America Is Safer, in Less Than a Month
Consider this: What can we predict about the immediate political fallout if a substantial jihadist attack on American soil were to happen tomorrow?
Answer: As we saw following 9/11, the visceral response is to rally around the flag; to see clearly the truth that despite our diverse spectrum of interests and opinions, there is much more connecting us than separating us. But the partisanship of the moment would profoundly affect the internal contours of that response.
For starters, the response of President Donald Trump would mostly likely be predictable, somewhat juvenile, and entirely correct: “I told you so.” It is not hard to imagine a tweet consisting of precisely these words, despite their impropriety.
Such a response, would present all those vigorously resisting his leadership -- which is to say nearly all Democrats and some Republicans -- with a stark and unavoidable choice: double down or shut up. The atmosphere and national mood would encourage the latter; some converts might have a genuine change of heart, and others merely a keen sense of self-preservation.
The point of this thought experiment is to illustrate what Trump has already accomplished: he has, to no small degree, hamstrung our enemies. A large-scale tactical success for them would risk strategic disaster. Trump campaigned on the strategic advantage of unpredictability. The popular response to a large attack would, simply put, elevate him. That is a thing that the jihadists devoutly want him not to have, for reasons that should be obvious.
This is true because of the asymmetric nature of our conflict. We are the conventional power, clearly superior in resources and technology. They are the guerrilla force, relying on concealment, surprise, and a low-intensity conflict to neutralize those advantages. But they also rely on occasional spectacular victories to maintain recruitment, retention, and a fanatical level of devotion to their cause, which is essential when suicide is a major element of your offensive efforts. Trump has effectively denied them one of those without risk of losing the other – and made Americans safer in the process.
That additional safety is not perfect or permanent. Religious fanatics hell bent on global domination are not always rational. This is worth noting, however, particularly if you think of Trump as a barstool blowhard, shooting from the lip without regard for predictable consequences. If that is true, then for things to have ordered themselves thus in less than a month since his inauguration is a YUGE stroke of luck.
I do not mean to suggest that Trump is the reincarnation of Sun Tzu – or even, for that matter, that he has studied “The Art of War” at all. Rather, it illustrates the substantial benefits of moral clarity, common sense, and proper focus. He recognizes the nature of our enemies, where his predecessor refused to acknowledge their raison d’etre. He believes in the superiority of our country, where his opponents are bogged down in false moral equivalence. He prioritizes the safety of our citizens, where his detractors elevate lesser considerations.
During the campaign, many who were slow to embrace Trump saw him as a mere showman, largely because he was already known for that. I subscribed for a time to this view myself. But there is more to Trump than this. As any comedian or jazz musician can attest, good improvisation indicates fully rounded virtuosity. The political showman who regards his TelePrompTer as essential is the one who deserves the word “mere.”