"Ellowen Deeowen. London," wrote Salman Rushdie in The Satanic Verses. Ellowen Deeowen is a tough old girl, who has absorbed more than her share of bomb blasts, first from the IRA, and now from al-Qaeda. Expect her to grieve, and then to go on. But don't expect her to cave in, like Madrid. She has too much cohones for that.
But it sets me to thinking. How do we beat the jihaddicts? Michael Sheuer, author of the definitive biography on Bin Laden, thinks the West and the US should change our policies toward the Middle East so as not to anger so many Muslims. His idea is to drain away the motivation for people to volunteer to do violence.
I rather think that the jihaddicts are in business to stay in business. They will adapt. They will say, "See, we made them submit. They changed their policy. We are winning. Join us, and help us finish the Jews and Crusaders. We shall make them all Muslims or corpses." So much for appeasement. How about defense?
The problem with defense-only (aka "Homeland Security") is that it is expensive, difficult, and easily penetrated. Suppose we could detect a suspected suicide bomber, and temporarily immobilize him or her while authorities checked him or her out. The countermeasure is cheap and easy. Use a cell-phone, garage door opener, or other remote control so that the suicide-bomber's boss (hidden somewhere else) can set the bomb off.
Offense, making the bad guys insecure in their homelands, has its appeal, but it also has difficulties. To catch terrorists, you have to be able to go where they go, and hang out where they hang out, without being detected. We probably have people who can do that, but not nearly enough, and even they can't go everywhere.
Besides, even if we could get the heads of Usama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi delivered to the Pentagon in cardboard boxes full of dry ice, what would we really gain beyond a sense of satisfaction? As Bin Laden himself has said, more "Bin Ladens" would rise up to take his place. Well, sort of.
Perhaps we need to step back and look at the array of possible outcomes of all this struggle. All the "kinetic" options (guns, missiles, bombs, etc.) have limited effectiveness and potential undesirable side effects. Conflict done with armament alone has a way of escalating. Maybe we should work on the information end of things as well. For example, why is it that Bin Laden and company get to decide who is a Muslim and who is an Infidel? Who gave them that authority? We should seek to get Bin Laden and company marginalized to the extent that they themselves are the recognized "Enemies of God," because they commit the Sin of loving jihad more than God, illegitimately calling for defensive, unlimited jihad against those who are not attacking Muslims, contrary to established Islamic Law.