John on August 18, 2010 at 2:12 am
Romesh Ratnesar, writing at Time magazine, says our concerns about Islamic extremism are overstated. In an effort to make that point, he seems to have forgotten about Major Hasan and the shootings at Ft. Hood:
nine years after 9/11, the fight over the mosque near Ground Zero shows how obsessed we remain with an enemy that may no longer exist…The story of the past decade in the Muslim world is that of the widespread rejection â€” or “refudiation,” to borrow a phrase â€” of terrorism. A study by the Pew Research Center earlier this year found that support in Muslim countries for suicide bombings has fallen precipitously from post-9/11 levels. One-third of Pakistanis believed terrorism was justified in 2002; now just 8% do. For all our anxiety about the rise of religious extremism, no government in the Arab world has been toppled by forces sympathetic to al-Qaeda since 2001. And though some militant Muslims surely wish us harm, their ability to actually inflict it has eroded; it has been more than five years since the last successful al-Qaeda attack in the West.
The statement “it has been more than five years since the last successful al-Qaeda attack in the West” is false, at least arguably so. We have had three attacks on the US in the last year. The Christmas day bombing failed, as did the Time’s Square attack; though we came dangerously close to disaster in both cases. The other attack last year was the shooting at Ft. Hood. Nidal Hasan had been in repeated contact with Al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al Awlaki in the weeks leading up to the killings. Has Time forgotten? That would be odd since they reported on the connection themselves on several occasions.
I suppose Romesh could argue that Hasan, while encouraged by an Al Qaeda operative, was not formally a member…or something like that. But that’s parsing it pretty fine. The fact is, Al Qaeda inspired mayhem has touched us in the last five years. To pretend otherwise is really playing semantic games to avoid the obvious.
Finally, Romesh’s claim in his concluding paragraph that “the threat is receding on its own” makes it sound as if this is some sort of natural process, i.e. the tide rolling out. My own guess is that eight years of watching the American military in action has done wonders to convince many around the world that this is a battle they can not win by the sword. Put simply, we are not the weak horse.
It is our strength and determination which has brought about the decline Romesh points to as proof that we’re too concerned about extremism. And if we want to see the appeal of Islamic extremism continue to wane, we need to continue to make it very costly for those foolish enough to engage in it. The moment we take the decline for granted, we’ll no doubt see those numbers start creeping back up.
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