War on Terror

Pretend Answers on Terror

Politicians and pundits think they know what should be done.


I wish I were as confident as many politicians and news commentators. They know what America should do about ISIS and terrorism.

Donald Trump, who says he can feel terrorism "like I feel a good location … I have an instinct for this kind of thing," says he would "bomb the s—" out of ISIS strongholds, ban Muslim immigration and shutter American mosques.

America should "stop pussy-footing around!" according to Fox News host Jeanine Pirro. "Bomb them. Keep bombing them. Bomb them again and again. And I don't care how long it takes!"

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., agrees. If he's elected, he says, "We will utterly destroy them. We will carpet bomb them into oblivion."

Cruz is at least skeptical about nation-building and sending in American soldiers, but Hillary Clinton and some of Cruz's fellow Republicans are not. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., says there's "no middle ground" because "radical terrorists want to kill us, because we let women drive, because we let girls go to school!"

This is reckless. There probably is, as the Cato Institute's Ted Galen Carpenter puts it, "a jihadist somewhere who is so unhinged that he would want to slaughter Americans simply because of a virulent hatred of Western culture. But even the bipartisan commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks conceded that the primary driving force for Islamist terrorism was anger at U.S.-led foreign policy in the Middle East."

In other words, terrorists don't come here because we let girls attend school but mainly because we meddle in their countries.

Osama bin Laden said he attacked the World Trade Center because our forces are "too near to Mecca" and "occupy our countries."

A University of Chicago study concluded the central objective of 95 percent of terrorist incidents was to compel a Western state to withdraw from territory the terrorists view as theirs. It's not just to make a religious point.
Even Iraq War proponent Paul Wolfowitz admitted that America's presence in the Middle East was "a huge recruiting device for al-Qaida."

Now Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio want to do more of that? We will create new terrorists while killing current ones (plus innocent people). I don't see how that makes us safer.

Commentator Mark Steyn says letting in immigrants without somehow screening out radical Muslims "will cost you your world and everything you love." He wrote an article titled "The Barbarians Are Inside, and There Are No Gates."

Well, I worry about those immigrants, too, but there are more than 2 million Muslims in the U.S. already and have been for decades. Terrorist incidents are rare (so far). Even if we include the horrible attack on the World Trade Center, many more Americans die riding bikes, swimming or driving.

When there is terrorism, most has been committed by non-Muslims. In 2012 alone, non-Muslim mass shootings caused "twice as many fatalities as from Muslim-American terrorism in all 11 years since 9/11," says Charles Kurzman, writing for the Triangle Center on Terrorism and National Security. Kurzman's researchers report that Islamic terrorism "doesn't even count for 1 percent" of 180,000 murders in the U.S. since 9/11.

Of course, that could change tomorrow. But even then, there's no guarantee that keeping desperate Syrian refugees out of America will make much difference.

On my TV show, Steyn pointed out that there are many authoritarians among Muslims, so libertarians like me should worry about that. I do worry about that, but I still don't think he or the current crop of loud politicians have answers. Most not only want to undo America's tradition of immigration but also increase military interventions. These are not actions with good track records.

Every subset of the U.S. population brings benefits and risks. It's much easier to talk about banning less familiar ones, like newcomers. But until we can reliably tell the innocent from the guilty, I side with Keith, a viewer who in response to my question about security versus liberty tweeted, "If there's a choice to be made, liberty needs to win."


NEXT: Ben Carson Gets Asked Core Philosophical Question of American Power: Are You Willing to "Kill Innocent Children by Not the Scores, But the Hundreds and The Thousands?"

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  1. There are several misconceptions in this article. They don’t hate use because we are in their countries. They hate us because they are haters and in fact they want us there so they have more excuses to hate. They are trying to draw us in. They are spoiling for a fight and ISIS is just their proxy. Trump also wants a war, and has tried to pick fights with immigrants, races, even women and people with disabilities. Muslim hating is sticking right now, so he’s running with it. And all the other candidates are running after him. Except Paul. And who the hell let women drive? Not me.

    1. Note to foreign readers: Observe that to a Republican infiltrator, “All the other candidates” means a small pack of superstitious militarist prohibitionists competing to see who gets to carpet-bomb Islam and force women to reproduce at gunpoint. Your countries will be like this if your governments continue to follow the Republican example and interfere with the formation of libertarian political parties.

    2. They don’t hate use because we are in their countries. They hate us because they are haters and in fact they want us there so they have more excuses to hate. They are trying to draw us in. They are spoiling for a fight and ISIS is just their proxy.

      And you know this how?

      1. Are you kidding me? Most of ISIS is just thugs and criminals. They turned to “Islam” late in life because they are haters and the Koran is handbook for finding excuses to hate. And I know this because I read the Koran. Am I ‘unbeliever’? Perhaps ‘infidel’? What is my just punishment?

    3. Yeah. The real problem I have with John’s piece is the example of OBL attacking us for ‘being too close to Mecca’. Which refers to the Persian Gulf War. Where we were hardly invaders. In fact we were invited by Saudi Arabia, and there to liberate Kuwaitis, who were established allies. With the exceptions of nut jobs like OBL, our presence was extremely welcome at the time. Which I know first hand, as I was there. The Saudis were terrified that the Iraqis were going to over run Saudi Arabia next and were very happy we were there. The Kuwaitis saw as liberators.

      Muslims like OBL, and the sort in ISIS will use any pretext to murder people. You can see that in the criteria they use to murder, torture and enslave people in their own back yard. Even if we stayed out of the ME, they will move the goal post and find some other pretext to kill us.

      1. How many of the Muslim clergy did you talk to about the infidel boots on holy ground? I remember reading that the Saudi government wasn’t welcoming American troops so much as accepting them as a necessary evil. In any case, the Saudis made the mistake of thinking that the word ‘temporary’ in the American idiom ‘temporary wartime measure’ meant, well, temporary.

        You also forget why Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. When the Iranians sequestered the people in the American Embassy to preclude a repeat of Operation Ajax, they of course got on our s–t list, so we suckered Saddam Hussein into picking a fight with them. While he was distracted, the Kuwaitis took the opportunity to suck as much oil out of the ground on their side of the Basra fields as they could, in violation of the sharing agreements they had made with Iraq. When Saddam Hussein found out what was going on, he complained to the American ambassador, who told him that the U.S. didn’t care to get involved and he should deal with the situation as he saw fit. He responded as anyone with half a brain would realize he had to in order to avoid being regarded as a wuss and inviting a coup.

        1. First, I don’t forget anything. Second, I talked to a lot of Saudis in various parts of the country. They were extremely friendly and appeared to have a pleasant demeanor regarding our presence there.

          And your logic regarding Saddam seems a bit apologist. I suspect you’re doing a lot of mental gymnastics to justify being against the whole thing. We were the good guys, period.

  2. Once again I wonder why so many so-called libertarians scream bloody murder to slaughter Muslims as revenge for their actions in the US, scream how they got to expect to die if they mess with us …. and then deny there is any reverse blowback, that no way would any Muslims ever harbor any grudge against westerners for all the interference accelerating over the past 100 years, from arbitrary borders to regime change to more and more regime change and bombing for the hell of it and drone attacks on wedding parties and hospitals.

    What a bunch of blind hypocrites!

    1. The Great Unwashed look at how the media accepts IRS money to ignore the LP, then peer at unverifiable “secret ballot” vote counts. They quite naturally conclude that foreign-entanglement terrorism is what the voters want. For 43 years Nixon’s Congress has had its tax collectors pay the media to ignore the only peaceful and non-interventionist party in the running. Those airplanes flying into buildings are Bush and Nixon’s chickens coming home to roost.

    2. Blowback is one of those theories that explains everything and means nothing.

      1. No, “blowback” is victim blaming, nothing less. In rape it is “she shouldn’t have dressed that way” or “she shouldn’t have been doing X”.

        Islam has been expanding at the point of the sword since it’s inception, a thousand years before the founding of the US. The idea that a nation which didn’t even exist was the cause for this violence is ignorant in the extreme.

  3. Growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s I remember riots in major U.S. cities,the weather under ground,SLA and other groups causing havoc ,jet highjackings almost weekly. There were attacks all over western Europe by the PLO and it’s off shoots and groups funded and supported by the USSR.. Also civil wars in Africa and South America,supported again by the USSR.Oh ,and the cold war.Today seems quite peaceful in comparison.

    1. Yes, I recall when we had NO Libertarian Party. Weathermen bombed and battled the Moral Majority as it bombed “Gooks” (from the Korean word for Americans) and mass-imprisoned hippies and slavery-resisters. But the mohammedans were busy bombing colonial Europeans. Targets were Paris, Lisbon, Rome, Munich Brussels, Lebanon and everywhere foreigners gathered inside the former Ottoman Empire. They invited islamic retribution before the US again let itself get sucked into shelling some more former French colonies. After 1971 voters would have only themselves to blame–except that Congress and Nixon changed the Internal Revenue Code to media-subsidize archaic xenophobic mixed-economy parties with money taken from non-interventionists.

      1. “Gook” in Korean means “country”. The US is “mee gook” (??), Korea is “han gook” (??), etc. Carry on.

  4. terrorists don’t come here because we let girls attend school but mainly because we meddle in their countries.

    Anyone can test this hypothesis searching Google news archives for “terrorist attack”. Before George Holy War Bush sent meddlesome troops to bomb and invade mohammedan territory, the thought of saracenic terrorism on US soil was basically unthinkable. After the “Desert Storm” explosions, explosions on American soil began taking casualties in earnest. The movement to ban nuclear reactors increased dependence on ancient hydrocarbons these past 40 years and shares responsibility with Congress for instigating Saracen terror attacks in These States.

    1. There’s truth in that.But,most Muslim countries are stuck in the 14th century,and do not even try to have a modern economy.Also,a large % of the people can’t even read.When you see the Koran and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as absolute truth you have a problem.

      1. And,BTW,the PLO and Black September were the forerunners of modern terrorism.That and the groups funded by the USSR who meddled as much or more that the U.S. while holding half of Europe in bondage.

        1. Aren’t you forgetting the Stern Gang among the ‘forerunners of modern terrorism’?

  5. “Growing up in the late 60’s and early 70’s I remember riots in major U.S. cities,the weather under ground,SLA and other groups causing havoc ”

    Some of the The Prez”s friemds have fond memories of those days as well.

    1. So… when was the last time saracen berserkers committed any acts of terrorism in Switzerland?

      1. They killed a bunch of Swiss,at Luxor.

        1. Really? And I thought the Luxor was such a nice casino.

        2. Last I heard, Luxor wasn’t “in Switzerland”. Also, although it happened that 36 of the 58 foreign tourists were Swiss, there’s no reason to believe that was intentional; the attackers apparently just wanted to kill a bunch of Westerners.

      2. Hundreds of Native Swedes woke to find letters posted to their doors telling them they had 3 days to convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, or have their heads cut off.

        Isn’t forced multiculturism wonderful ?

        1. It is the truth from the book,I guess.I’m more fond of Dune.

          1. Elon Musk will lead us in the Butlerian Jihad.

            1. Only if it’s powered by sunshine and tax dollars.

              1. Probably true. But at least he is looking at anti-AI ideas. They are dumb, but he is at least looking at them.

              2. Yep. $100k for a Model S and he still loses money even after tax credits for buyers and billions of dollars in “carbon offsets”.

        2. That threat was directed specifically at Assyrian Christians, not all of whom are native born.

        3. Yep. No need for a war on Islam. None whatsoever.

  6. 100% of the people currently alive will die at some point. the government really oughta do something!

    1. I’m not sure if you are a moron, a troll, or bad at sarcasm…

      1. Why can’t it be all three?

  7. Always appreciate Stossel (and Steyn too for that matter). But what about the Yazidis? Are they occupying countries too close to Mecca with their military as well? There is blowback from military involvement in the middle east to be sure. But that is one of many causes for the terror, the violence and the concern about security.

    I share Stossel’s skepticism on politicians’ – or journalists’ – simplification of how to deal with the issue. If the solution were simple, wouldnt someone have come up with it already?

  8. Rand Paul hinted on it last night about not wanting to start ww3 but I wish he would have completed that thought and told everyone when you create a void with violence in the name of liberty and don’t fill that void quickly evil will fill that void for you.

  9. “On my TV show, Steyn pointed out that there are many authoritarians among Muslims, so libertarians like me should worry about that.” Why? They aren’t the authoritarians currently running our government, and it’s hard to imagine how they could ever come to be.

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