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What Terrorists Want

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On August 12, 2013 @ 12:36 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 193 Comments

Freud famously said that what women want was the one question that he was never able to answer. The modern liberal, having abolished gender and the family, no longer worries about what women want. Instead he worries what the terrorists, who despite his best efforts to appease them, to respect their culture and religion keep blowing him up, want.

Recently it came out that the creative director of the September 11 Museum opposed including the famous photo that shows New York City firefighters raising the flag over the ruins of the World Trade Center. When reached for comment, the creative director said that he did not want to simplify 9/11.

“Its simplicity,” he said, “would actually distort the complexity of the event, the meaning of the event.”

Liberals are great lovers of nuance. Ask an ordinary New Yorker who saw the planes hit the towers what the terrorists want and he will say, “To kill us all.” But to the left that is an excessive simplification that leaves out such key elements as American foreign policy, the role of automation in a global economy and the price of tea in China.

The great critique of the Bush years was that the Texas cowboy lacked nuance. He saw people who were killing us, instead of people aggrieved by our carbon crimes, our support for governments that terrorists don’t like and our undercutting of the Beijing tea market.

Out went the cowboy on his steed and in rode the diplomat on his ass. Reset buttons were pushed, and pushed again, speeches were given and concessions were made.

The left got its way with a foreign policy based on nuance and giving the terrorists what they want by empowering political Islam. And the Middle East has never been more unstable, more dangerous or more on the verge of exploding than in the Age of Nuance.

To understand how we got here, it’s instructive to look at a book that was typical of the left’s Bush-era terrorist revisionism.

What Terrorists Want by Louise Richardson attempted to do for terrorists what Freud could not do for women. And despite her impressive credentials as a former IRA member and Harvard executive dean of Advanced Study, she got terrorists as wrong as Freud got women.

Richardson’s ideas weren’t unique. They were part of the dominant liberal critique of the Bush years. And since then, their false assumptions have become bad policy. Terrorists couldn’t be defeated. Instead they had to be isolated through complex programs of appeasement. America had to prioritize its alliances and liberal values over the messy bloody act of actually killing terrorists.

The ex-terrorist and Harvard faculty member suggested that the United States negotiate with Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. And if negotiating with the leader of Al Qaeda in order to isolate and defeat Al Qaeda isn’t nuance, what is? What is the sound of one hand clapping? If a tree falls in a forest does it make a sound? If we appease Al Qaeda to defeat Al Qaeda, do our nuanced one-handed handshakes with our new pal Ayman make a squishing noise?

Back in 1998, Ayman Al-Zawahiri had proclaimed in a fatwa with Bin Laden, “We, with Allah’s help, call on every Muslim who believes in Allah and wishes to be rewarded to comply with Allah’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.”

It would take a river of denial the size of the one in Al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian homeland to find any nuance in that, but Richardson wasn’t just swimming in a river of denial; she and her agreeable liberal readers and reviewers were drowning in an ocean of the stuff.

“Its [Al Qaeda's] interest in weapons of mass destruction was driven more by a desire to intimidate us and defend itself against us than by the desire to deploy them in the United States,” Richardson wrote. That statement would have been bad enough in 1998; it was downright criminally inexcusable after September 11. Any book that contained the claim should have been laughed off the lowest shelves.

And yet Richardson’s thesis was widely accepted. If only we would talk to the terrorists, find some common ground, convince them to run for office, then the problem would be solved.  The terrorists don’t want to kill us. Even if they’re brandishing a dirty bomb, it’s only in self-defense.

Six years later, the experiment was attempted. Obama threw everything America had into “smart” programs for “Countering Violent Extremism.”

A “Hearts and Minds” program was deployed in Afghanistan that cost the lives of countless American soldiers. In the Middle East, friendly governments were edged aside to make way for the political Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood who were meant to serve as moderate role models for Al Qaeda by showing them that terrorist groups can take over a country by winning elections … instead of planting bombs. At home, every arm of the government, including NASA, was retasked to handle the formidable challenge of enhancing Muslim self-esteem to keep Muslim teenagers from becoming surly acne-ridden suicide bombers.

The liberal prescription of defeating Muslim terrorists by isolating them through the appeasement of every other Islamist group was and is the single most insane foreign policy ever perpetrated. And it has now culminated in arms being sent to Muslim Brotherhood terrorists.

The withdrawal of American support didn’t lead to friendly Islamist rule, but political civil wars between the Islamists and the liberals with both sides blaming and hating America more than ever. Domestically, pandering to Muslims did not stop the “Lone Wolf” attacks perpetrated by Muslims in America.

Six years later, Louise Richardson hasn’t written a sequel to “What Terrorists Want.” There is no, “What Terrorists Want Even More,” “50 Shades of Terrorism” or “Chicken Soup for the Terrorist Soul.” It’s doubtful that this is because Richard knows that she was wrong. More likely it’s because she has nothing more to add.

Obama, Inc. doesn’t appear to have carried out some of Richardson’s wilder proposals, such as negotiating with Al Qaeda, but the general outline of his program is the one that liberals, including Richardson, were calling for.

But what do terrorists really want? They want to win, while we seem to want to lose. The foreign policy prescriptions of liberal experts like the idea of us losing.

“The way America will look best, the way we can really do best, is to not be Americans so vigilantly and so vehemently,” the creative director of the September 11 museum said.

There’s no way that we can stop being Americans, but we can start feeling bad about that. We can stop thrilling at the sight of an American flag rising over the rubble of Ground Zero and learn to feel bad about it. We can stop wanting to win and start trying to lose.

And then maybe we’ll finally understand what the terrorists want. What they really, really want.

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