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. . . to the Shores of Tripoli

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Barbary-Pirates-vs.-the-U.S.-MarinesIt’s fairly obvious that in today’s culture there is tremendous pressure to give Muslims suspected of terrorist inclination or connections the benefit of the doubt if there is not ironclad evidence linking them to some actual terrorist activity. Such evidence is usually most clear, of course, in the aftermath of the attacks when the perpetrators are standing there smoking guns in hand or fleeing the scene shooting everything in their path as they go. No one likes the idea of a government watching our every move or singling out people for special scrutiny based on a profile that suggests they are the sort likely to be involved in radical jihadism — or to be drawn to it. Everyone in our society is presumed innocent until proven guilty and we like it that way.

But we have to face facts here. There is a fierce and growing terrorist threat within the precincts of Islam which targets the West, and any others it sees as opposing it, and it is religiously driven. Not every Muslim is a terrorist, obviously, and most aren’t. But Islam is a religion which nurtures terrorist narratives (it supports intolerance, expansionist propagation of the faith, the application of various methods of slaughter to achieve its ends, and an eschatological vision of the future which promises the eventual triumph of its followers over the rest of mankind). We in America and the rest of the non-Muslim world are going to have to come to terms with this. We cannot afford any longer to sweep it under the rug of our consciousness or to pretend that we can defeat these people by simply staying true to our values.

George W. Bush and his team, whatever their mistakes with regard to Iraq, were right that the way to defeat this kind of threat is to go after it and not wait until they come to us. ISIS has sought a Holy War with the West to usher in their imagined final victory and our leaders, especially President Obama, have hid from that challenge. Obama, especially, imagines it’s enough to simply declare them to be on the “wrong side of history.” But history is made by human beings, what particular humans and groups of humans do and the right or wrong side is determined by who wins the long game. If we continue to play possum with ISIS, as we’ve been doing, there is no reason to think they will let up or miraculously decide we are not, in fact, their enemies.

To their way of thinking we are their natural foes, the unbelievers who are the proper prey of the Faithful, the followers of the Qur’an. We can’t convince them to play nice. There’s only one way out and it’s about time our leaders recognized it. We have to go over there and finish this. We have the ability to do it but, after Bush’s stumbling in Iraq, the idea of defeating terrorism seems to have lost its potency in our collective consciousness. Yet, if we don’t defeat them, they will surely wear us down and continue to harm us over here — and wherever else they can. It’s time for an outward looking policy again re: these killers. Thomas Jefferson sent in the Marines to clean out the nest of vipers that were the Barbary Pirates, the Islamic terrorists of the 18th and early 19th centuries. It’s time for Americans to remember how we did it then. It’s time to remember those bold men Jefferson dispatched to the Mediterranean early in his presidency to shut down the perpetrators of 19th century Islamic terrorism . . . time, that is, to go back to the shores of Tripoli.

About Stuart W. Mirsky

Profile photo of Stuart W. Mirsky
Stuart W. Mirsky, a former New York City official who last served as Assistant Commissioner for Operations in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene before retiring in 2002, wrote a column, "The Rockaway Irregular," for The Wave, a south Queens based weekly, for more than a decade (until Hurricane Sandy changed the equation). He is an original founder of the Rockaway Republicans, one of the most active Republican groups in southern Queens, and author of a number of books, including The King of Vinland's Saga, an historical novel of the Norse in 11th century North America, A Raft on the River, a memoir of Holocaust survival, and Choice and Action, a work of contemporary philosophy addressing the implications of relativism and nihilism for our moral beliefs.

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