- - Sunday, July 17, 2016

The intelligence and law-enforcement authorities continue to sort out the career of Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the author of the latest unspeakable outrage in France, and Omar Mateen, who inflicted the greatest mass killing in American history. Still to be sorted out is the confusion over strategy in Washington. To put it down to “confusion” is the kindest interpretation. Willful blindness and incompetence might be other interpretations.

The potential for damage in the West by the Islamic State, or ISIS or ISIL (we still can’t agree on what to call the barbarians) has always been recognized as enormous. The world has rarely seen such naked brutality. The cult attracts psychopaths from all over the Muslim world, and its weapons are formidable. Its followers boast that it believes in death, not life, at least for its victims and the lower ranks of the followers. Suicide bombers are difficult to disarm. Relying on ancient teachings from the Koran, ISIS justifies any deceit of non-believers if it can be rationalized as promoting Islam. No other religion does this.

The infinitely complicated arguments over how to go after suspicious individuals who may be hidden terrorists has dominated headlines and conversations about a breakdown in American security. The United States could not be a more attractive target for the Islamic terrorists. In an open society, like those found in Europe as in the United States, there are tens of thousands of targets like those in San Bernardino, Orlando, Paris, Brussels and now Nice.

“Mistakes were made,” as in the passive voice so often used by the authorities in the wake of tragedy, but as the FBI glumly concedes, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, Omar Mateens waiting among us. Thousands more could be infiltrated with relative ease, given the sieve that the nation’s southern borders have been allowed to become. But moving beyond a certain line in suppressing terrorists among us would emasculate civil liberties, the essence of what America is about. The radical Islamic terrorists would use this to create an atmosphere of such suspicion and repression as to destroy the America they despise.

President Obama and the keeper of his legacy, Hillary Clinton, deal with this reality by denying it, avoiding the use of the very words “radical Islamic terrorists” that associate evil acts with the religion of Islam. They argue that officially associating terrorism with Islam would encourage anti-Western sentiment among the 1.2 billion Muslims across the world.

They couldn’t be more wrong-headed. The United States and its allies in Britain and Europe went to war against the Nazis despite the assumption that millions of “good Germans” opposed the Nazis, too. The West stood against Soviet Communism in a long twilight struggle of the Cold War, and once that war was won many Russians were eager to tell how they took courage from Western resolve.

Today there’s a similar totalitarian opponent. It’s difficult for many in the West, where respect for differing religious faiths is cherished, to understand that Islam is not only a religious belief but for many Muslims a political ideology, indivisible from an attempt to create an authoritarian political regime. President Obama insists his strategy will “contain and dismantle” the Islamic State, but in fact it has grown on his watch, spreading influence to other regions and winning the following of psychopaths everywhere in the Islamic world.

The only strategy to destroy — not merely to contain or dismantle — that can work is the strategy the destroyed the Nazis and the Soviet Communists. Anything less leads to a long and debilitating struggle that would erode the priceless freedoms won at Lexington and Yorktown, won again on the beaches of Normandy, in the icy misery of the Battle of the Bulge and on the hell-hole islands of the South Pacific. America as we know it, “the city on the hill,” rests in the balance.

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