Reflections on Terrorism: Idiots in Paradise

Every time some Muslim bombs, beheads, shoots, runs over, and otherwise terrorizes the likes of us in New York, Paris, London, Madrid, Boston, Barcelona, San Bernardino, or any other Western city, the Euro-American ruling class asks whether he acted in concert with international organizations. Decades ago, it asked about connections with states. It breathes a collective sigh of relief when, most of the time, it learns the terrorist had “self-radicalized,” mostly through the internet. align=”left” Part four of a special four-part series. Read part one, part two, and part three.

Thinking of such terrorists as “idiots”—unorganized, capable only of small harm—gives a false sense of safety. Why? Contemporary Euro-American society protects terrorists from those upon whom they prey, and provides all they need to kill and multiply. Given such a paradisiacal environment, terrorists need neither genius nor organization to wreak havoc. The idiots are not the “self-radicalized” terrorists, but the ones who think that their lack of obvious connections to international organizations makes us, somehow, less endangered.

To understand why the ubiquitous “terrorism-by-idiots” that we are now experiencing is inherently more dangerous than episodic acts on behalf of smart states, realize how this form of terrorism evolved from previous ones.

The Old, State-Sponsored Terror
When one state wages war on another by terrorism, it challenges the victim and focuses its collective response. Prudent practitioners of terrorism—the Soviet Union, Egypt under Gamal Nasser, Syria, contemporary Iran—have kept their sponsorship within the bounds of their Euro-American and Israeli victims’ tolerance. The Saudi government protects itself by touting opposition to terrorism, even as countless princelings are the world’s biggest financiers of violent Islamist ideology.

Over the past half-century, as the bounds of western societies’ tolerance stretched and the number of anti-Western terrorists multiplied, anti-Western terrorism acquired its own dynamic—what had been a tool of states, more or less calibrated to concrete state interests, morphed into a field of endeavor for groups ever more diverse and less dependent.

Then, as the bounds stretched further and the victims showed impotence, it became a diffuse mode of war by one civilization upon another. This kind of conflict is proving deadlier than the earlier, more organized ones.

Consider how much professionalism it took to put together the 9/11 attacks. But these attacks, far from dispiriting the American people, united them. On the evening of 9/11, as Americans mourned, there was dancing in the streets of Muslim cities. Had the U.S. ruling class been responsive to popular sentiment, the U.S. government would have turned these celebrations into mourning parties. Yasser Arafat feared al-nakba, “the disaster.”

Uncomforting Assurances
By contrast, today only ordinary Americans and Europeans have reason to fear their governments’ reactions to so-called “idiot” terrorism.

Following a logic alien to the public, the Euro-American ruling class has responded to mounting troubles from Muslims by further currying their favor. On both sides of the Atlantic, government officials and cultural leaders, including the current pope, routinely follow each terrorist’s cry of “Allahu Akbar!” with assurances that Islam is irrelevant to the perpetrator’s “extremism.” Every U.S president since George W. Bush has assured Americans that Islam is “the religion of peace.”

Since 2001, the United States, along with every western European government, has acted to increase the inflow of Muslims. The term “recruitment” is not much of an exaggeration. In 2001, Muslims made up some 0.2 percent of the U.S population. In 2016, they were 1 percent. In Western Europe’s major countries, the growing proportions range from 2-3 percent in Spain and Italy, to 5 percent in Britain and Germany, and upwards of 10 percent in France.

Euro-America’s ruling class admonishes the public that whatever discomforts if feels vis à vis the Muslims is due to a newly discovered psychological disorder called “Islamophobia.” In the United States, efforts to accommodate the alien cultures of Muslims include religious dispensation from dealing with customers who carry alcohol. By contrast, Christians who refuse to deal with customers on religious grounds are ruined. In Germany, Norway, and Sweden, the government reacts to Muslim men’s customs regarding women (reports of rapes are suppressed) by distributing handbooks and offering classes on how to have sex more gently—complete with diagrams.

Who are the Real “Idiots”?
Ruling class reactions to “idiot” terrorism are convincing the Euro-American populations of their governments’ incapacity and/or unwillingness to protect them. Every “idiot” who bombs, shoots, crushes, etc., turns out to have been a wolf not so much of the “lone” as the “known” variety. Without exception, all have been noticed as dangerous by ordinary citizens and scrutinized by various police forces. But, again without exception, they have been allowed to strike because detaining or expelling them on mere suspicion contravenes the ruling class view of itself. The ruling class’s reactions are idiocies more idiotic than those of “idiot” terrorists.

The ranks of these terrorists continue to expand. Decades ago, Islamic terrorism attracted only persons deeply schooled in religious texts. As politics and Islam merged—by way of the Iranian revolution and its imitators, Wahhabism, and the Muslim Brotherhood—and outright secularists adopted Islamic language (Saddam Hussein and Arafat’s PLO, to name two notable examples) a smaller admixture of religion meant an increase in the number of would-be killers. Western societies’ accommodation of Muslim ways, and its general retreat, increased the number further. We are now at the point in which just about anyone who has a grievance may try endowing it with transcendent meaning by shouting “Allahu Akhbar.”

In short, “idiot” terrorists are pushing against societal walls that are already crumbling.

The Euro-American public’s natural aversion to being told things that it feels in its bones not to be true, its lack of confidence in its rulers’ capacity to protect, added onto other reasons for dissatisfaction with how it is being ruled, have helped convince people that revolting against the ruling class is a precondition to confronting terrorism—or any other problem.

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About Angelo Codevilla

Angelo M. Codevilla is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).

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5 responses to “Reflections on Terrorism: Idiots in Paradise”

  1. America’s so called “war on terror” doesn’t exactly help.

  2. And even as our trust in institutions to protect us crumbles, the ruling elites press ever harder to disarm us.

    • The Congress that has special exemptions crafted by Obama, so Obamacare does not apply to themselves is incapable of governing themselves.

  3. The rulers feel no pain, they are currently protected. They believe they can act and live carelessly. Most of the ruled believe this as well. For now. We have entered a time when living carelessly is producing consequences. Many in their late fifties have no savings, massive debt, physical debilities, from living carelessly. There is scant evidence the young are living more carefully.