I used to think that terrorism in the United States was a matter of law enforcement: Find the bad guys and imprison them. I’d like to keep thinking that way.
But the recent killings in Orlando — and in France, Iraq, and elsewhere — aren’t like mob hits or crimes of passion. They’re acts of war, with the intent to destabilize a country’s way of life and, eventually, conquer or destroy the country. The enemy is already in our territory and has infiltrated our population.
But the enemy is hard to find, because it has no formal chain of command or uniformed armies.
The enemy is not Islam or Muslims. The enemy is a small minority, the raw edge of the Muslim population: Islamist extremists who seize on the most violent and hateful parts of Islam and ignore the faith’s traditions of generosity and tolerance. Unlike other Muslims, these extremists would impose a violent Wahhabi jihadist version of Islam on everyone in the world. They kill not just non-Muslims but also any Muslim who doesn’t join their murderous cause. We must stop them.
I don’t say this with pleasure. I don’t want to view anyone as an enemy. And I’m no crusader: I don’t want to be in a war.
But we’re in one, I’m sad to say. I just don’t know how to win it.
Governments have sometimes beaten guerrillas. Peru seems to have fought back the militant Shining Path by killing its leaders, which is also how Myanmar pushed down the Kachin Independence Army.
But when the guerrillas don’t have formal leadership inside the country where they’re committing their atrocities — when the guerrillas act on their own, without orders — killing their leaders isn’t a very applicable tactic.
Does anyone know other ways to defeat guerrillas?
I’m not looking for theories or slogans like “Arm the populace” or “Enforce strict gun control.” I’m looking for facts: examples out of history where a legitimate government defeated the guerrillas attacking it, without creating a police state nearly as bad as the one that the guerrillas would impose. (I worry that we may be in for a run of anti-Muslim bigotry that could make the anti-communist activities of the 1950s look like an afternoon tea dance.)
Does anyone have answers?