From all the many responses that I read to the January 7 terror attack and massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, I will highlight a few and add my own thoughts.
First, in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who knows a thing or two about real terror, she leads by writing that “perhaps the West will finally put away its legion of useless tropes trying to deny the relationship between violence and radical Islam…..in too much of Islam, jihad is a thoroughly modern concept. The 20th century jihad “bible”, and an animating work for many Islamist groups today is “The Quranic Concept of War”, which argues that because God, Allah, himself authored every word of the Quran, the rules of war contained in the Quran are of a higher caliber than the rules developed by mere mortals, and……..the key to victory taught by Allah through the military campaigns of the Prophet Muhammad, is to strike at the soul of your enemy through terror”. She finishes by instructing us that we must acknowledge that today’s Islamists are driven by a political ideology embedded in the foundational texts of Islam, and act accordingly.
As we have seen, she is not welcome to speak at a number of our best universities, which is unfortunate for us on several levels, not least because she is blessed with a wealth of courage and the moral clarity we need to hear.
The second response that resonated with me most emphatically was the speech delivered by Newt Gingrich at the Iowa Freedom Summit on January 24. In it, he like Ms. Ali made a number of clarifying points about radical Islam and then closed with two compelling instructions: (1) we must have the same commitment and the same concerted effort to confront and defeat radical Islam that we did in confronting the threat of Soviet Communism beginning in the period 1945 to 1950, and (2) you Iowans must demand that every candidate for President who comes to Iowa between now and the primary caucuses has a definitive answer to the question–how will this be done?
In the previous week, Gingrich had written an op/ed outlining specific work that should begin immediately by the Congress to evaluate the worldwide scope of the Islamist threat and the foundations of its ideological thinking and strategy, no matter how controversial the response. He followed by analogizing this threat and the necessary analysis to the famous “Long Telegram” written by George Kennan in 1946, which shaped the transition of American policy in dealing with the Soviet threat, and he suggests that we need an equivalent “long telegram” on the nature of radical Islam. This is great advice.
There were other good responses. From former Senator Joe Lieberman, who acknowledges that we are in a global war with radical Islam and says that the civilized nations of the world must accept this reality and the need for a global alliance against it, and from Bernard Henri-Levy, who insightfully characterized this as “the Churchillian moment of France’s Fifth Republic, the moment to face the implacable truth about a test that promises to be long and trying”.
What was missing? Most prominently, any coherent response from our commander in chief and leader of the free world. Not just because he was missing in action at the unity parade in Paris, but because he basically can’t or, more likely, won’t even identify the enemy. And we can’t defeat an enemy we haven’t identified.
Henri-Levy is correct, this struggle will be long and trying indeed, for as I have suggested before, Europe has for some time been in dire need of a wake up call from its multicultural malaise of the past several decades. I was encouraged several years ago by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who announced that attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany had “failed, utterly failed”, and had the courage to relate the truth that there should be no immigration without assimilation, which begins with learning the native language. Now maybe there is hope that Charlie Hebdo is a real turning point for Europe, but it will be painful, not to mention impossible without considerably more moral clarity and room for the truth than has been in evidence.
As for the U. S., we are pretty far down the same pathway and in need of the same introspection and damage control. I repeat, we are the product of a long trail of classical liberal values dating from the Reformation and the Enlightenment that help us distinguish between our version of reason and that not only of radical Islam, but of the core beliefs of Islam itself. This heritage has been corrupted by the postmodern notion of multiculturalism to the point of confusion about who we are. Our intellectuals have failed us in this regard and they should repent and repair the damage, the sooner the better, before we develop a terminal case of the European disease. Let’s hope this doesn’t require a Charlie Hebdo event or God forbid, another 9/11.