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Dr. Ross L. Riggs
On May 18, 2016, Egypt Air Flight 804 disappears from 37,000 feet over the Mediterranean Sea. A blip disappears from an air traffic controller’s radar screen and 66 people vanish. Before noon in Belgium on March 22, 2016 three separate bombs packed with nails explode killing 32 and injuring over 300 in an airport and a metro station. According to one source, in the last 30 days (prior to May 19, 2016), “During this time period, there were 174 Islamic attacks in 23 countries, in which 1491 people were killed and 2103 injured.”[i] (A full list of those attacks are available on the website.) What are we to do? Do we wring our hands and declare All is Lost, like the frantic cartoon character in an animated movie about the ice age? Do we reject all facts that have been uncovered about terrorism in the 21st Century? Perhaps we should simply heed a quote by a 19th century author, “When all is lost, there is always the future.”[ii] (emphasis added)
HISTORY, recent American history that is within the last two centuries, has shown thoughtful leaders to be incredibly astute and foreseeing the very future that the world is living in during this second decade of the 21st century. A review of some of the specific statements is appropriate. A good place to begin is with Theodore Roosevelt. In 1901, Mr. T. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States. He was the youngest man ever elected to this high office; but even still, he had amassed a great deal of experience upon the international scene before becoming president. He had been Secretary of the Navy and during the Spanish American War he organized the first volunteer cavalry unit which became known as the Rough Riders. In 1916 he penned a book titled, “Fear God, Take Your Part.” In it he foretells the tragedies we have brought upon ourselves in America and across the world. Why do I say that we have brought it upon ourselves? Very simply, we did not heed the words of such men as Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
Mr. Roosevelt wrote, “Christianity is not the creed of Asia and Africa at this moment solely because the seventh century Christians of Asia and Africa had trained themselves not to fight, whereas the Moslems were trained to fight. Christianity was saved in Europe solely because the peoples of Europe fought. If the peoples of Europe in the 7th and 8th centuries, and on up to and including the 17th century, had not possessed a military equality with, and gradually a growing superiority over the Mohammedans who invaded Europe, Europe would at this moment be Mohammedan and the Christian religion would be exterminated.” He went on to say that, “Wherever the Mohammedans have had complete sway, wherever the Christians have been unable to resist them by the sword, Christianity has ultimately disappeared. From the hammer of Charles Martel to the sword of Jan Sobieski, Christianity owed its safety in Europe to the fact that it was able to show that it could and would fight as well as the Mohammedan aggression.”[iii] A quick statement for clarity may be in order here. For those readers not well-informed regarding the history of al Qaeda or ISIS; who are known today as radical Islamists are followers of Mohammad from the late 6th and early 7th century and in the parlance of the early 20th century, they would be known as Mohammedans.
In 1838, 22 years before the Civil War and 78 years before President Roosevelt’s writing, another American president warned the citizens of the United States about what could eventually destroy America. Then, a young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln wrote: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”[iv] Of course, during the dark years of the Civil War and even the rocky re-start in the years following Lincoln’s assassination, America almost did destroy itself from the inside, literally.
Yet, his words were not just foretelling the peril of those Civil War years. A much deeper and long-term warning is also captured in his words. By the shear arrogance of the citizens of the U.S. to believe that their shores were inviolate, that no force would ever dare reach out a hand again against the greatest nation in the world that had been born in the conflict and fiery conflagrations that were World War II; we failed to understand what was going on in the rest of the world. Across the seas Islam was continuing to make in-roads across the Middle East and into the Balkans and tearing at the soft-underbelly of Europe, all-the-while, much of Africa was in flames from the radical Wahhabi Muslims.
Of course, in those post-WWII years, Americans did worry that Communists would seek to find some way to destroy their nation. Communism loomed so large in the minds of Americans that the U.S. became myopic and saw no other threat to the American way of life except the Communists. Thousands upon thousands of young men and women would die to repel that threat in far-flung nations across the globe.
Another popular president voiced those concerns of Communism very succinctly and in doing so, he brought that threat to what appeared to be its end. Astutely, he redirected America’s mindset to begin to see a different threat, as yet unperceived in 1980. It was the same Mohammedans that President Roosevelt had forewarned the U.S. about sixty-four years earlier. President Ronald Reagan went before the American people on a weekly radio address May 31st, 1986, almost exactly thirty years ago. He declared the following:
|My fellow Americans:
History is likely to record that 1986 was the year when the world, at long last, came to grips with the plague of terrorism. For too long, the world was paralyzed by the argument that terrorism could not be stopped until the grievances of terrorists were addressed. The complicated and heartrending issues that perplex mankind are no excuse for violent, inhumane attacks, nor do they excuse not taking aggressive action against those who deliberately slaughter innocent people.
In our world there are innumerable groups and organizations with grievances, some justified, some not. Only a tiny fraction has been ruthless enough to try to achieve their ends through vicious and cowardly acts of violence upon unarmed victims. Perversely, it is often the terrorists themselves who prevent peacefully negotiated solutions. So, perhaps the first step in solving some of these fundamental challenges in getting to the root cause of conflict is to declare that terrorism is not an acceptable alternative and will not be tolerated.
Effective antiterrorist action has also been thwarted by the claim that—as the quip goes—”One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” That’s a catchy phrase, but also misleading. Freedom fighters do not need to terrorize a population into submission. Freedom fighters target the military forces and the organized instruments of repression keeping dictatorial regimes in power. Freedom fighters struggle to liberate their citizens from oppression and to establish a form of government that reflects the will of the people. Now, this is not to say that those who are fighting for freedom are perfect or that we should ignore problems arising from passion and conflict. Nevertheless, one has to be blind, ignorant, or simply unwilling to see the truth if he or she is unable to distinguish between those I just described and terrorists. Terrorists intentionally kill or maim unarmed civilians, often women and children, often third parties who are not in any way part of a dictatorial regime. Terrorists are always the enemies of democracy. Luckily, the world is shaking free from its lethargy and moving forward to stop the bloodshed.
Nearly a month ago in Tokyo, the leaders of the major Western democracies hammered out an agreement on tough measures to eradicate this evil. Ironically the progress made in Tokyo is now imperiled by a lack of consistent support at home. For nearly a year now a handful of United States Senators have held up approval of a supplementary extradition treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom. This agreement, when ratified, would prevent terrorists who have kidnaped, killed, or maimed people in Britain from finding refuge in our country. Today these killers are able to do just that by labeling their vile acts as political. Well, in Tokyo the democracies declared there is no political or any other justification for terrorist acts and those who commit them should be brought to justice. The world is watching. If actions by a few Senators allow terrorists to find safe haven in the United States, then there will be irreparable damage. Refusal to approve the supplementary treaty would undermine our ability to pressure other countries to extradite terrorists who have murdered our citizens. And rejection of this treaty would be an affront to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, one European leader who, at great political risk, stood shoulder to shoulder with us during our operations against Qadhafi’s terrorism.
Some members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have gone so far as to prepare a substitute treaty permitting those who have murdered British policemen and soldiers, for so-called political reasons, to avoid extradition. Well, this substitute is not a compromise; it’s retreat. Its passage would be a victory for terrorism and a defeat for all we’ve been trying to do to stop this evil. One concern about the treaty is that it may set a precedent for other treaties, which will then be used against those who simply oppose totalitarian regimes. We can never permit that to happen. Our country will always remain the beacon of hope and freedom to all oppressed peoples.
I therefore urge the Senate to promptly approve the revised treaty and reinforce the momentum building against terrorism. With good sense, courage, and international cooperation, our struggle against terrorism will be won. And the United States will lead the way into a freer and more peaceful tomorrow.
Until next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.[v]
America has been blessed with some very brilliant leaders. These three presidents stand head and shoulders above many who have sought and won this highest office in the land. Many citizens are discouraged by what they see in the politics of today. The effective leadership that is so critical for this nation and the world in these days seems almost non-existent in the halls of federal government. Those currently holding high office and those aspiring to it are not made of the mettle that is so needed in these days. A recent article that involves Israel’s battle against terrorism may help to provide some encouragement to the many Americans who hear the Dodo birds of that same Ice Age movie, stalking along behind the weaker of their flock, menacingly repeating, ‘Doom On You, Doom On You.’
Professor Boaz Ganor was quoted in an article in the International Jerusalem Post asking the question, “How should we deal with this new wave of terrorism in Israel?” The conclusion to which the professor arrived is applicable across the world stage as well as for Israel. First he makes the point that terrorists must continually be evolving and reassessing the crimes that they commit against humanity. They cannot remain at a singular line of attack or a monochrome plan of terror. In the same way, those who battle terrorism, counter-terrorist officials, must also be continually re-assessing, evolving in their methods. Professor Ganor explains it this way: “Terrorism is a dynamic phenomenon. Both sides – terrorists and security officials – are constantly in a learning competition, processing and internalizing the enemy’s methods of operation. They try to pinpoint the enemy’s ‘underbelly’ and match it with effective methods. Therefore, not every change in terrorism’s modus operandi constitutes an escalation.”[vi] The professor not only hits on the issue of this continuing counter-balancing dance that must be orchestrated among those who kill and maim and those who try to stop them; but, also on the effect that media plays in depicting every new nuance of a terrorist organization’s tactics as an escalation. The heartbeat of the issue resides in asking ourselves, “What is it that we have learned from history that can aid us in preventing terrorist attacks in the future?” Professor Ganor replies, “Doing so requires preventive measures to drain the murky swamp from which extremism, violence and terrorism grow; thwarting measures, which are aimed at foiling terrorist attacks before they are carried out and operative measures designed to bring terrorist attacks to an end quickly and minimize their damage.”[vii]
Return to the observation that the not-yet President Lincoln made regarding the destruction of America. He said that if America is to be destroyed it would be from within. In my most recent book, “Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat” I conclude that one of the single most critical factors in stopping terrorist acts against our country is strengthening the home and the appropriate male leadership of the fathers in each home. If America is to be destroyed it will be from within. If it is to be saved it will be from within. Americans must return to their faith and to seek the face of their Father and the strength of the home will grow from that relationship. Yes, we need operative measures designed to bring terrorist attacks to an end quickly; but again, as I make the case in my book, we can also have operative plans that will allow us to stop terrorist acts before they begin.
There need not be a cry of ‘All is Lost!’ There need not be the specters of evil swooping down over our society, eerily repeating, ‘Doom On You!’[viii] On the international stage there must be a coordinated, cohesive all-out Allied offensive that strikes at the armament and personnel of the enemies of civilization. There must be the same coordinated, comprehensive fiscal attack to drain these entities of every nickel they have in the financial markets, and even if it seems as if the terrorist organizations are an instantly replicating and reproducing Hydra of Lerna that bursts forth a new head every time one is decapitated; know that the one who perseveres will ultimately be victorious. We must not, as the Bible directs us, lose heart in doing good. America must learn from history. There is nothing new under the sun, as King Solomon long ago surmised. Within such a historical context, leaders can find the fore-knowledge of what is going to be the most effective means for combating the evil that is lurking upon our doorsteps. Professor Ganor used the analogy of draining the murky swamp where the extremism, violence and terrorism grow and that drain plug is in the hand of every father who is raising his family and the ideals to which he ascribes. We will win back our safety and our security when we allow the God of the Bible to do what He said He would do for us in Malachi 4:5-6, “I will send you Elijah… and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”[ix]
[vi] The International Jerusalem Post, April 8-14, 2016.
[vii] The International Jerusalem Post, April 8-14, 2016.
[viii] IMBd.com/Disney Pixar/ICE AGE
[ix] Malachi 4:5-6