PARIS -- Some warped minds believe that when a nation suffers a terrorist attack, it somehow deserved it and should set about doing some soul searching. Implicit in this argument is the notion that the attacker was somehow justified in his heinous actions -- there was no other option but to lash out violently.
Except that there is. Even the Islamic State could choose to exercise unofficial diplomacy through a sympathetic Persian Gulf country. But it doesn't, because the Islamic State isn't interested in diplomacy -- yet some critics expect Western democracies to suck it up whatever terrorism comes their way, as a matter of due course.
Last week, a domestic jihadist perpetrated a terror attack right at the heart of Canadian democracy in Ottawa, the nation's capital. After fatally shooting a soldier who was guarding the National War Memorial, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau entered Parliament and started shooting up the place while elected representatives, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, went into hiding. Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers successfully eliminated the problem through skilled marksmanship, killing Zehaf-Bibeau.
Already the predictable whining has started. Here's a compilation of some of the most prevalent complaints that I heard while in nearby Toronto at the time of the attack:
-- "He wasn't a terrorist; he was just a criminal." Members of Parliament from Canada's opposition Liberal Party were peddling this type of nonsense on television news programs even before heart rates could return to normal. While Zehaf-Bibeau was known to police for acts unrelated to radical Islam, his links to jihadism and others involved with it were well-documented. It is indeed possible to be both a terrorist and a criminal; these two things aren't mutually exclusive. The Islamic State is involved in kidnapping, extortion and other acts of criminality to fund their terrorist activities, for example.
-- "Zehaf-Bibeau wasn't a jihadist, he was mentally ill." How offensive. People who struggle with mental illness might object to the suggestion that they're prone to acts of terrorism.
-- "Canada was targeted because of its military intervention in the Middle East." This implies two other possible options:
Option one: Canada should stick its head in the sand and ignore the actions of extremists who are beheading journalists and aid workers, slaughtering civilians, and exploiting women and children. This would be unacceptable for a country that's supposed to be a defender of human rights -- even if it means disappointing the people for whom there is apparently never a justification for striking back at terrorists.
Option two: Canada should act, but more discreetly. I can't disagree with this alternative, as there is significant merit to the French military approach of eliminating the chest-thumping in favor of quietly smothering the problem. Canada hasn't been averse to that approach in the past -- most notably when Canadian Special Operations Forces' Joint Task Force 2 (JTF 2) played a critical role alongside American allies in a 2001-2002 campaign in Afghanistan. It was a top-secret six-month mission known only to leaders in the upper reaches of the Canadian government and military. But discretion implies the absence of transparency, and the same people who complain about overt Canadian military intervention tend to be the same ones who demand transparency in matters of national security. You can't have it both ways.
-- "A spectacular failure for Canadian intelligence." This was really rich, particularly since it was a headline in Britain's Guardian newspaper, the flagship publication for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's gripes about the overreaching of Western intelligence agencies. If that's how the Guardian staff feels, perhaps it should stop its crusade to render intelligence activity useless.
-- "Oh, great. Now Canada is going to have an excuse to clamp down harder on civil liberties." Why not go have a word with the terrorists about how their actions are infringing on your civil liberties? Modern warfare is largely asymmetric and of a guerrilla nature. While it's important to balance civil liberties with national security interests, no threat should be exempted because it chooses to entrench itself inside a democracy and attempt to hide among its loopholes. Relax: There has to be violation of an actual law in the criminal code to trigger an arrest, and those laws are created by legislators, not by shadowy agencies.
It would be nice if just once in the wake of such an attack, the naysayers would give the benefit of the doubt to the victim rather than the terrorist.