Editorial: The war on terror

The temptation throughout the democratic world is to regard terrorists as felons and deal with them as the system would with any common outlaw.

311_Faisal Shahzad Times Square bomber (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_Faisal Shahzad Times Square bomber
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Unremorseful and smirking, failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad told the US court which sentenced him to life on Tuesday that “the war of the Muslims has just begun,” adding that “the defeat of the US is imminent, God willing.” He warned that “more attacks are coming.”
Indeed more attacks are now forecast for Europe, a fact which has motivated the Americans to issue broad travel-advisories to Europe-bound tourists and produced a farcical sideshow whereby EU states issue such advisories against each other, while assiduously downplaying the risks in their own bailiwicks.
Thus Britons have been warned about visiting France’s major tourist attractions. The French, in turn, have retaliated by warning their nationals against using British public transport, arguing that London’s trains and buses are likelier targets than Parisian sites.
Germany, also covered by America’s blanket warning, has feigned ignorance of any menace on its soil.
There must be scornful sinister laughter wherever it is that al-Qaida lynchpins hatch their plots. It’s not only al-Qaida and the Taliban, moreover, who rub their hands with glee. Other terror masterminds proliferate, many linked to Iran and Syria, including the likes of Hizbullah and Hamas. While the international community may be leery of al-Qaida, it tends to be incongruously tolerant of Hamas and Hizbullah, presumably because they are perceived as “only” targeting Israel.
But they are part of the international terror infrastructure.
To a great extent we are all in the same boat – even if many Europeans are loath to admit this.
THE BURLESQUE of reciprocal travel advisories doubtless inspires much gloating among all terrorists, who can derive satisfaction from seeing their task at least partially accomplished before they ignite a single fuse.
The West is already psychologically terrorized, which is what terror by definition aims to do.
The terrorists can mess with our minds and unsettle our routines, as palpably evidenced by vague advisories that name no names, focus on no cities or indicate no specified dangers. The call for vigilance by tourists in foreign destinations is altogether ludicrous.
It’s hardly likely that outsiders can spot anything untoward or do much about it. In a sense, visitors are being warned away from all rail terminals, airports, hotels, museums and public gathering points.
This potentially could deal a killer blow to tourism.
The resultant economic damage can, in the long run, be crucial especially as recovery from the recent recession is slow and arduous. As Israelis, we’re painfully aware of the havoc wreaked by panic-promoting imprecise advisories.
WE BY no means pooh-pooh even nebulous signals, but ill-defined counterproductive advisories aren’t the way to preempt aggression. Foremost, the world needs to own up to the fact that it’s at war. It must cease kowtowing to terror-sponsoring states and to terrormongers within western societies. Political correctness may have to be eased. Simple steps like allowing profiling at airports can make the importation of terror much more difficult and hazardous for the conspirators.
There are ways of curtailing the exploitation of western freedoms by those seeking to destroy the very societies which so generously and universally bestow such freedoms.
Like the 9/11 perpetrators, and others who have followed, Shahzad enjoyed the bounties of American hospitality. Yet in a tape he prepared in Pakistan before his attack, Shahzad declared that war with the West is underway, that he is “a Muslim soldier,” that Muslim soldiers like himself are numerous and that they will be victorious.
Perhaps it’s time we take such testaments seriously and treat them as relevant warnings, rather than one extremist’s ranting. The temptation throughout the democratic world is to regard terrorists as felons and deal with them as the system would with any common outlaw. But terrorism is no individual crime. The world has been at war for years, considerably before 9/11. Still, President Barack Obama and others reject war-on-terror terminology despite compelling, tangible evidence.
Failure to acknowledge the war isn’t without consequences.
The worst is the attendant failure to respond properly to belligerence – to indiscriminate threats against the physical safety of ordinary folks, as well as to their way of life and values.