The existential threat of Islamist extremism

Barack Obama has told us repeatedly that ISIS does not represent an existential threat to the United States. That is demonstrably true. Neither 49 deaths in Orlando nor 3000 on 9/11 will topple the world’s greatest democracy. But our democracy, like those in Europe, is not simply a set of laws inscribed on paper, but a set of values and traditions embraced by most, though not all, of the American people. And those values are under threat, not, as many of us are wont to say, simply by Donald Trump and trumpism, or neo-isolationists like Bernie Sanders and his sanderistas, nor even by the rise of proto-fascists and Soviet nostalgics throughout Europe.

Rather, it is that our center of gravity, our default, has moved away from a commitment to freedom and a tradition of compassion, towards isolationism, hostility, selfishness and fear. This is a victory for terrorism, for salafism, for the enemy.

Before you jump down my throat for unforgivable slushiness, think on this. When was the last time it was ok to talk about discrimination based on religion? It feels a little bit un-American, right? When was the last time Americans discussed rounding up people of a particular race or religion? When was the last time Americans were indifferent to the victims of massacre? (On this latter point, to be fair, there has been indifference, but there has also been guilt at standing by and watching Bosnians, Rwandans, Sudanese and others slaughtered.) When was the last time our nation inveighed against the threat of immigrants stealing our livelihoods, infecting our culture, being un-American? Similarly in Europe, so steeled because of the crimes of the past, it is now no longer verboten to talk about the Muslim hordes; or even the Polish hordes; anti-Semitism has rewoven itself into the culture of Britain’s Labour Party. Borders are closing, camps are mushrooming.

Our center of gravity, our default, has moved away from a commitment to freedom and a tradition of compassion, towards isolationism, hostility, selfishness and fear.

Some of the fears are legitimate. Which one of us does not look around at an airport and wonder? Some of the fears are well-founded: Saudi Arabia has spent billions hijacking mosques and schools throughout the world and promoting the wahhabi extremism that is its hallmark. Some calls for vigilance are well placed: Terrorists have exploited refugee flows to enter both Europe and the United States. But they have also entered legitimately, or been born in the United States, or France or Belgium or the UK. And the reaction to these facts has been exploited by people who hated long before 9/11.

No one would look at the African-American or Hispanic (or white, for that matter) population in American prisons and say these people must be isolated, investigated and if necessary rounded up en masse because clearly they are a threat to public safety. And rightly so. Rather they would ask whether there is a problem? Whose problem it is? What is the solution? How can we make things better? That’s the American way. But substitute Arab or Muslim or Syrian and suddenly such propositions are within the pale of legitimate political discussion.

The right answer is to return to the compassion and commitment to freedom America has held dear, and to deal with this threat where it is; to defeat the enemy where it lives rather than simply shrugging our shoulders at the result. It is neither leftist trope nor rightist war-mongering to point out that al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS are spreading. True, ISIS has had some setbacks; but al Qaeda and the Taliban are resurgent, and the United States (not to speak of Europe) is watching, largely indifferent. There is little stomach for engaging more seriously against these threats throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Trump says he wants to win, but attacks soldiers for thieving, opposes previous such interventions in Libya and Iraq, and has no actual strategy to face down the threat other than to ban Muslims from the United States. For her part, Hillary Clinton is little better, with no clear strategy other than a fuzzy love of Muslims that is a reaction to her opponent. One thing, however, that unites their supporters is complete uninterest in stepping up a kinetic war against any of these terrorist groups. One group wants to sit inside America behind a wall and the other simply wants to sit.

In sum, the United States is not leading the world as it has for so long, and many Americans regardless of political stripe don’t want to. Americans aren’t welcoming those in need, and aren’t much game to help them in any way. We are turning on the “other” in ways that should have been long behind us. We are closing our borders. We are turning against forms of international partnership from trade to military coalitions. The values that are our hallmark are evanescing before our eyes. Trump, Clinton, all the others, they are merely the conduit for those changing values. The enemy is changing us.

Author: Danielle Pletka
Source: American enterprise institute

Author: Hassan Khazaal

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!