Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Why Won’t We Call This Islamist Terrorism?

This isn’t an attack on “humanity.”  It’s a war against the West. 

by Victor Davis Hanson // Politico (Europe Edition)

President Obama summed up the jihadist killing in Paris as “an attack not just on Paris.” But rather, he assured us, “This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share.”

epa05025424 People place flowers and light candles in tribute for the victims of the 13 November Paris attacks at the foot of the statue on Place de la Republique in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. At least 120 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November, according to French officials. EPA/IAN LANGSDON

People place flowers and light candles in tribute for the victims of the 13 November Paris attacks at the foot of the statue on Place de la Republique in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. At least 120 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November, according to French officials. EPA/IAN LANGSDON

But is that assumption true?

Certainly, the president seems as unable to utter the targeted “West” and “Western” as he is the targeter “radical Islam” or “jihadist.”

Were the suicide bombers and the AK-47 shooters who slaughtered the innocent in Paris seeking to destroy the ideology of communist China?

Was their deadly message aimed at the protocols of Cuba, North Korea, or Venezuela? The Islamist terrorists — how careful were the president and the American news media to use the generic “they” and the non-specific “the terrorists” — did not seem too concerned with “all of humanity.” By the pattern of their attacks, our enemies seem not to share with the president that all of humanity embraces “universal values.”

Certainly the Vietnamese and Ecuadorians are more safe than those in Paris, New York, or Fort Hood. Communist Chinese profiteers in Africa or cartoonists in Beijing are not on the targeting list of ISIS.

Instead, radical Muslims and jihadists abroad overwhelmingly focus on Westerners. In the Middle East, when they don’t find them so ubiquitously any more, they kill and torture other religious and tribal groups who do not adhere to their particular brand of fundamentalist Sunni or Shiite Islam.

At home, the agendas of the tea party, Occupy Wall Street, anti-abortionists, Black Lives Matter, radical feminists, Christian fundamentalists and revolutionary atheists do not manifest themselves in blowing up restaurants and massacring innocents. Abroad, Christian crusaders are not desecrating mosques. Kurdish militias are not beheading civilians on videos. Jewish “militants” are not cutting off hands in religious courts, and Sufi clerics are not blowing up UN world heritage sites.

To the degree the Paris killers seek existential resonance, they are clearly attacking the expressions and manifestations of quite singular Western values of consensual government, human rights, equality of the sexes, freedom of expression and religion, and the bounty that follows from free market economics and the sanctions of private property. They hate not humanity so much as they do the West — and for an apparent variety of reasons that transcend the usual boilerplate of supporting Israel, buying oil from plutocratic sheiks and thuggish theocrats, or occasionally bombing or droning an unhinged terrorist or dictator.

* * *

The West is powerful, far more powerful than the alternatives, and its reach threatens, both insidiously and overtly, its antitheses. The treatment by radical Islamists of Christians, women, minorities, and homosexuals reminds us that inclusivity and diversity are not their creed. In fact, Islamists despise diversity as proof of our impurity and apostasy.

Yet radical Muslims, like moths to a flame, gravitate toward the affluent and leisured West — the recruiting grounds of ISIS are often in Europe and North America — as if they too want the security of civilized landscapes, but not the institutions that birth and nurture them. As nihilists, non-integrating Muslim fundamentalists in the West would turn their adopted enclaves into something similar to what they fled in the Middle East — and then move on when they found the water dangerous, medical care nonexistent, and safety for their children iffy.

The more the West welcomes in migrants from the Middle East who break immigration laws and issue demands on their hosts upon arrival, the more radical Muslims see such hospitality as weakness to be despised rather than as magnanimity to be appreciated. They see Western refinement in Thucydidean terms as endangering muscularity; like good parasites they feed off their hosts with the expectation that the meal provider will last for quite some time.

Western affluence and popular culture threaten to obliterate the 7th-century of the madrassa, and not by intent, but, far worse, by indifference. Young male Middle Easterners, in Mohamed Atta fashion, in London, Paris, and Berlin, as good addicts hate the provider of their pleasure — whether expressed benignly in Parisian soccer matches and rock concerts or in more tawdry fashion by the likes of Miley Cyrus and the Kardashians — and would hate them even more if they were to withdraw it.

Even the most clever jihadists cannot make the technology they use to destroy Westerners — from jetliners to plastic explosives to cell phones and the Internet; their religious figures damn Western technology as proof of our decadence and then see their youth hooked on it in addictive fashion. Their reaction to Western popular bounty is of course schizophrenic, true of most passive-aggressives, who alternate between bouts of inferiority and superiority. What did these weak, atheistic, and ambiguous Westerners do, they snarl to themselves, to obtain such extravagant but also decadent lifestyles? Are they wealthy and cocky, and we of the Middle East poor and miserable, because they choose Mammon over Allah, or because as imperialists and colonialists they robbed the treasures of the caliphate and have been living off our bounty ever since?

* * *

By any historical measure, radical Islamists like Al Qaeda and ISIS are weak, lacking the manpower, technology and economic power of the West. But they see willpower, zealotry, and suicidal nihilism as force multipliers in their war against the current postmodern West. And as they grow, they are dismissed by Western leaders such as Barack Obama and John Kerry with assurances that they are “contained” and “their days are numbered.”

The more our intelligence and government technocrats assure us that the Muslim Brotherhood is largely “secular” or that the Fort Hood terrorist Major Hasan’s labors represented “workplace violence,” or that a right-wing video stirred up the spontaneous “rioters” in Benghazi, the more Islamists up the ante — in part due to strategic arrogance that follows the loss of Western deterrence, but also in part due to sick curiosity over just how far one has to go to rile up these “Eloi:” blow up the finale of the Boston Marathon, shoot up  soldiers at a military base, butcher cartoonists in Paris, or something akin to 9/11 and Friday’s massacre in Paris? Will all that ever earn more than campus trigger warnings about “Islamophobia”?

If the president recently announced that global warming was the world’s greatest threat, if John Kerry sees climate change as the catalyst for the implosion of the Middle East (have four years of crippling drought forced Californians to strap on suicide belts?), and if Al Gore is perched high above the fray in the Eiffel Tower tweeting about earth in the balance, the jihadists are far more earthly.

Both before September 11 and afterward, they lost fear of Western retaliation. Before 9/11 they killed hundreds, like a sheep shearer who was careful to keep his periodic sheering reasonable and profitable. After 9/11, they grasped that even when bombed, invaded, and defeated at home, their long wars eventually exhaust Westerners, who, it turns out, can live with an occasional blown-up jet or shot-up rock concert, but not with a constabulary force in Iraq.

ISIL will assume that after the Paris attack, European and American leaders will, in time, remind Westerners of the dangers of right-wing nativists and xenophobes and “overreaction.” They will focus on the need to condemn abstract terrorism and extremism, and the need to reach out and embrace our common humanity. And such Islamist cynicism will be largely spot on about our leadership and culture — in the fashion that Osama bin Laden once blamed us for global warming and the lack of campaign finance reform.

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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

2 Thoughts on “Why Won’t We Call This Islamist Terrorism?

  1. Is there any information about this subject in different languages?

  2. Ron Choate on November 23, 2015 at 3:59 pm said:


    As usual great insight for us to absorb. Like the Chinese the Islamists play long ball and plan in centuries not fiscal quarters. Western thinking and political correctness will eventually contribute to our demise. We find the terror situation inconvenient. Until a bastion of liberalism, like Hollywood or the NY Times, is hit hard we will continue to hear excuses for these savages. We have the capacity to destroy them but our leaders are inept and suicidal. For the life of me I cannot see how open borders and amnesty benefit the elites. I guess the easy answer is future votes but at what price?

    As a former south side of Chicago white man I will never be PC or a patsy. From personal experience I know that the police cannot protect me and my family from violence. An attack of any kind be it the black lives matters people, a mexican street gang or even the muslims can only be stopped by their victims.

    People have to wake up and figure out that we must get back to the basics. No more passivity, PC and spineless leaders.


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