Consider this piece by Jamie Campbell published almost a year ago in the New Statesman: Why Terrorists Love Britain. It’s kind of eerie.
In it is occasionally self-satisfied speculation that Britain’s legendary tolerance has made them safe from terrorism: give them a safe place in which they can plan to bugger the wogs, and they’ll not foul their nest. If this was believed at any level in government (or the public), even implicitly, they’re quite foolish.
A number of Islamists have lived in France, and yet they attacked France. The 9/11 hijackers lived in the US for some time quite safely but were not convinced they should abandon their plans. Germany, home to the infamous “Hamburg cell”, should be looking at London today with unease. In fact, look at this timeline of terrorist attacks since the invasion of Iraq to see that they haven’t exactly been shy about attacking places they live.
Yes, the liberals are partially right that terrorist prioritization is based on foreign policy. But Islamists’ claim to power is based partially on an analysis that demonizes the West as generally corrupting as well as specifically harmful in foreign policy. Their legitimacy is based on all Arab problems being caused by non-Arabs, specifically the West and the Jews (not necessarily just Israel).
So it is not in their interest to let us out of the Middle Eastern quagmire. That means, among other things, continued terrorism to keep us interested and to be seen as fighting the enemy to their domestic audiences. If we were to hang Israel out to dry, they would claim we really hadn’t. If they were to destroy Israel and murder every single Jew in the Middle East, they’d claim that they just escaped to the West.
That being said, some actions are more patently egregious than others, on our part. The Islamists’ message only works to the extent that Arabs believe there is something to what they say. The more reality begins to diverge from the Islamists’ claims, the more they’ll be asked what they can do about providing clean water. Surprisingly, the Koran has little to say about such things, and people who only study it and nothing else in Madrassas have even less to say about it. Surprisingly, proficiency with an AK-47 is only minimally related to lowering the childhood disease rate. And, despite theory to the contrary, it does little to fight political corruption. In fact, it makes it rather easier.
There are no tolerance strategies that will protect us from Islamic terrorism. It has been a factor in Europe for decades and shows no sign of abating. We won’t be free to just let terrorists be; however we need to be mindful of how our actions play in the Middle Eastern press. A very few actions against terrorists may be military, but many more should be based on police actions, and the vast majority by working to distance them from their support base in moderate Muslims. That means solving the Palestinian problem to get it out of the headlines, wrapping things up quickly in Iraq to get that out of the headlines, and finishing the job in Afghanistan so we can get that out of the headlines.
Then we prosecute terrorists, rework our alliances with other Western powers, share intelligence, and slog through for another few decades. But most of all, we should quit tossing logs onto the flame of Arabic excuses for their own failures–and part of that is investing in nuclear energy for power and not buying SUVs. And none of that is compatible with a live and let live approach to groups advocating violence, just because their skin may be darker or lighter than yours.