Coming on the heels of the killing spree by Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, the latest terrorist “incident,” involving Abdul Mutallab on Northwest Flight 253, is yet another isolated but tell-tale sign that we must learn from:
1) If solidly middle-class Westernized Muslims mouth the al-Qaeda line of radical Islamic, anti-American boilerplate, please take them seriously — i.e., worry less about their feelings and more about the lives of innocents they may in the future seek to annihilate. The more upscale and the more the Western exposure, the more there is to worry about.
2) For the last eight years, many have patiently tried to suggest that the answer to “Why do they hate us?” does not entail poverty, Western imperialism or colonialism, support for Israel, past provocations, etc. Rather, radical Islam encourages in an Hasan or Mutallab age-old passions like pride, envy, and a sense of inferiority — all accelerated by instantaneous communications and abetted by continual Western apologetics that on a global level blame Westerners for self-induced misery in many Islamic countries. “They did it” is far easier than looking inward to address tribalism, gender apartheid, statism, autocracy, religious intolerance, and fundamentalism, which in perfect-storm fashion ensure an impoverished — and resentful and angry — radical Islamic community while the rest of the world moves merrily on.
3) I think the year-long mantra of “Bush destroyed the Constitution” is now almost over, and we will begin again worrying about our collective safety rather than scoring partisan points by citing supposed excesses in our anti-terrorism efforts. With the delay in closing Guantanamo (from the promised shuttering on Jan. 20, 2010 to . . . sometime in 2011?), Obama’s quiet copy-catting of Bush security protocols (such as wiretaps, intercepts, tribunals, and renditions), and the popular outcry against the upcoming show trial of KSM in New York, a public consensus is growing that radical Muslims like Hasan and Mutallab will continue to attempt to kill Americans. Citizens increasingly understand that the last eight years of relative safety following 9/11 were due only to heightened security at home and proactive use of force abroad, that we should cease trying to appease radical Islam by dreaming up new euphemisms (“overseas contingency operations,” “man made disasters,” etc.), and that it is time to stop the apologetics and kowtowing, and grudgingly accept that thousands of radical Islamic fundamentalists worldwide want to kill Americans — and dozens of governments, at least on the sly, hope that they do. Such venom has nothing to do with past American behavior or George Bush’s strut, nor can it be ameliorated on the cheap by Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize, middle name, or reset-button diplomacy.
4) As we learned on 9/11, it is often the unsung heroes among us that come out of the shadows to aid us, and not necessarily large bureaucracies entrusted with our safety. Individuals acting on their own so often make the difference between salvation and mass murder.
5) After the embarrassing debate about Hasan (e.g., “Was he a terrorist?”; second-hand post-traumatic stress syndrome, etc.), I don’t think the public will put up with similar contextualization about Mutallab.
6) The politics of anti-terrorism in this administration will insidiously begin to change, given that there was no repeat of 9/11 between 2001 and 2009 — and that thereafter, signs began to emerge that radical Muslims were reenergized and eager to trump their feat of eight years ago. In such a climate, one must worry more about the passengers on Flight 253 and less about whether self-confessed mass murderer and beheader KSM is given a public venue to explain his hatred of the United States, and is granted rights usually not accorded to such out-of-uniform and self-proclaimed terrorist enemies. So a little more “Beware of radical Muslim terrorists who want to murder us — and won’t!” and a little less chest-thumping about dropping the supposedly retrograde “War on Terror.”