Both of the apparent front-runners for the nominations of America’s two major political parties have now weighed in on the latest deadly instance of radical Islamic terrorism, and a long-dreaded clash of civilizations suddenly becomes all the more inevitable. One party continues to insist there is no such thing as radical Islamic terrorism, at least a daunting plurality of the other party is willing to embrace the most extreme measures to combat it, and no one is getting noticed by advocating a more hopeful path down the middle.
Although former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and current Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton still steadfastly refuses to utter the words “radical Islamic terrorism,” and prefers to more politely speak of a “perverted form of Islam” and “jihadism,” she and her party have lately been talking some tougher talk. Her former boss has acknowledged that the recent massacre in San Bernardino was an act of some sort of unspecific terrorism, and even went so far as to hint it had something to do with that perverted sort of Islam, his Attorney General is walking back talk about prosecuting any criticism of even the perverted sort of Islam that might cross over from First Amendment bounds to “edging toward violence,” there’s an effort to get everyone on the “no fly list” from buying a gun, and Clinton wants to crack down on the politely-named movement’s internet communications. All of which seems calculated to postpone that clash of civilizations until the most inopportune moment for the west.
A begrudging presidential acknowledgement that what happened in San Bernardino was terrorism heartening, as was the long awaited acknowledgement that what happened in Fort Hood was as well, and it’s nice to hear an Attorney General affirm her commitment to the First Amendment, although we still wish her earlier statements hadn’t made it necessary, and we expect that with pressure from recently terrorized France and Russia that the bombing of the Islamic State will soon become more effective, but they’re only going so far as their dreadful poll numbers will push them. That talk of a “perverted form of Islam” ignores the apparent meaning of more than 100 Koranic scriptures commanding jihad, or “jihadism” if Clinton prefers, as well as the past 1,400 years of Islamic clashes with the west, which predate global warming or George W. Bush or the statehood of Israel or western imperialism or any of the Democratic party’s usual excuses, and it raises understandable doubts about their ability to combat that which they dare not name.
The tough talk about denying guns to those on the “no-fly list,” which all the up-to-date Democrats were rightly decrying as a ridiculous abuse of due process for any innocent sucker that happened to land up there, including former Sen. Ten Kennedy and some conservative journalists and 70-some employees of the Homeland Security Department, an agency which we’re assured is efficiently protecting us, is transparently part of a broader effort to deny guns to all law-abiding citizens. Clinton’s call for a crackdown on the Islamic State’s use of “social media” makes a certain amount of sense, but there’s also a certain suspicion that it’s part of her party’s publicly stated broader plans for regulating the internet, and there’s even a vague worry on our part that our own electronically published worries about the past 1,400 years of clashes between Islam and the west might be considered “edging toward violence.”
In any case, we are not all reassured that the Democratic party or any of its potential leaders are able to frankly confront the current crisis. Their continued insistence on an unprecedented flow of immigration from the Middle East, including tens of thousands of refugees from Syria, most of whom are fighting-age young men who are neither Syrian nor refugees from any war, along with their general preference for open borders, along with all that blather about beginning to start to commence a dialogue that will lead to a process that will lead to a framework for a potential understanding that will someday result in an agreement to solve this mess, suggests they are not serious about any of it. Their unwillingness in every issue, both foreign and domestic, to stand up for core western values, save its tolerance for Islam in all forms, only compounds an unavoidable mistrust.
Such cowardly obfuscations and willful blindness to harsh reality creates an opportunity for any politician shrewd enough to speak more bluntly, and of course Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is both shrewd and blunt enough to seize it. In front of a typically large crowd of adoring fans in South Carolina Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” which goes beyond any of his rivals’ principled stand against that influx of supposed refugees, beyond even our own steadfastly Christian and rooting-for-western-civilization position, and into a realm that the more squishy moderate middle of America is likely to find uncomfortable. We expect that most of America will find Trump’s position the more sensible and comfortable of two extremes that have been offered, as we reluctantly admit we do, but we hold out hope that a more sensible solution can be found somewhere in between. All that blather about the majority of Muslims preferring peace and prosperity to war and poverty can’t be all wrong, given how human nature prevails in every corner of the world, and we’ll surely need some of their help as we’re forced to wade into the chaotic Muslim world, but Trump’s rhetoric cannot help in enlisting their essential support.
If you’re willing to listen to the entirety of Trump’s interminable South Carolina speech, you’ll notice that there’s little reference to to the history of western civilization and its longstanding clash with Islam, or the superior nature the Judeo-Christian west and its tradition of religious tolerance and careful democratic deliberation, but mostly an appeal to the public’s understandable outrage, and some self-regarding revisionist history about the Iraq War that does not jibe with his newfound bellicosity, and a whole lot about how very rich and successful and popular and utterly awesome is Donald Trump, and that none of it is at all Churchillian. The crowd goes wild, just as those Obama crowds used to go wild hearing about very special he is, with the same unquestioning approval of how his unique awesomeness will surely solve that 1,400-year-old squabble between the west and Islam, but we are left with the same lingering doubt.
The only possible Democratic nominee other than Clinton is a self-described socialist who thinks climate change is the bigger problem, but at least the entirety of the Republican field, even the most squishy establishment of them, is taking a more clear-eyed view of the matter than that. None of those challengers will get nearly as much media attention as Trump, who has reaped the benefits of being the hated press’ favorite target, but we hope their more carefully considered positions will be given some consideration by the Republican party’s primary voters.
— Bud Norman