There is no shortage of terms to describe what happened on the Riviera promenade in idyllic Nice, France, Thursday night. Grisly. Barbaric. Hateful. Unforgivable. Monstrous. The list goes on.
The one word that no longer applies, however, is this: Unimaginable.
We passed the threshold of the inconceivable years ago, probably in September 2001, when Islamist terrorists shrieking “Allahu akbar” slammed hijacked passenger jets terrorists into iconic American buildings.
Every depraved act that followed in the name of this strange, vengeful god has merely been, like recent Quentin Tarantino movies, macabre variations on a theme. Burnings, drownings, beheadings, mass shootings, shoving people off rooftops, bombings … and now, this: a box truck converted to a weapon of mass destruction.
And, hey, who isn’t eagerly anticipating congressional Democrats’ upcoming sit-in to demand action on vehicles with more than four wheels? Anything to avoid discussing the real power plant at the heart of the mayhem that has become as commonplace as it is outrageous.
It doesn’t matter anymore — if it ever did — what sort of weapons the soldiers of jihad take up. Whether exploding vests, semi-automatic rifles, pressure cookers, box cutters or trucks, the force that unifies also animates.
Therefore, it must first be called out by name: Radical Islam. But we also much be clear about the current source of its twisted poison: ISIS.
Is this a case of jumping to conclusions? After all, just now all we think we know is the driver’s name (Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel) his native country (Tunis); that ISIS published an instruction article on using a truck as a killing device; and also that there were celebrations on social media among ISIS operatives.
That’s just a bunch of circumstantial evidence, right? Our current president has, on numerous occasions, used less information than that to find racism in domestic calamities that, upon deeper review, proved to be nothing of the sort.
Gratifyingly, in this latest episode, President Obama wasted no time in finding at least some of the correct terminology. A guy who plows a heavy truck through a crowd of holiday revelers while, apparently, firing a pistol out the window, has, he correctly said, committed “a horrific terrorist attack.”
Still, Obama pulled up short, declining yet again to link a killing spree with the ideology of murderous intolerance. French President François Hollande was not having it, saying with titanium-spined outrage, “All of France is under the threat of Islamic terrorism.”
There. Good. Plain talk is the beginning of getting somewhere. But you can scarcely blame Hollande for declaring clearly what his most powerful ally will not. France, with a surge of Middle East and North African immigrants organized in self-ghettoized neighborhoods with reputations as no-go zones, has borne the brunt of recent Islamist outrages.
But what, beyond blunt words, must we in the West do? Must we live with terror as the new normal? Must we concede, as one pundit suggested, that the front lines are anywhere beyond our front doors? Maybe for the moment. But long-term? Such a notion is unacceptable.
Instead, the West, led by the globe’s only superpower, must do what it has been reluctant to do since we began bugging out of Iraq some seven years ago. Our absence emboldened radicals eager to fulfill the 7th century prophecy armed with 21st century weapons and technology. Returning, with extreme prejudice, might be the only proper remedy.
We know this, at any rate: What we’re doing now — summits in European capitals augmented by U.S. advisers directing ill-matched battle groups of Iraqis and the occasional drone strike — isn’t working fast enough.
As long as ISIS maintains so much as an Internet-accessible office front in Iraq or Syria, it will retain the capacity to infect the likes of all those loner sons of Muhammad who feel displaced in their chosen lands.
As retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former (frustrated) top adviser to Obama and lately a finalist to become Donald Trump’s running mate, told Megyn Kelly Thursday night, “There are solutions for this. We should not fear this enemy; we can defeat them.
“There is not an enemy that is not [un]defeatable on the battlefield. But when you have victory on the battlefield, you have to sustain it, and we did not.”
We also should be under no illusions. Trump’s solution — Go over there, kick the hell out of them and come home — is hopelessly facile. Coming home, while pleasing at the time to a war-weary nation, was precisely the wrong strategy.
The warrior legions of Islam have been in the business of conquest for 14 centuries. As enamored as we are, most of the time, of our Madisonian-style representative democracy, we were foolish to expect our temperate efforts at liberation were going to pacify a militant lifestyle 1,400 years in the nurturing.
Chillingly, journalist and White House insider Jeffrey Goldberg wrote last month that Obama views the entire conflict as a war within Islam, and that modernizers should be encouraged, if not left alone, to sort things out with their old-school cousins. In this scenario, Goldberg suggests, the president considers American deaths part of the tolerable collateral damage.
Well. This latest slaughter of innocents produced fatally damaged Americans — Texans, in fact — with names: Sean Copeland, 51, a youth baseball coach and software executive, and his son, pitcher and honor choir member Brodie, 11.
For their sake, and for the sake of possible future victims of no-drama Obama’s lofty concepts, it is past time to shout, “Enough!” Because we are desperately sick of enduring what was formerly unimaginable.
Recovering sports columnist and former Tampa Tribune columnist Tom Jackson argues on behalf of thoughtful conservative principles as our best path forward. Fan of the Beach Boys, pulled-pork barbecue and days misspent at golf, Tom lives in New Tampa with his wife, two children and two yappy middle-aged dogs.