In the Face of Terrorism, We Will Not Be terrorized

Will
7/7 make Britain back off from the war on terror? The nation of Churchill,
Waterloo, the Light Brigade, teddy boys, soccer hooligans and the Gordon Riots?
The Brits are tough sons of bitches. Not likely.

Will
7/7 help those who saw through a glass darkly now see face to face? Even less
likely. George Galloway, left-wing British scourge of Senators, said the London
bombings were a predictable consequence of Britain’s war against his friend,
Saddam Hussein. It is true, the London bombings happened after the war in Iraq
began. So did last year’s Madrid train bombings. But the Bali disco bombing
happened before the war in Iraq. So did 9/11. Our very being—powerful, wealthy,
democratic, unveiled, Christian, Jewish, secular—is an affront to jihadists and
Islamofascists. The only way we cannot provoke them is to not exist.

The
more intelligently perplexed say the war in Iraq is a distraction from the
terror war: If our whole Army was going house to house in northwest Pakistan
looking for Osama, there would be no terrorism. Would that it were that simple.

Like
any major war, the terror war has many facets. At least five confront us now,
in the London dawn, besides the ongoing hunt for Mr. bin Laden.

We
have to fight a defensive war. Despite many follies and failures, the airplane
gambit has not worked again. Mass transit and public spaces are another
question. The terrorists get less bang for the martyr, but their opportunities
are greater. It is impossible to close off the opportunities entirely without
shutting down the public square. The small-scale approach—the equivalent to
broken-windows policing—is probably the heightened vigilance of everybody. Why
are you taking a cell-phone picture of the L train, young man? Wouldn’t the
Empire State Building be more touristic? We can learn from Israel, and Britain,
who have their own experience with terror bombings. One thing they will teach
us is that no amount of experience is perfect.

Another
facet of the terror war concerns Muslims, at home and abroad, who must confront
the hijacking of their religion. After the London bombings, Muslims in Leeds,
England, expressed their “deepest anger and sympathy at the terrible
atrocities” in a letter to Tony Blair. This March, on the first anniversary of
the Madrid bombers, the largest Muslim clerical group in Spain issued a fatwa
against Osama bin Laden. It’s been a long time coming. What we have gotten from
Muslim leaders instead is whining and doubletalk (“3,000 Americans died on
9/11, but airport security looked at me cross-eyed”). What we have gotten from
the Muslim masses is silence. Some of this silence is the veil drawn by a
protective media over the outright joy of too many Muslims at the mass murder
of their neighbors. Non-Muslims are entitled to know where Muslims stand. If
ordinary Muslims in the West do not see terror as a blight on their faith, that
is bad news that we must then deal with.

A
third facet of the war we are in is applied liberalism. Liberals say of
themselves, and conservatives say of them, that they are preoccupied with root
causes: the cramped structures of society that produce stunted citizens. Root
causes confront us now. The postcolonial Middle East is a sink of feral regimes
and decrepit cultures, which maintain an uneasy stability on a tripod of
despotism, oppressed women breeding like rabbits, and a surplus of overtrained,
uneducated men who worship witch doctors and dream of murder and paradise. Our
best long-term hope is to let the air in—to tear down any country that is, or
seems, threatening, and to pressure the rest. It won’t be easy or quick.
Decades of flattery, oil dependence and U.N.-style politics have shored the
Bizarro World of the Middle East up; it will take decades to turn it around.
Toppling the Taliban and Saddam were good first essays in muscular diplomacy;
Condi Rice’s speech at American University in Cairo, embracing freedom over
stability, was a good first essay in the milder kind.

The
fourth facet of the terror war, coming soon perhaps to a city near you, is
Iran’s nuclear bomb. Before the London bombings, Iran held a presidential
election whose surprise winner was Mahmoud Ahmadinezad. Mr. Ahmadinezad was one
of the students who stormed the American embassy in 1979 and kidnapped our
diplomats, and he wants Iran to go full speed ahead with its nuclear program
now. In the shadow play of Iranian politics, he qualifies as a hardliner,
though these are terms of art. Azar Nafisi defined Iranian reformers in Reading Lolita in Tehran, when she
described an officially sanctioned concert held under the reformist thaw: four
young men playing the music of the Gypsy Kings, though they were not allowed to
sing, or to show feeling, and whenever the sold-out crowd clapped, a pair of
suited heavies came from the wings and shushed the decadent display.

It
doesn’t matter in any case what Mr. Ahmadinezad thinks, since the Iranian
presidency is a pasteboard office, subservient to the clerical elite that holds
all power. What is interesting is that the turbans should cast aside all
pretence of niceness. They must feel that their bomb is far enough along, and
that the restive Iranian public needs to feel a bit more whip. This may be a
double miscalculation: At the moment when they most need to bind the United
States in the cobwebs of other countries’ hesitations, they have given a signal
that even Europeans can read; while the Iranian people, disgusted with years of
false promises, may see the frank withdrawal of all promise as the last straw.
Or perhaps the unexpected result—Mr. Ahmadinezad’s votes weren’t stolen and counted
until the election’s second day—shows some confusion within the elite itself.
Whatever it is, this is the big story, not London. Depending on what happens in
Iran, the next 10-thumbed bomber may not tear off the roof of a bus instead of
destroying a station on the underground, but radiate Bayonne rather than
midtown.

The
fifth, and most important, face of the terror war is personal. Every time the
media starts focusing on shark attacks, the terrorists strike again. Terrorists
are the new sharks. They will be a part of our lives for the rest of our lives.
This doesn’t mean we should live in a constant whir of anxiety, or move to the
woods. Terrorists are the second face in the mirror, but they are not
everything, not even the most important thing. We will keep our customs and our
institutions, we will eat black raspberries and whipped cream, we will take our
losses, and we will patiently, pitilessly grind them down.

In the Face of Terrorism,  We Will Not Be terrorized