It’s easy to forget that Islamic terrorists have never fully understood our vulnerability and weakness — that cultural ignorance runs both ways, and it has taken them time, trial, and error to discover how the West responds to the threat they pose, just as it has taken us time.
They’re learning quickly now, though. Since America’s retreat from Iraq and pullback from Afghanistan, the most powerful nations in the world don’t have the will to exert a small fraction of their strength to destroy terrorist organizations or take back territory held by jihadists. They can hit the great nations of Europe again and again, and still there will be no meaningful response, no substantial Western boots on the ground in the heart of the Middle East.
Rather than exerting themselves to establish safe havens in the Middle East or exerting themselves to defeat the jihadist threat where it’s born, the Western powers will import mass numbers of migrants from conflict zones even when they know jihadists are trying to infiltrate their ranks and inspire new recruits. The absence of even the most basic and sensible border controls will continue, no matter how many times the attackers turn out to be recent immigrants.
Rather than allowing its trained warriors to do their jobs, the western elite turns on its own citizens, erupting into idiotic arguments over “Islamophobia” and — at least in America — using Islamic terror to settle domestic scores against Christians. It continues to view both intervention and border control as cardinal sins in the fight against the “tiny few” extremists who corrupt an allegedly great civilization.
Terrorists are finally figuring it out. They now understand exactly how easy it is to kill Americans and Europeans at home, rather than in the Middle East. Early in my military career, a wise officer told me something that haunts me to this day. “Our great advantage,” he said, “Is the jihadists haven’t discovered how easy we are to attack.” In other words, they kept going for the big score — the next 9/11 — rather than realizing that a massacre was one gun or one truck or one pressure cooker away.
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the terror attacks in Chattanooga, Tenn. In the year since Chattanooga, America has suffered more than double the number of domestic-terror casualties it suffered in the previous fourteen years going back to 9/11. In the last 18 months in France alone, terrorists have killed 236 innocent civilians and wounded 588. And these numbers don’t include the casualties suffered by fellow NATO allies Belgium and Turkey.
Yet where is the army marching on Raqqa? Where is the western force massing outside Mosul? Where are the sane immigration policies? Yes, we continue to bomb ISIS strongholds, and yes we continue to work with local allies to slowly shrink ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria, even as the group expands its reach in Africa and southwest Asia. But that is a slow-motion war. ISIS’s terror offensive is taking place in real time.
The result is that a militarily weak foe keeps “strong horsing” the most powerful nations in the world. How quickly we forget that the enemy has given us insight into his own mind. In the days after September 11, Osama bin Laden laid out the jihadist philosophy plainly and clearly. A key element was this: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” He was speaking to his people, about his people.
Thus, even as jihadists slowly retreat in Iraq and Syria, millions of sympathetic Muslims still see them fighting and surviving against the combined might of the world powers. Even worse, jihadists are taking the fight straight into the heart of the West. With each successful attack that is plotted, planned, or inspired, they show strength. They inspire more recruits and more copycats.
#related#When allied Western armies should be tearing down jihadist flags in downtown Raqqa and Mosul — when our own immigration officials and our allies’ border guards should be turning away migrants from conflict zones and relocating them to the newly pacified regions of their home countries — we instead do everything wrong. Populist Right and timid Left both shun the necessary foreign interventions as “neoconservative,” while gullible progressives keep believing that mass migration from jihad-infested regions is somehow compatible with domestic peace and liberal values.
So expect the terror attacks to continue, if not escalate. So long as jihadist safe havens remain abroad and large numbers of extremists live in the West, we’re only a half-step away from seeing actual urban guerilla warfare in Europe’s great cities. Weak horses don’t win wars.
— David French is an attorney, and a staff writer at National Review.