communities in France and the United Kingdom. As Turkey’s President Erdogan put it, there is no such thing as moderate Islam; Islam is Islam and that’s that. Where there is Islam, there will be Islamic extremism, Islamic supremacism, and murder.

The United States should not disengage from the Islamic world, by any means — the lack of American leadership only encourages the graybeards in Tehran and elsewhere and contributes to the very instability that enables the emergence of forces such as the Islamic State. But the United States need not make the same decisions Europe has made in the belief that there will be different results once Khalid al-Mihdhar feels the San Diego sunshine on his face. We cannot solve all the problems of the Islamic world, but we can do a great deal to ensure that they are not the immediate problems of Milwaukee.

That’s Plan A, and, before you write it off, give a little thought to what Plan B is going to be. That priest knew, and so do the rest of us, if we’re being honest about it.

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