A certain American (or for that matter Westernized) resident or citizen — usually male, almost always young, born a Muslim, prone to guilt over temporary secularization or Westernization, as often (or more so) from Pakistan, a Russian Islamic province, the Balkans, Iran, the Philippines, or Africa as from the Arab Middle East, usually failing in American society, always absorbed within American popular culture and guilty over such absorption — at some moment channels his own sense of failure into radical Islam. He seeks some sort of cosmic resonance and redemption for his own personal inadequacies. Presto, a pathetic loser becomes a wannabe bin Laden jihadist, as murder becomes cause for publicity.
The would-be Times Square bomber, Major Hasan, those who killed Jews in Los Angeles and Seattle, and the Salt Lake City shopping-center killer find empowerment in the laxity and tolerance of American culture that seems to grant unlimited rights to the newcomer or second-generation without commensurate responsibilities about learning — and learning to love — the culture and history of their adopted country. We don’t call these killers “terrorists.” We claim that they have nothing to do with al-Qaeda. And yet they give proof that a post-9/11 Islamism energizes their violence — and sometimes enables it by contacts and training.
Like it or not, two half-educated and young killers, at the expense of a few hundred dollars and one dead, with very little capital, shut down an entire city, committed mass mayhem, ruined the lives of hundreds, destroyed the Boston Marathon, and cost the city billions of dollars. But for the chance scans of video cameras, the Tsarnaevs might well have let off more bombs and turned their terror of a day into far greater mayhem of a week. That lesson is not lost on jihadists. To the degree they can enthuse another Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Chechnya or reach a Major Hasan at a mosque or on the Internet, they will continue. I expect more al-Qaedism.
Drones, fairly or not, are now branded as a convenient way to kill a few hundred terrorist suspects without bothering the American people, but they also put us to sleep about radical Islam by making it out of sight, out of mind. The next phases of the war will probably be fought on American soil, waged by al-Qaedists rather than al-Qaeda. Video cameras and good police work may prevent some terrorism. But ultimately we need to change the landscape of the American mind, and try honesty instead of therapy about the nature of the danger.
I would also look very carefully at immigration policy. Is America so short of manpower that we need a Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his brother, his mother, or his father in the United States?
Would not more frequent denial into the U.S. prompt more respect for America than does near pro forma entry? Would not the free use of words like “terrorism” and “Islamist” again convey better the image of a confident society that cares not what jihadists or their supporters think than does worry over offending those who hate us?
Unless we drop the therapeutic and embrace the tragic, we are looking at a lot more Bostons — and sooner than we think. We caricatured George Bush’s “dead or alive” crudity, but for purposes of defeating the Islamists it beats John Brennan’s sermons such as “Nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists because jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam meaning to purify oneself of one’s community.”
I fear in the next weeks we will be reading commentary on the Boston bombing from the Left emphasizing the brutalizing effects of America upon immigrants, our failure to offer the necessary psychological and material support to victims like the Tsarnaevs, and in general how we in redneck fashion blame-game defenseless immigrants — all in between lectures about drawing false inferences about radical Islam.