So this is a critical moment. We must do all we can to limit the civilizational fallout from this bombing. But this is not going to be easy. Why? Because unlike after 9/11, there is no obvious, easy target to retaliate against for bombings like those in London. There are no obvious terrorist headquarters and training camps in Afghanistan that we can hit with cruise missiles. The Al Qaeda threat has metastasized and become franchised. It is no longer vertical, something that we can punch in the face. It is now horizontal, flat and widely distributed, operating through the Internet and tiny cells.
Because there is no obvious target to retaliate against, and because there are not enough police to police every opening in an open society, either the Muslim world begins to really restrain, inhibit and denounce its own extremists - if it turns out that they are behind the London bombings - or the West is going to do it for them. And the West will do it in a rough, crude way - by simply shutting them out, denying them visas and making every Muslim in its midst guilty until proven innocent.
And because I think that would be a disaster, it is essential that the Muslim world wake up to the fact that it has a jihadist death cult in its midst. If it does not fight that death cult, that cancer, within its own body politic, it is going to infect Muslim-Western relations everywhere. Only the Muslim world can root out that death cult. It takes a village.
What do I mean? I mean that the greatest restraint on human behavior is never a policeman or a border guard. The greatest restraint on human behavior is what a culture and a religion deem shameful. It is what the village and its religious and political elders say is wrong or not allowed. Many people said Palestinian suicide bombing was the spontaneous reaction of frustrated Palestinian youth. But when Palestinians decided that it was in their interest to have a cease-fire with Israel, those bombings stopped cold. The village said enough was enough.
I have had my problems with Friedman over the last few years, he has been far too supportive of the War in Iraq for my taste, but he does raise valuable points every so often. This is one. Bush and his supporters will argue that his pursuit of a democratic Middle East is a means to this end. The problem is his bull-in-a-china shop approach. He is creating far more terrorists than he is extinguishing. That's the problem with the flypaper strategy (even it was working--I argue it's not), it assumes a finite supply of terrorists which will exhaust itself by throwing itself at our troops in Iraq.
Bullshit. If anything, Iraq is self-sustaining as far as terrorist-supply goes, and having no positive (for us) effect on the wider distribution of terrorists around the globe. Conditions in Iraq may actually be detrimental to this cause whether because of reality or perception.
It doesn't sound "tough" enough for many to concentrate on defending targets at home and taking a cooperative international law enforcement approach to combat terrorism, but I'd submit that three-plus years of only the "tough-guy" approach hasn't produced results, only terrorists.
Friedman's right. Terrorism biggest problem isn't that it's "state-sponsored," it's that it's "civilzationally acceptable" in much of the Muslim world. Bush has done far more damage enflaming that aspect of it than he has helped our cause by attacking the wrong "state-sponsor."