It’s an old saying that “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” Well, in our fallen world it’s also true of terrorism: It’s the continuation of war by other means.
Evil ones, no doubt. But that doesn’t mean “ineffective.” As Caleb Carr pointed out in his classic The Lessons of Terror, it’s true up to a point that terror aimed at civilians often backfires, at least in cultures infused by lingering Christian sentiments. But not everywhere and always. Context matters a lot.
The Allies would never have been the first to firebomb cities in 1940, for instance. But after Hitler’s savage assaults on Warsaw and Rotterdam (which worked) and London and Liverpool (which didn’t) the West was more than ready to take off the gloves. We’d bomb civilians, women and children be d***ed, if only to avenge our own slaughtered non-combatants. Our leaders concluded it was better that ten “enemy” civilians die, if it saved one American soldier. That’s a stark reversal of the traditional Christian approach to war (attempting to spare non-combatants). It marked the start of our post-Christian era.
Sometimes Terror Works
I’m not saying it was right. But in many ways it worked, demoralizing the enemy and forcing the Nazis to redirect crucial artillery guns from the battlefield to anti-aircraft duty. Those T-88s that fired uselessly into the skies over German cities weren’t pounding men like my uncle who landed at Normandy. But the moral price of mass-bombing civilians was high.
We do feel regret about the victims of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. However, in our guts most of us finally blame such deaths not on Roosevelt and Churchill, but on warmongers such as Hitler and Tojo — who chose to take the fight to innocent civilians, and sowed the savage whirlwind their hapless people reaped. We know that pacifism isn’t a Christian option, even as we feel uncomfortable with the ruthless, indiscriminate nature of modern warfare. That’s why we hope that precision weapons like drones and micro-nukes can offer a less heavy-handed means of fighting evil.
In completely non-Christian contexts, the distinction between civilian and soldier is often crassly neglected. The Mongols routinely butchered the whole populations of cities that didn’t surrender immediately. The result? They reigned for hundreds of years over stable, submissive subjects who didn’t care to try their luck by revolting. There’s even a term for it: Pax Mongolica.
Likewise, in the Muslim world, biblical values such as sparing non-combatants and not killing the innocent only apply to fellow Muslims. Whenever you see inspiring, humane-sounding quotes plucked from the Q’uran, keep that in mind. Unbelievers are all rebels against Allah, and deserve to be “terrorized” into submission, as that holy book demands in many verses.
This Hamas Commander says this is not about land, not just Palestine. “The entire planet will be under our law, there will be no more Jews or Christian traitors.” Only then, if everyone adopts his law, will there be peace. pic.twitter.com/97sWBcH8yJ
— CSW Latinoamérica (@CSWLatAm) October 8, 2023
Israelis Can’t Retaliate in Kind
Most Israelis hew to basic biblical values, in part because of their own religious tradition, and partly because Israel’s culture emerged from the blend of Christian and Enlightenment thought that prevailed in the Europe from which Israel’s founders fled, when the nightmare of 20th century pagan totalitarianism made genocide thinkable again.
Muslims know that Israelis do not practice a double standard morality, considering only lives of their own tribe worth bothering to preserve. If Israel bombed thousands of helpless Arab civilians, you wouldn’t see Jews around the world dancing and marching triumphantly through the streets, as Muslims are doing now in Europe and Times Square, and Dearborn, Michigan. You’d see the Israeli Prime Minister impeached, removed, and prosecuted by faithful Zionists — as Muslims sneered contemptuously.
Wielding White Guilt for Fun and Profit
Hamas knows that public opinion, politics, and lingering biblical ethics constrain Israeli responses. Muslims have learned from their anti-Western allies on the left the power of Victimism: that is, the strategy of making yourself appear as the helpless, defenseless, “marginalized” object of abuse by a cruel, intolerant majority. In other words, like the Jews in Hitler’s Germany.
Lodge this perception in the public mind, that you are the wronged party and your opponent the strutting bully, and you can do almost anything. That’s how mobs of Muslim men got away with grooming, raping, and pimping hundreds of native-born English girls in cities like Rotherham. The cops, beaten down by the press and their bosses into treating Muslims as perpetual victims, slammed their doors in the faces of actual rape victims, letting a sex crime syndicate thrive for a decade. White guilt may be a quick fix for cheap grace, but its real-world price is high.
For a powerful work of art that depicts the West as a whole letting itself be destroyed by Victimism, I’ll recommend once again the disturbing, prophetic novel The Camp of the Saints. Written in the early 70s, it predicted the future so chillingly that it’s routinely denounced and banned. In that book, the Israelis are the last to succumb to Victimism poisoning. When they do, you know it’s game over.
Black Lives Hamas
And Victimism is the strategy which Hamas and its Western allies (such as Black Lives Matter, and some leading Democrats) are counting on using today. They got away with employing a genuine, venerable Islamic tactic of war: slaughtering defenseless unbelievers in order to “terrorize” them as the Q’uran instructs Muslims to do.
Now they plan to pivot to manipulative Western Victimism to escape the logical consequence of massive retaliation — both against the population of Gaza, which democratically elected the terrorists of Hamas to govern them, and against nations like Iran whose governments fund and support Hamas directly.
Want to see Victimism, in all its hideousness, in action? This video from Gaza sums it up: Grown men using their children as human shields and bait. [Sensitive content.]
This poor child. God have mercy.
The father is a soulless monster.
— Juanita Broaddrick (@atensnut) October 11, 2023
How Israel Can Escape the Liberal Trap
Israel should try to avoid punishing the civilians of Gaza. Not because they are innocent. Most of the adults there support Hamas, and thus are in some ways guilty, like Nazi party members in 1945. But because it will backfire on Israel, as our media trumpets sob stories about this jihadi’s elderly grandmother not getting her physical therapy, or that jihadi’s kid brother losing his shot at culinary school in Marseilles. Soon enough, the scores of babies Hamas beheaded (among other Nazi-style atrocities) will be “old news,” dismissed and forgotten in the mad scramble to reassert the Arabs’ victim status. And every Israeli who tries to keep fighting back will get the Jake Gardner or Kyle Rittenhouse treatment.
Instead, Israel should slip out of the Victimists’ trap by sticking as much as possible to starkly legitimate targets. And acting quickly and decisively, while Western opinion mostly admits Israel’s grievance. The entire military establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran is implicated in helping Hamas commit its acts of terror. So every Iranian soldier, from private up to general, is a righteous Israeli target.
Likewise every military facility in the country, and every piece of economic infrastructure, from hydroelectric plants to dams and oil refineries. Let future terrorists sponsors measure the cost in trillions of dollars, and centuries of technological progress reversed. It would be clear that hateful slogans like “Death to Israel” in the real world boil down to “Make Iran Bronze Age Persia Again.”
The U.S. should stay out, keep its hands off, and not offer muddled help along with paralyzing scruples. Anyway, it’s unclear which side the people running our government would even take. This life-or-death struggle for the Jewish people’s existence is crucial on its own terms. It’s also a canary in the coal mine: As goes Israel, so goes the civilization which it taught how to pray.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”