More “Workplace Violence” in Paris

By | January 8, 2015 | 0 Comments

“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.

On Wednesday the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were shot up, reportedly by three Muslim extremists armed with AK-47s and a rocket launcher. Twelve people were killed, ten magazine employees and two police officers. The police were there guarding the offices since a firebombing in 2011, in retaliation for the magazine publishing cartoons of Muhammad. Among the dead were the editor and the cartoonist. Apparently the terrorists subscribe to the motto: If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
Socialist President François Hollande condemned the attack as terrorism. At least he didn’t call it “workplace violence.” Even a French socialist can recognize terrorism when it hits him in the face. Perhaps someday our administration will be that honest.
In the film “Goldfinger,” the villain is about to slice James Bond in half with a laser. Bond asks, “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger replies, “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” Bond is still in a dangerous situation, but at least he now knows what Goldfinger has in mind for him.
Most of us do not have the misfortune to face being cut in two, but we also do not have the luck of being informed exactly what people intend.
Will our angry boss be placated by more work, or will he be satisfied only by firing us? Will a rapist be content if we submit, or will he kill us afterward? Will a nation be satiated by territorial concessions, or is it bent on destroying its neighbor? Will fanatical terrorists agree to a compromise, or will they be satisfied only by blood?
Without psychic powers we cannot know, so how should we formulate an informed guess? The first thing to decide is whether those involved are friends trying to improve things, or enemies trying to make them worse.
Some liberal secular and religious leaders denounce our war on terrorism, claiming that the 9/11 atrocity was only what we deserved, so we are “paying a price today” for our past misdeeds. Other so-called intellectuals grudgingly admit the attacks of 9/11 were wrong, but claim it is equally wrong for us to use force to eliminate the terrorists.
These apologists excuse – or even justify – the mass murder of innocent Americans. But they reject attacking Afghanistan because innocent people may be hurt. They even reject economic sanctions against nations that sponsor terrorists. They believe that all life is precious, but somehow American lives are less precious than the lives of citizens of other nations.
In short, these apologists reject any effective means of fighting evil. They propose only “sitting down to talk.” Talk about what – how to identify body parts after buildings collapse? Which kind of stick is best for beating women who leave their homes not covered from head to foot? The best method of bombing pizzerias?
We have a right to ask whether these apologists for terrorism have been defenders of American interests in the past. Have they ever had a good word to say about our political or economic systems? Have they ever viewed anything America did in a favorable light?
Have they assisted us, or our opponents? Have they supported our leaders, or praised every bearded dictator and self-proclaimed radical who expressed anti-American views? Have they ever recognized evil, much less opposed it with anything except empty phrases?
That is, are they friends trying to help, or enemies trying to make things worse?
There are other examples. Many persons insist that women be allowed in combat, even ground combat. Have these persons been friends of the armed services? Have they favored appropriations for modern weapons, better training, and adequate pay? Usually the answer is no. We are entitled to ask, “You tried to weaken our armed services in the past – is that your motive now?”
Similarly, President Obama began his term of office with a world apology tour, reassuring our enemies that they had little to fear from us, and implying that our friends should look elsewhere for friendship. Then his administration looked at the Fort Hood massacre, in which Major Hassan killed 14 Americans because of his radical Islamist beliefs, and called it “workplace violence.”
To paraphrase novelist Stephen Hunter, it is difficult to argue national security with those who scarcely believe in the concept of nation, much less security.
In addition, we should ask whether the person has made an effort to learn anything at all about the subject in question. In 1980, President Carter’s ill-fated mission to rescue our hostages in Iran was being planned. The commander of the mission was asked what would happen if armed Iranians were encountered. He replied that they would be “taken out.”
Warren Christopher, then Deputy Secretary of State, asked why they had to be killed instead of merely shot in the shoulder. He was told that this was impossible and would endanger American lives.
In 1991 Christopher chaired a commission investigating the Los Angeles Police following the Rodney King beating. When asked why armed suspects couldn’t just have the guns shot out of their hands, Christopher replied that this should be considered. (I heard him say it.) In a decade he had learned nothing, yet he again felt free to make absurd, impractical recommendations that would endanger the lives of those for whom he was responsible.
Finally, we should inquire how those involved reacted to similar situations in the past. For example, we are told that the Palestinians merely wish to regain the West Bank, Gaza, and Golan Heights that Israel captured in the 1967 war.
Yet the Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, when these areas were in Arab hands, and Israel was nine miles wide at its narrowest point. We have a right to ask, “You wanted Israel destroyed when these areas were in your hands, but you now say there will be peace if you get them back; based on this record, why should we believe you?”
Similarly, Arabs controlled the holy places of Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967. During this time, Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, and Jewish cemeteries were desecrated. We have a right to ask, “You denied access to the holy places when you were in charge, but now you say you will act fairly if you are given full control; why should we trust you?”
Conservatives, especially business people, tend to believe that all conflict is economic and can be resolved by trade agreements. Liberals, especially lawyers and academics, tend to believe that all conflict can be resolved by better communication.
Can economics explain the fact that in both world wars, Germany attacked France, its largest trading partner? Can poor communication explain nationalism in Asia, religious strife in the Middle East, or “ethnic cleansing”? Naive approaches to serious problems can be dangerous.
The danger, of course, is rarely endured by business people, lawyers, or academics, but by ordinary folks. For example, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed and 73 wounded when the State Department urged the capture of hostile Somali “warlords” in 1993. Some of these casualties might have been prevented if the troops had the armored vehicles they requested but were denied – for political reasons. The “warlords” they gave their lives to capture were soon released – for political reasons. Then the U.S. withdrew. This was not only a case of Blackhawk Down, it was a case of America down and freedom down.
That is, 18 American fighting men were killed and their bodies dragged through the streets, and we responded by withdrawing. One need not be a genius to see what lesson this taught our enemies – about how safe it had become to kill and humiliate Americans. Perhaps that and similar instances are what we are really paying for today.
Besides these examples, there are the countless victims of foreign aggressors and domestic criminals whom we tried vainly to appease. But appeasing violent criminals rarely works. Primitive societies sacrificed people to their false gods. We sacrifice people to our naive and impractical ideas. But unlike primitive peoples, we should know better.
We have the right, indeed the duty, to use all available information in formulating an informed guess as to what people intend, and then to act accordingly. True, people can change – otherwise of what use is religion or education? Our informed guess may prove to be wrong. We must be prepared to correct it if new information becomes available.
Nevertheless, an informed guess is more likely to be right than one based on ignorance, naiveté, or wishful thinking. When people offer us advice, we must consider the source. We cannot assume that everyone who wishes us ill will be as outspoken as Goldfinger.
Our enemies have told us clearly, again and again, what they intend. They scream “Death to America!” They behead “infidels” – that is, anyone who does not believe exactly what they believe. They loudly proclaim their goal of establishing a “caliphate,” a worldwide Islamist regime under their rigid interpretation of Sharia law. They openly declare their yearning to destroy Western democracy.
Like Goldfinger, they are overconfident enough to divulge what they intend to do. Now the question is this: Like James Bond, do we have the guts to stop them from doing it?

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