There is something terribly and tragically and importantly symbolic about the Benghazi attack that may be lost in the tidal wave of details about what happened on September 11, 2012, in an incident where four American officials were murdered in a terrorist attack. This point stands at the heart of everything that has happened in American society and intellectual life during the last decade.
And that point is this:
America was attacked once again on September 11, attacked by al-Qaeda in an attempt to destroy the United States — as ridiculous as that goal might seem. Yet: the U.S. government blamed the attack on America itself.
Other reasons can be adduced for the official position that what happened that day was due to a video insulting Islam rather than a terrorist attack, but this is the factor of overwhelming importance. It transformed the situation in the following ways:
– Muslims were the victims of American misbehavior, a point emerging from the administration’s wider worldview of U.S. aggression and Third World suffering, as in the lectures of all those left-wing anti-American academics and the sermons of Jeremiah Wright.
– “Hate speech” and racism (as “Islamophobia” is often reconfigured) were the cause of troubles.
– While freedom of speech and such liberties should be defended, they must be limited in some ways to prevent further trouble.
– America’s proper posture should be one of apology, as in the advertisements that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made for the Pakistani and other media.
– The “misblaming,” to coin a word, of the video showed terrorist groups that not only can they attack Americans, but they can do so without fear of punishment … or even of blame! As the House of Representatives’ hearings show, the misattribution of responsibility also delayed the FBI’s investigation, perhaps conclusively so.
– The exercise of American power has been the cause of America’s problems, not an excess of appeasement. The chickens — in Wright’s phrase — are merely coming home to roost. Yet once the video was blamed — the video which few in the Middle East were aware of — there were in fact further anti-American riots in different countries, now over the video which Clinton and others made known, in which dozens of people died. This showed that appeasement and apology caused worse problems.
– The solution to these Middle East conflicts required a change in U.S. policies in order to avoid further offense. This meant distancing from Israel and even historic Arab allies, showing respect and encouragement even for “moderate” Islamist movements, and other measures.
In short, this is the stance of blaming America and exonerating its enemies that has seized hold of the national consciousness. Of course, parallel responses met the Boston bombing, as the mass media and academics scrambled to give alternative explanations to the terrorists’ motives.
The truth is, however, extremely simple: the United States faces a revolutionary Islamist movement that will neither go away nor moderate itself.
To understand this movement and its ideology, how it is and is not rooted in Islam, its weaknesses and divisions, the forces willing to help combat it, and the ways to devise strategies to battle it is the prime international need for the moment. It is as necessary to do these things for revolutionary Islamism today as it was to do the same things regarding Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s and for communism in the 1940s and 1950s.
Yet the U.S. armed forces and other institutions are forbidden from holding this inquiry.