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What difference does it make?

July 12, 2016

 So asked then Secretary of State Clinton when asked by a Senate Committee to explain her response to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. And so five years later President Obama asked his critics who demanded he start using the term “radical Islam” after the terrorist attack on the Orlando nightclub. He even suggested the term was a political talking point, not a strategy, a claim on a par with Clinton’s initial assertion that the Benghazi attack was a response to a home-made video of Mohammed’s life that made the Ten Commandments look terrific.

 

But getting the story right makes all the difference. The man who killed 49 people at the gay nightclub in Orlando did so not only because he pledged allegiance to ISIS. After all, he also praised Al-Qaeda, which opposes ISIS in Syria. Such niceties, however, were not important to him because what inspired this young man was not radical Islam, but Islam itself. 

 

Islam is the culture which promotes hatred of gays, women and infidels, which proclaims the supremacy of religious sharia law over modern constitutional government, and which hundreds of millions of Muslims world-wide share, governments and governed alike. Think of the rants of the President of Turkey against Israel, a modern democracy, for one, and he is supposed to be an ally. The vicious murder of Christians in Pakistan by nice, ordinary Muslims is no different from the murder of gays by their Muslim co-religionist in Orlando.

 

Western leaders and their echo chamber in the chattering classes do not want to admit this simple fact. Islam is the enemy whose name we dare not speak, in large part because we think that to do so would be to discriminate against Muslims. But sometimes discrimination is good. It does not always mean prejudice. It does imply the capacity to distinguish, good from bad, for example, or friend from enemy. This is especially important when the failure to discriminate leads to your being blown up.

  

If we understood that our enemy was Islam we would take appropriate steps to defeat it and certainly to contain it. We would not allow people from Muslim countries to come to western democracies without visas and without stringent verification that they valued liberal democracy. We would demand that Muslim countries implement reforms and respect the rule of law. We would insist they do not subordinate human rights to sharia law. We would sanction them for doing so. We would have ratcheted up economic sanctions against Iran rather than sign a deal with that country. We would not finance UN institutions that have become fronts for Muslim countries to advance their religious and political agenda. We would back our friends, which means a country like Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, and the Kurds, who have proven they can set up a pluralist society with a modicum of rule of law and a free market economy. And if we decided that a particular group or country required military intervention, we would go in with the aim of defeating it totally and then leaving, unless we were prepared to occupy that 

country or region for fifty years. Otherwise, we should devise a policy of containment which would make clear to the Muslim world that it was under quarantine. Because we have no real allies in the Muslim world.

  

Similarly at home. Why should hundreds of millions of people have their air travel disrupted and prolonged because nineteen Muslims drove planes into the Twin Towers? Why not in fact discriminate and use some profiling to cut down the lines at 

airports? You would think that Muslims who live in liberal democracies would be the first to offer this themselves. But then they should also be the first to denounce domestic terrorist attacks instead of imagined Islamophobia. They should be 

pushing reform in their mosques and educating their young to liberal values, and we should be pressuring them to do so. And if we understood we were at war with Islam, our police and intelligence agencies should be given directives to develop 

policies that would ferret out those Muslims and those Muslim institutions that are breeding hatred of all that liberal democracies stand for. While our leaders should be giving vocal public support to those dissidents within Islam who stand for that too, not hauling critics of Islam to court on charges of promoting hate speech.

 

That is some of what you would do differently if you could recognize who your enemy was. You would know right away that an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi on the anniversary of 9/11 could not be a spontaneous response to some ridiculous video made in California. You would have the intelligence not to need your country’s intelligence agency to make that distinction. You would have it because you are able to discriminate. Because you do not call terrorists militants, nor radicals moderates, nor allies people who are not. Because you are not prejudiced, but simply discriminating.    

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