The Corner

National Security & Defense

Mass Delusion

The Democrats’ reluctance to mention Islamic terrorism during their convention reminded me of a point I’ve been meaning to write about. A fair amount of time in this country is spent discussing whether, in order to fight the jihadists, we should name the enemy, and specifically whether we should be willing to admit that the enemy is Islamic. The answer in any sane world, is, of course, yes.  Because the obvious reality is that the people attacking us and the Europeans, now seemingly every day, belong to a branch of Islam and are motivated by their version of Islam.

It’s hard to overcome any problem in your life if you refuse to recognize essential elements of the problem; in fact, one of the first objects of psychotherapists is to get their patients to face the real issues that are disabling them. It’s even harder to win a war if you won’t permit yourself to recognize whom you’re fighting — and not only because, as a practical matter, you have to know your enemy to properly assess his plans and tactics. It’s also because denying reality absorbs a huge amount of energy and attention that ought to be spent actually confronting the real issues.

That’s what is so frustrating about all this.  Rather than arguing about whether to connect the enemy to Islam, when it is obvious that there is a connection, we should be exploring how to define the connection for purposes of fighting the war to maximum effect.

Is all of Islam the enemy? No, thank God.

But which part of Islam is the enemy? Is it just the military arm — the various networks of terrorists that include ISIS, al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra, and others?  Should we treat all of these groups as the enemy for all purposes? What about Hezbollah and Hamas and other groups that are Islamic and engage in terrorist acts, but tend to do so for distinct political purposes in specific regions?  What about the Islamic radicals in Chechnya?

What about Muslim preachers who advocate the hateful tenets and violent methods of Islamic terrorism, but provide no actual support for them?  Should we consider those preachers the enemy?

What about Muslim preachers who want Sharia law, and support the idea of a caliphate, but denounce violence as a means of achieving those things?

And if we have a broad rather than narrow definition of the “enemy”, does that mean we need to adjust our tactics depending on which part of the enemy we are dealing with?   In other words, should we have different categories of enemies, and should we use harsher means against some categories than others?

And which parts of Islam should be considered allies?

All of these questions are quite important, and some of them at least are quite hard.  Intelligent people across the political spectrum should be discussing them and trying to agree on a common policy that best protects the security and serves the values of the American people.

But we can’t get to discussing those questions, because one whole wing of Western political leadership is using all of its energy to prop up the mass delusion that men who scream “Allahu Akbar” after slitting the throat of a priest have no connection to Islam, and that anyone who thinks differently is a bigot. 

George Orwell accused the Left of “double think,” which is “the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct.” Right now, I’d be happy if the Left were engaging in double think where Islamic radicalism was concerned. At least they’d be in the real world part of the time; the rest of us could catch them in their lucid moments and work out a joint strategy for defending our country.  As it is, I honestly don’t know how to get the Left to recognize reality where the war against Islamic terrorism is concerned — and I don’t know how America can ever win if they don’t.

Jim Talent is a former U.S. senator for Missouri and a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

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