I would like to be debating policy issues that are close to my heart, like reforming the tax system, increasing competition in education, and yes, addressing claims of human-induced climate change. Unfortunately, the recent events in Paris have reshuffled my sense of priorities. When someone is trying to kill you, it gets your attention.
That is, of course, unless you are President Obama. Like the hysterical protesters on college campuses from coast to coast, our professor-in-chief senses danger in the principles and practices of our free society, but he remains nonchalant about the clear and present threats of Islamic terror. Because the president is afraid of offending Muslims who disavow violence, he continues to drone on about Islam-inspired violence being unrelated to Islam. Democratic officials and candidates likewise go to great politically correct pains to avoid using the words “Islam” and “terror” in the same sentence.
It is awkward enough to hear an American political leader offering opinions about the meaning of a religion to which he claims no personal connection. But even if President Obama were an authority on Islamic teachings, the alleged distortion of Islam by terrorists is besides the point. Of course there are millions of Muslims who reject terrorism and despise ISIS and who can justify their opposition with bona fide Islamic principles. Many are oriented to Western liberties and are counted among our most loyal citizens.
But millions more are absolutely, positively not aligned with the American way of thinking. They reject our liberal society as a wellspring of corruption. And they base their attitudes, like it or not, on the religion and culture of Islamic societies. For this reason, Obama warned us of exercising our constitutional (dare I say, God-given?) rights to freely criticize Islam and its sacred prohibitions. Why else but for fear that practitioners of Islam would not tolerate our free speech and would be provoked into acts of violence?
Witness Secretary of State Kerry’s recent gaffe acknowledging justification — er, rationale — for the Charlie Hebdo massacre. The left will bend over backwards to accommodate the illiberal mentality of our Islamist enemies, but it will take Americans to task for defending our fundamental liberties. All one has to do is look at the rising tide of commentators linking last week’s attack at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs to opponents of abortion. No, it was not an unrelated “violent extremist” at fault for the senseless murders. It was the “inflammatory rhetoric” of the pro-life Republicans that set events in motion.
Why does it matter that we define our enemies by the Islamist ideology which motivates them? It is not to appeal to base prejudices among our citizenry. It is not to create a clash between Muslims and the West. To the contrary, as Gov. Chris Christie explained last week to the Council on Foreign Relations, “if you say that you’re going to war with radical Islamic terrorism, then by definition you’re not going to war with the rest of Islam… Confusion is only created by the use of euphemisms.”
We must define the enemy correctly to enable a debate about the strategy most likely to succeed in bringing this global menace to its knees.
Like Churchill who foresaw the perils of appeasing Hitler, we must be willing to take our enemies at their word. When they say they want to kill us, they mean it. And like Hollywood’s nefarious Terminator, ISIS can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
Faced with such an enemy in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, the Allies of World War II waged an unrelenting battle on multiple fronts. We must do the same, using strategies and technologies which are suited for our generation.
While that does not mean we can defeat the enemy with military might alone, air strikes and infantry are essential for success. We must unhinge rules of engagement that limit the force and breadth of our firepower. Likewise, we must crush the spirit of ISIS with propaganda that humiliates them. For every tweet glorifying terror, we need to respond 100-fold with words and images that expose the emptiness of jihadist rhetoric, shining a light on the daily misery and deprivation experienced by the foot soldiers of ISIS.
There are complexities to the multi-pronged conflict in Syria. The enemy of our enemy is not necessarily our friend. But we must not let the complications of future governance prevent us from acting decisively today. Anything else is better than ISIS.