I applaud Will Wilkinson’s essay at Vox.com criticizing the Trump administration’s view of the jihadist threat, but I can offer only one cheer, not three. Wilkinson tries to put the threat in perspective, and although he makes some important points, he exhibits a mile-wide blind spot. Thus, in his own way, Wilkinson fails to understand the Islamist menace, what enables it, and the urgent necessity of confronting it.
The truck attack at a Christmas market in Berlin has cast a lurid spotlight on German authorities. The police apparently knew the suspect, had evidence of his ties to jihadists and believed he posed a threat. Yet twelve people are now dead. Last August, we saw a truck used as a weapon of jihad in Nice, France, so why didn't police prevent this one?
What we do know so far about Orlando: in a 911 call, the killer at the Pulse nightclub pledged allegiance to Islamic State, and he had previously expressed a fervent desire to become a “martyr.” In their speeches responding to the massacre, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each sought to demonstrate a firmer, clearer grasp of the jihadist menace — and therefore prove themselves best positioned to combat it. Each channeled one of the prevalent views in our culture. Both, however, are profoundly wrong. Both are united, ironically enough, in negating the crucial role of ideas in animating the jihadist cause.