Friday, November 18, 2005

Keeping Terror at Bay - Border Control

In the ongoing war against radical Islam, the West’s best defense also happens to be the simplest. Victor Davis Hanson makes the elementary case in City Journal.

From a national security standpoint, the prevention of another September 11 thus seems straightforward—in theory. Suspend most legal immigration from Middle Eastern countries known to subsidize or tolerate terrorism. Review all current visas and search out and deport violators. Continue to audit carefully the arrivals of Middle Eastern nationals. Tighten the Canadian and Mexican borders. Extend existing statutes on inflammatory speech and hate crimes to include radical Islamic doctrines that routinely denigrate Americans, Jews, homosexuals, and women. Hand down long sentences to those convicted of promulgating Islamic hatred and plotting terrorism, with special attention given to Saudi-sponsored charities, madrassas, and mosques. Renew the Patriot Act, and create a public culture that associates radical Islamicism with fascism.

This line of reasoning requires only common sense to understand. Sadly, that’s all too rare a commodity among the political class in Washington. So why haven’t we acted to secure the homeland in exactly the manner that the new security agency’s name would suggest?

Our elite commitment to multiculturalism also hamstrings us from taking the needed security steps. For 30 years, our schools have pounded home the creed that all cultures are of equal merit—or, more accurately perhaps, that no culture is worse than the West’s. Millions of Americans consequently aren’t sure whether radical Islam is just another legitimate alternative to the dominant Western narrative. Typical of this mind-set, UCLA English professor Saree Makdisi, excusing the London subway terrorism, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that deliberately butchering commuters is no worse than accidentally killing civilians while targeting terrorists in a war zone. "American and British media have devoted hours to wondering what would drive a seemingly normal young Muslim to destroy himself and others," Makdisi said. "No one has paused to ask what would cause a seemingly normal young Christian or Jew to strap himself into a warplane and drop bombs on a village, knowing full well his bombs will inevitably kill civilians (and, of course, soldiers)."

It is no accident that Ms. Makdisi hails from a university humanities department. Radical leftists infest the humanities departments in the same way rates infest warehouses – because the humanities, unlike say the hard sciences, demand the least intelligence, the least attachment to reality, and allow them access to the most pliable minds in the student body. In a saner age, Ms. Makdisi’s stunningly obtuse wielding of moral equivalence to excuse the murder of civilians and bestow legitimacy on America’s enemies would have resulted in her immediate expulsion from the school. Today it wins her support amongst her colleagues. This is the level to which the left has brought higher education in the Western world. That the terrorists whom Ms. Makdisi excuses hate the very values she embraces and would kill everyone she loves is a side issue. The terrorists want to destroy the West, particularly the capitalist US, and academics like Ms. Makdisi are perfectly willing to sympathize with that to the exclusion of al other concerns.

It is a tremendous historical irony that America’s liberal Left, embracing moral equivalence in this fashion, has all but refused to denounce the illiberal ideology of our enemies—an ideology that supports polygamy, gender apartheid, religious intolerance, hatred of homosexuals, and patriarchy. Sometimes, the terrorists even win outright praise: perhaps the most popular filmmaker of election year 2004 was Michael Moore, who celebrated the suicide bombers and terrorists of Iraq as "minutemen" akin to our own Founding Fathers.

If we are not sure as a nation that Islamists really are foes of Western values but instead see them as another persecuted group with legitimate gripes against us (occupied Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, colonialism, the Crusades), then it becomes increasingly hard to identify, let alone fight, the practitioners of Islamic fanaticism at home. Even the military bureaucracy seems to be having trouble naming the enemy: witness the rebranding by some Pentagon officials of "the war on terrorism" into the "global war against violent extremism." While the original nomenclature was unsatisfactory—wars aren’t fought against a tactic but rather against those using it—the new name is even less helpful. Our fight against jihadists is different from our struggle with recalcitrant Serbian nationalists or Kim Jong-il’s crackpot extremism. We are at war with radical Islam, Islamic fascism, Islamism—the "radical Islamic polemic," in the words of Sarkozy. We should never lose sight of this fact. President Bush’s October speech describing our struggle against Islamic terror—a first for the administration—is an encouraging, if belated, sign.

That it has taken the Bush administration four years since the carnage of September 11, 2001, to properly identify the source of the terrorists dedicated to destroying our way of life is not an encouraging sign. It simply points out the hideous intellectual evasions practiced by the ruling elite in Washington. It provides no measure of reassurance that the Bush administration really yet understands the nature of the threat, or will take the necessary steps to squelch it any time soon.


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