For almost two generations, since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, self-proclaimed jihadis have been fighting to re-establish Islamic supremacy and domination in the world. Leaders of the nations they have been targeting have regarded them as a problem—but mostly not as dangerous enemies who must be decisively defeated. And so their numbers have grown and their ability to project power has increased.
The Islamic State, an al-Qaeda splinter that arose after America’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, was quick to take responsibility for last week’s carnage in Paris. This follows by less than a year its attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a French Jewish supermarket. Also attributed to the Islamic State: a double suicide-bombing in Beirut on Thursday and, in October, a bombing in Ankara and the blowing up of a Russian passenger jet.
The Islamic State’s rival is the Islamic Republic of Iran, which prefers to pretend it was not behind such attacks as those in Beirut in 1983; Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994; Berlin in 1992; and Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012—not to mention the failed plots to bomb New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2007 and a restaurant in Washington, D.C., in 2011.
Also alive and well and lethal: Nigeria-based Boko Haram, Somalia-based al Shabaab, Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. I could go on.
As the blood ran red in Parisian streets, President Obama responded with expressions of sympathy and support for the victims. He should not be faulted for that. Nor should he be expected, at such moments, to say anything incisive or insightful. What is disappointing—though no longer surprising—is how reflexively he distorts reality to conform to his unwavering preconceptions. The attack in Paris, he insisted, was directed against “all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”
By now it should be fairly obvious that the terrorists are targeting only specific subsets of humanity—e.g., Christians, Jews, secularists, and other “infidels,” along with any Muslims who refuse to embrace their medieval reading of Islam. And self-evidently, the jihadis and those cheering for them do not share Obama’s values, which means, by definition, those values are not “universal.”
Time and again, the jihadis have demonstrated that they have other values and that they are willing—indeed, eager—to both kill and die for them. Ignoring that, Western leaders have prattled on about “countering violent extremism” through jobs programs and foreign aid. They have maintained that “there is no military solution” and that we can rely on diplomats to effectuate “conflict resolution” employing “soft power” and “smart power.” Obama has reassured us: “The tide of war is receding.”
Will Nov. 13, 2015, prove to be a wake-up call? French President François Hollande said: “We are going to lead a war that will be pitiless.” On Sunday, French planes bombed Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State.
The jihadis, however, are confident that France doesn’t have the stomach for a long war—what the bumper stickers call an “endless war.” They view not just France, but also…