Should We Be More Worried About Natural Disasters or Islamic Terror Attacks?


You’re reading a post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.


One of the major issues of our time has to do with the status of Islamic terror. Is it something that should fill us with fear and panic, distract us from the ordinary affairs of life and prompt us to cede extraordinary powers of preventative surveillance to government? Or, indeed, to take the concrete measures outlined in terrorism expert James Jay Carafano’s new book Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror (of which, more later). Or is it merely another of those unpredictable disruptions and upheavals that happen along life’s road, deplorable, certainly, but inevitable, that we should come to terms with and go on conducting business as usual? In light of the recent murderous assault at a free speech symposium organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks in Copenhagen, followed by an attack on a Copenhagen synagogue, we will no doubt once again hear cautions that we must not over-react to Islamic terror.

Many observers have contended that terror is insignificant compared to natural disasters. Ronald Bailey, writing in, argues from statistics that people are “four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.” In fact, your chances of being killed by a terrorist are about one in 20 million. Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic develops the same notion, as have innumerable others, namely, that we should refrain from exaggerating the threat of terrorism, given the much larger and vastly more lethal number of accidents and natural calamities. Here ensues the nub of his thesis. Since, as statistics show, Acts of God and quotidian mishaps far outnumber acts of terror, and since even these general misfortunes remain statistically insignificant, Friedersdorf contends we should not trade civil liberties for (excessive) security. From this point of view, the national security state presents a greater threat to our way of life than does the spectre of jihad, creating “a permanent database that practically guarantees eventual abuse.”


Admittedly, there is considerable sense to the apprehension that the surveillance state may prove invasive, as it surely has under the reign of Barack Obama and his decadent administration. Clearly, a degree of balance between liberty and security is necessary, though especially tricky to work out in practice. That the surveillance apparatus can be abused goes without question. That it is necessary, given the number of terrorist attacks that have been thwarted in embryo, is undoubted. It’s a good bet that the matter will never be resolved to everybody’s satisfaction.

Here in Canada, prime minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for criminalizing the promotion of terrorism under Bill C-51, which enhances the powers of Canada’s national spy agency CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service). As the country’s politically correct paper of record The Globe and Mail puts it, “Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.” The Globe, of course, like the rest of Canada’s major media outlets, relentlessly lauds the virtues of multiculturalism, which asserts the moral equivalence of all religions and cultures. This means, in practice, affirming the innocence and splendor of Islam to the detriment of Christianity and Judaism. Terror is not Islamic, but a mere excrescence of disordered minds or, alternatively, one of those incidents that may sometimes trouble the daily commute. Nothing to concern yourself about, certainly nothing to be unduly wary of or to keep under stringent observation. The attitudes of the gated community still prevail as the cultural orthodoxy of the day.


The underlying issue, however, is that those who oppose preventative measures, whether from ideological reasons or because they live sheltered and privileged lives, are reluctant to acknowledge terror—that is, Islamic terror—for the particular menace that it poses to our settled way of life or to recognize that we are in the midst of a millennial war that shows no sign of relenting. They are eager to adopt a tactic that we might, on the model of moral equivalence, call category equivalence, the attempt to neuter the unique fact of terrorism by equating it with natural contingencies and “normal” hazards of everyday existence. Once this false equivalence has been accepted as persuasive, the statistical machinery is duly wheeled in, like the eccyclemata of the Attic theatre, to confirm the hypothesis as given. But “[w]hat do we do,” asks Carafano, sensibly enough, “if the enemy isn’t Mother Nature?” Rather than conflate terrorism with nature or accident and urge us to carry on with defiant insouciance, Carafano devotes a considerable portion of the book instructing us to be—and how to be—prepared for acts of terrorist violence.

Carafano, an authority on defense and foreign policy issues at the Heritage Foundation, is a reputable analyst who thinks seriously about the bane of Islamic terrorism. He would not have the time of day for someone like Slate columnist Anne Applebaum, for example, who seeks to domesticate and trivialize instances of Islamic terror, engaging all too blithely in the sophistry of category equivalence by exploiting inapplicable comparisons: The Irish Republican Army, the Red Brigades in Italy, and the Red Army Faction in Germany, to which the terror organizations are paralleled. She exhorts us to deny the terrorists their triumph “by resuming ordinary life as soon as possible.” After all, why “overreact to violent extremism” when “the chances of being killed by an extremist bomb remain less than the chances of being hit by a car when crossing the street?” Recently, as it happens, the cars running down pedestrians tend to be driven by Islamic terrorists, but the important point is that Applebaum, like her liberal-minded congeners, simply refuses to understand that Islamic violence is of a different order of event from traffic accidents. The latter do not create a sense of being under threat from a sworn enemy and do not destabilize the life of a society—we do not take off our shoes and have ourselves patted down when crossing the street—because they are just that, accidents. On the contrary, terrorist acts are motivated by intent.


Moreover, the logic of Applebaum’s conclusion is demonstrably faulty, for it does not follow from her premise. No one would advise a person worried about, say, being struck by lightning to continue life ‘as usual’ during electrical storms. Don’t let the lightning defeat you! Go out on the lake in your canoe just as you normally would! Show nature you will not be intimidated! This, obviously, is pure nonsense. We take safety measures during storms, restricting our activities to minimize our risks.

Further, Applebaum’s specific comparison of Islamic jihad to the actions of the IRA is but another sign of aborted thinking. The IRA was fighting for a united Ireland, not trying to bring down a civilization of which it was itself a part. Eventually it grew weary of killing, something we cannot expect of the Zombie culture in which the jihadis operate. Their purpose is to cause as much harm as possible, purposefully disrupt the conduct of everyday existence, and finally to destroy Western civilization and replace it with a Caliphate. Lack of historical knowledge and the inability to reason clearly are the hallmarks of the progressivist Imaginary. The Applebaum does not fall far from the liberal tree.

There is but one way to deal with Islamic terror, as Carafano lays it out, and that is “to stop the terrorists before they attack”—in other words, “naming the enemy,” in part by identifying its means and methods without equivocation and “conducting effective and efficient intelligence gathering and counterterrorism activities that respect our freedoms, keep us safe from danger, and allow our economy to grow and prosper.” It is also possible to defeat the terror consortiums through legislation, draconian surveillance of mosques and community centers, targeted deportations, the revisiting of open-door immigration policies, arresting “lone wolves” already known to the police before they go off like time bombs, and aggressive military action where necessary. This is, ultimately, how we change our patterns of behaviour to combat the scourge and eradicate the threat. For, unlike nature and happenstance, what jihad deliberately threatens is not only our life but our way of life, too.


Despite the inadmissible use of statistics or the mobilizing of false comparisons, then, Islamic terrorism is neither an accident nor a natural disaster susceptible to statistical manipulations but a deliberate act of war, not an Act of God but an act of Allah, not an instance of cult violence that peters out in the course of time but an expression of an anti-Western 1400-year campaign in its latest manifestation. It should not be tranquilized via category equivalence. Islamic terror is to be feared. On the other hand, we should not, in Carafano’s concluding words, “give in to the dark fear or the voices that say we can’t.”

The fact remains. Unless we recognize Islam and its terror-sponsoring ethos for what they are, we will have surrendered our cultural heritage and helped to usher in the darkness. Pretending that terror is nothing out of the ordinary run of natural disasters, routine accidents and factional anarchy may cause short-term comfort but is ruinous in the long term. Between moral idiocy and intellectual truancy falls the shadow of Islamic terror.

Learn more about the inspiration for Disaster Week by downloading Surviving the End on the PJ Store today, and make sure your family is prepared.


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