Commentary Magazine


A Leader Who Wants to Understand Terror?

Most Americans don’t pay attention to Canadian politics. Indeed most U.S. citizens probably can’t even name the prime minister of our neighbor to the north. But the leader of one of Canada’s opposition parties gave us a reason to have something of a rooting interest the next time residents of the Great White North go to the polls. Justin Trudeau, the new head of Canada’s Liberal Party, reacted to the terrorist bombing in Boston on Monday with a curious declaration about the need to understand the people who had committed the atrocity. In an interview with the CBC, Trudeau gave a textbook definition of how not to speak about terrorism:

We have to look at the root causes. Now, we don’t know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue. But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. And our approach has to be, okay, where do those tensions come from?

For anyone to be speaking of “root causes” of a horrible crime whose perpetrators and/or cause was yet unknown illustrates a knee-jerk reflex to appease criminals that ought to render the speaker ineligible for responsibility for any nation’s defense. Fortunately, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose government’s exemplary support of Israel we noted on Tuesday, was quick to respond in exactly the fashion that Americans appreciate:

“When you see this type of violent act, you do not sit around trying to rationalize it or make excuses for it or figure out its root causes,” Harper told reporters. “You condemn it categorically, and to the extent you can deal with the perpetrators, you deal with them as harshly as possible.”

Harper is right. Talk about understanding such “root causes” of terror is merely left-wing code for thinking of terrorism as a justified response to the West. It is bad enough to use that sort of language when speaking of al-Qaeda or Palestinian attacks on Israelis and Jews. To do so when discussing a terrorist attack whose purpose remains a mystery can only be characterized as idiocy.

Trudeau is a relative political neophyte whose main qualification is that he is the son of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister for all but nine months of the period covering 1968 to 1984. He won a national party primary with 80 percent of the votes cast via the Internet and by phone to became the new Liberal leader this past weekend. Among the losing candidates was Deborah Coyne, his father’s mistress and the mother of the younger Trudeaus’s half-sister. Politics is clearly a complicated family business north of the border.

Under Harper’s leadership, Canada has assumed its rightful role as an American partner rather than a resentful smaller neighbor. Canadians tend to pride themselves on not being Americans, and Harper is often chided by his opponents for being too close to the United States as well as being Israel’s most faithful foreign friend. But one hopes that Canadians will recoil from a would-be prime minister who is more concerned with understanding the enemies of the West than in fighting them.