Entry from December 17, 2009

Andrew McCarthy has a splendid piece in today’s National Review Online taking to task that “useful idiot,” Senator Dick Durbin, and those like him who believe “that Guantanamo Bay must be shut down because it causes terrorism and spurs terrorist recruitment.” Mr McCarthy prosecuted the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman, in civil court for the first World Trade Center bombing and knows whereof he speaks when he writes that

We are talking about people who live in sharia states where they still stone women for adultery, apostates for daring to abandon Islam, and homosexuals for breathing. We are talking about people who riot and murder over cartoons — people who use mosques to hide weapons and Korans to transmit terrorist messages and then murder non-Muslims for purportedly defaming their religion. It makes no difference to these people that we detain Muslim terrorists in military brigs under the laws of war rather than detaining them in civilian prisons after trial in our criminal justice system. After 17 years of attacks, we should have learned the difference between causes of terrorism and pretexts for terrorism. Terrorism is caused, and terrorist recruitment is driven, by Islamist ideology and by American weakness in the face of terror attacks. In that sense, Senator Durbin causes more terrorism than Gitmo ever will. Terrorist organizations are encouraged when they come to believe they can win — when they come to believe they can outlast America because we lack resolve.

This is all very true, but I think Mr McCarthy is not quite right to call the belief that Guantanamo Bay and other anti-terrorist measure cause terrorism an “absurd claim.” It’s not the claim that is absurd. Probably recruitment of terrorists is made easier by anything that existing terrorists can plausibly represent to those already receptive to the idea as America’s “war on Islam.” So what? The same could be said of any war. Those who see themselves, rightly or wrongly, as being under attack naturally resist. It doesn’t follow that if you don’t attack all resistance will cease. As Mr McCarthy points out, it didn’t take hard time in Guantanamo to make the Blind Sheikh want to attack us.

In other words, fighting back provokes the enemy but so does not fighting back. Who doesn’t know that? The answer is: a pacifist. And that, the pacifist implication of the Durbin argument, is the real absurdity. Like so many of his fellow progressives, the Senator appears to cherish a belief that there is a way to stop terrorism by being accommodating to terrorists. They believe so because of the principle that lies at the very heart of progressive thinking, which is the utopian presumption that our fate must lie in our own hands. Without this presumption and its corollary, that we can design a world in which, eventually, fatality itself must be defeated of its ability to harm us, utopianism would be seen by everybody — as some of us see it already — as an obvious absurdity.

Americans have always been more prone to utopianism than fatalism, which is its opposite and probably as influential in Islamic lands as utopianism is here. This fundamental difference between us may be part of what is responsible for the antagonism that produces terrorism. But as between those who know who their enemies are and what must be done to defeat them and those who think that their enemies are just friends whom they have not yet persuaded by their own good intentions to “buy in,” I know who my money would be on to win. It’s the suspicion that Senator Durbin is of the latter party that is so disturbing — though not so disturbing as the suspicion that President Obama is too. In his Nobel Prize speech in Oslo, he said, a propos of Guantanamo, that “We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend.” I wish I could believe that he was not so progressive as to believe that the ideals he is fighting to defend include being nice to terrorists in the utopian hope that they will be nice to us.

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