- - Sunday, July 19, 2015


Chattanooga joins Fort Hood and Little Rock as indictments of the continuing failure of the nation’s strategy for eliminating the threat of Islamic terrorism. The man entrusted with the responsibility for keeping America safe won’t even call the threat by its right name. Hint: It’s not “workplace violence.”

The terrorists know exactly who they are and who their enemy is. Killers eager to settle a misbegotten score arrive at military installations determined, as the man who shot up an Army recruiting station in Little Rock put it in 2009, to kill as many American soldiers as he could. An Army psychiatrist, driven by his understanding of Islam, killed 13 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas. Four Marines died in two jihadi shootings in Chattanooga. The pattern is clear to anyone who will look. The father of the assassin in Little Rock, a convert to Islam, said his son was “unable to process reality.”

Indeed, an inability to “process reality” is an affliction of our times. Even after the Islamic State, often called ISIS, put out a worldwide call to “lone wolves” to seek targets of jihad in the United States and the West, soldiers in uniform working in civilian environments are forbidden to carry the very arms they have been trained to use.

After every incident of “workplace violence,” politicians of every persuasion line up to recite the cliche, armed with the confidence of a man reciting a mantra, that “America is under attack and it demands a virile response.” But the Obama administration’s heart isn’t in it. Viewing with alarm and pointing with pride might make the president feel good about himself, but eloquence of speech is not enough. The killing of four disarmed Marines, following earlier attacks on the military, is a renewed call for “processing reality.”

Some advocate a formal declaration of war by Congress against the Islamic State. Under the usual protocols, a call to war has always come from the president, and in recent wars presidents have relied instead on the War Powers Act. Advocates of doing it the old way say the people and elements in Congress are far ahead of the leaders, and Republicans and like-minded Democrats in the Congress should seize the initiative by making a formal declaration of war.

Such a declaration would cut through the smoke and fog of considerable sound and sometimes fury, often signifying nothing, in the nation’s capital. A declaration of war would command the destruction of the Islamic State as quickly as possible with the full force of American arms, not merely, as in current policy, “degrading” it over time.

“Degrading and destroying” are two entirely different things. The rapid growth of the Islamic State, not only in Syria and Iraq, but in Central Africa and Indonesia is a warning. The Islamic State, with its peculiar abilities to use modern technology such as social media, will become a monster and a master of rogue elements of worldwide Islam.

The president’s curious reluctance to call the enemy by its name leads to a growing threat to U.S. security. Polling and anecdotal evidence demonstrates that despite its barbarism, the Islamic State appeals to many young Muslims and domestic converts. This in turn requires mobilizing Muslim leaders who oppose the radicals, who are usually ignored by the media or who are intimidated within their own community.

The Cold War was won by the mobilization of every resource, including intellectual resources, culminating with Ronald Reagan’s forthright leadership in the final days of the Cold War. The struggle against radical Islam will be no less difficult, and final victory will be led by a leader with the ability to “process reality.”

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