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Jay Currie

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To avoid Rome: More counter terror options

Scanning the blogs and the news sites I've run across a couple of more options for the West to counter terrorism short of turning much of the Middle East into a sea of glowing glass.

Over at Bob Tarantino's Let it Bleed a commentor named Ferrethouse suggested that immigration from any country which allowed terrorism or terrorist incitement to occur within its borders should be cut off. I like this option a lot. It has two consequences: first it punishes the entire country and therefore the culture which produces terror. Second, it acts as a barrier, albeit pathetically low, to the export of terror. The trick would be to have a broad enough definition of incitement. However, right off the top, Iran, Syria, Saudi, Egypt, Jordan, Most of North Africa, Pakistan, Malaysia would all be immigration excluded.

A second suggestion comes from comments at Belmont Club: the commentor suggested that untraceable explosions at Wahabbi mosques might dent the taste for terror. I would include madrassas - the theological schools often financed by the Wahabbists - on that list. Here the objective would not be to kill people but rather to destroy buildings and infrastructure. A long way short of war but very much within the capacity of the West.

Now, Bob, in his post, writes:

I genuinely wonder some times whether our society is capable of the sort of unified response which is envisioned. Can a polity as pluralist and fractious as are most modern liberal democracies genuinely count on the rage of its citizens? There may be significant swathes of the population who aren't terribly put off by theofascist terror attacks (I mean, did you listen to some of the callers on talk radio today? They were practically cheering).
let it bleed
It is an entirely legitimate question. It is not clear what it will take for the population of the West to move onto a war footing about Islamic terror. The governments, police, military and security services are treating this as war; but the general population seems quite willing to look for any excuse to avoid the harsh realities of war.

What will it take? I hope we never find out. Because to shake the surpline left out of its mantra of "It's our fault" is going to take something bigger than London, likely bigger than Madrid and, sadly, bigger than 9/11.

At the moment, the West can operate on an Israeli basis - taking out terrorists one group at a time, periodically draining particular swamps, building security in depth in cities and towns and, tragically, recognizing that there will be outrages like London or Madrid or New York or Bali. But the problem is that, unlike the Israeli situation where there is a political authority (no matter how illegitimate) to negotiate with and to call on to end the terror, in the case of the jihadis there is neither a political authority or recognizably political goals.

The polar alternative to the Israeli strategy is to go Roman with all the bloodshed and innocent death that implies. It is an awful alternative.

The neocon vision of a Middle East evolving away from the terrorist incubator years of Western sanctioned oppression by corrupt and vicious regimes such as Saddam's created is the last best hope for the Muslim world. The willingness of the Americans and the British and the other members of the Coalition of the Willing to shed blood to bring change in the Middle East is what really terrifies the terrorists. Because that change makes a return to the theocracy of the 14th century, the resurection of the caliphate, impossible.

Changing the Middle East, creating the conditions for the reform and Enlightenment of Islam, is a narrow road between endless low intensity war and the cataclysm of revenge which would be unleashed if the jihadis somehow commit an act of mega terror. Because with that act the resolve of the West would remind us of our debt to Rome.