Cliff May

Finally, while most Muslims are not terrorists, most terrorists in recent years have been young, male Muslims who have embraced an extremist reading of Islam. To deny this is not just to indulge in self-delusion. It is to sacrifice innocent lives on the altar of political correctness. Apologists for extremism will complain. Moderate Muslims will direct their anger where it belongs: against those within their community who preach and practice mass murder - not those doing what they can to prevent the next slaughter.

Terrorism is not a criminal justice matter; it is a weapon of asymmetric warfare. No one has been more persuasive and eloquent on this issue than NRO's Andrew C. McCarthy, who was America's most successful anti-terrorism prosecutor: It was he who locked up the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman, and other perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing. But McCarthy came to realize that even the toughest lawyers cannot win a war against determined terrorist organizations (e.g. al-Qaeda and Hizbollah) and regimes (e.g. Iran's Islamist rulers).

As McCarthy explains in his landmark book, Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad, we accept a certain level of criminal activity within American society. We know there will be murders, robberies, rapes, and muggings; we understand that the FBI will never eliminate organized crime; we realize that some criminals will escape punishment because their guilt cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Viewing terrorism through this same prism, however, means accepting that planes will be blown up and that other forms of mass-casualty violence - bioterrorism, Fort Hood-style massacres, dirty-bomb attacks - also will occur; that terrorists can never be aggressively interrogated even if hundreds of lives depend on the information they might reveal; and that some terrorists will be allowed to walk, to rejoin the jihad, to thumb their noses at the families of their victims; and that we will never even make a serious attempt to defeat those waging war against us.

Abdul Mutallab knows many things that could be useful to our efforts to save lives in the future. He could tell us how he obtained the PETN explosives, who taught him how to use them, where his training took place, how he became radicalized, and with whom he then made contact and how they communicated.

Instead, we must assume he has been read his Miranda rights and told by his lawyers to stay mum until it becomes clear what kind of deal can be negotiated with prosecutors.

We can't make ourselves inoffensive to militant Islamists. President Obama's Cairo speech, his respectful outreach to Iran's radical mullahs, his pledge to close Guantanamo, his ban on coercive interrogations, his multicultural family history and his middle name - none of this has had the slightest impact on those dedicated to waging holy war against what they see as the "Satanic" West.

Our enemies have many grievances - from our support of Israel to our interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen to our laissez-faire attitudes toward women and homosexuals. Nothing we do to appease them will be enough because what they really want is to humiliate, defeat, and dominate us; to force us to live under sharia law, embrace their religion as they interpret it, or suffer the consequences due arrogant infidels. We know this because they tell us.

To take just one example, on December 28, "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" posted a statement on the jihadi website Shumukh Al-Islam. Translated by MEMRI, it claimed responsibility for the Christmas Day attack and promised more terrorism to come. The statement added: "We will continue in this path, Allah willing, until we reach our goal so that religion is all Allah's." Is that really so hard to understand?


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.