Despite the most fervent hopes of some writers over at Salon.com, the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing are not “white Americans”–a classification Salon used to exclude Islamists–preferably with a subscription to National Review and COMMENTARY. In fact, the accumulating evidence (see here) points to two young men who were radicalized and became jihadists. Which ought to remind us that even if many people in this nation have grown weary in the struggle with militant Islam, our enemies remain engaged, ruthless and malevolent.
The events in Boston are of course not nearly as traumatic or historic as what happened on September 11, 2001. Since that fateful day, our government has massively degraded the ability of organized groups to attack us, and that counts for a lot.
Still, in Boston last week scores of innocent people were either killed or maimed, a great city was locked down for a day, and the psychological effects of the attacks may last for some time. (The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg refers to this as “the era of the suspicious package.”) If terrorists decide to strike at “soft” targets–sporting events, shopping malls, coffee shops, elementary schools, and so forth–then life in America will change in important ways.
I have long felt it’s a tribute to America that we have gone out of our way not to target Muslims en masse in the aftermath of 9/11, and that President Bush’s role in keeping passions in check was admirable and crucial. At the same time, it would be foolish, and borderline suicidal, to pretend we don’t know what the “root cause” of this age of terrorism is: political Islam, abroad and increasingly at home. This lethal ideological infection doesn’t seem to be receding. And it’s not clear what, if anything, we can do to stop it (drone strikes are a tactic, not a strategy).
As someone who has supported championing liberty in the Arab world, I have to take into account what is happening in Egypt. I’m not sure what the alternative is–America cannot be on the side of increased repression–but the radicalization of Egypt in the aftermath of its elections is not what I hoped would emerge. Now it’s still early, and things could improve. (Wise people I know predicted things could get worse before they get better, since the transition from oppression and a smashed civil society to freedom isn’t quick or easy. The analogy is that we’re at the stage prior to a fever breaking.) On the other hand, things could also get worse. In any event, our duty is to see the world as it is.
Michael Gerson wisely points out we don’t want to be at war with Islam. But unfortunately a not-insignificant number of Muslims believe they are at war with us. And I’m quite open to suggestions of what exactly we are supposed to do–what we are even able to do–about that, other than defend ourselves and defeat them on various battlefields, including this one.
The war against us goes on, whether we like it or not.
(Updated to clarify Salon.com’s language.)