Quote of the Day:
The usual glib talk of politicians—calls for unity, vows that we will not give in to fear—will produce in the future what they’ve produced in the past: nothing.
What a somber message Peggy Noonan has for us on Good Friday.
The column is on how to defeat radical jihadism. The sentence above jumped out at me in the wake of seeing many citizens of Brussels gather in the town square. The scene was described in a newspaper:
Visitors to Bourse Square have turned the plaza into a giant message board and left hundreds of messages, written in chalk, of defiance, comfort and solidarity in response to the bombings.
It is a perfectly normal thing to want to gather in a time of tribulation, but seeking comfort and uniting and writing chalk messages will not help us defeat jihadism. The West must do something it doesn't want to do: instead of gathering and uniting, it must look outward at the enemy and vow to destroy him. Platitudes and teddy bears won't save us.
When I think of the future I find myself going back to what I freely admit is a child’s math, a simple 10% rule.
There are said to be 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Most are and have been peaceful and peaceable, living their lives and, especially in America, taking an admirable role in the life of the nation.
But this is a tense, fraught moment within the world of Islam, marked by disagreements on what Islam is and what its texts mean. With that context, the child’s math: Let’s say only 10% of the 1.6 billion harbor feelings of grievance toward “the West,” or desire to expunge the infidel, or hope to re-establish the caliphate. That 10% is 160 million people. Let’s say of that group only 10% would be inclined toward jihad.
That’s 16 million. Assume that of that group only 10% really means it—would really become jihadis or give them aid and sustenance. That’s 1.6 million. That is a lot of ferociousness in an age of increasingly available weapons, including the chemical, biological and nuclear sort.
My math tells me it will be a long, hard fight. We will not be able to contain them, we will have to beat them.
We must absorb that central fact, as Ronald Reagan once did with a different threat. Asked by his new national security adviser to state his exact strategic goals vis-à-vis the Soviet Union, Reagan: “We win, they lose.”
That’s where we are now. The “they” is radical Islamic jihadism.
An essentially agnostic elite, Peggy points out, has more trouble understanding the existential threat posed by jihadism than ordinary people, who realize, as President Obama does not, that we are facing an existential threat. We will win or they will win. Our elites don't want to face this predicament.
Our crisis with regard to jihadism made Peggy think of an elderly woman who once approached then-prime minister Gordon Brown and told him her concerns about crime in her neighborhood, taxes, and immigration. Brown made a show of being sympathetic, but, when the woman turned away and left, a hot mic caught him saying of “that woman,” “She’s just a sort of bigoted woman who said she used to be Labour.”
Most people like the woman who approached Brown realize that our only hope is to defeat Islamic radicalism, not to bore it with platitudes, and that belief in immigration must be tempered with concern for the values and safety of ordinary citizens. That the elites are not concerned with the worries of other citizens, with special regard for immigration, well, we see the result in the popularity of Donald Trump. As for Gordon Brown's remark:
That was the authentic sound of the Western elite. Labour lost the election. But the elites have for a long time enjoyed nothing more than sneering at the anger and “racism” of their own people. They do not have the wisdom to understand that if they convincingly attempted to protect the people and respected their anxieties, the people would feel far less rage.