As I was waiting in the RT studio this morning, to comment on the PACE considerations of the Marty report (which ended up being adopted, by an overwhelming majority vote), I heard about a poll they were conducting in the aftermath of the Domodedovo Airport bombing. Something like 60% of the respondents said they did not believe terrorism could be defeated.
They are right. Because, you see, terrorism can't be defeated. But terrorists can.
The purpose of terrorism is to effect coercion through instilling fear (Latin: terror). Governments routinely use coercion, and particularly bad ones believe that the only reason people obey laws is the fear of consequences (oderint dum metuant and all). How is that not terrorism? Well, there's an element of hypocrisy involved, to be sure. Just as printing money at home is a felony, but when the Federal Reserve does it it's called "quantitative easing."
There is one distinction, I suppose. Very few governments resort to arbitrary arrests and executions (and once they do, they usually aren't around for long thereafter). Terrorists kill randomly. By doing so, they don't just challenge government's monopoly of force, but strike at the very heart of a government's existence. The primary purpose of a state, you'll recall, is to provide security. This is why governments the world over have a rule not to negotiate with terrorists. If they do, they undermine their own raison d'etre.
Of course, if the terrorists are fighting for something that the government can afford to give up, accommodation eventually happens. And let's not forget that in today's world, you're only a terrorist if you dare attack the "good guys" (i.e. us). If you are bombing, killing or maiming "them" (i.e. others, the designated enemy), you become a "guerrilla" or "rebel" or "freedom fighter." If you secure support of a powerful state, you can even carve out a state of your own, declare yourself prime minister or president, and make quite a comfortable living practicing criminal activities with impunity.
Though nothing has been confirmed just yet, the prime suspects in the bombing of Domodedovo airport yesterday are members of a jihadist organization from the north Caucasus. Russophobes of all stripes will no doubt suggest that the best course for Moscow would be to withdraw from the area. These are the same people who would never contemplate, much less condone, American withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan - even though these are countries half the world away that Washington chose to invade, while Chechnya is part of Russia's own territory.
They also ignore the fact that Moscow actually did leave the Chechens alone. Russian troops retreated from the region in 1996, leaving it at the mercy of jihadists. Did they settle down and build a peaceful, prosperous nation? No - they made Chechnya into a black hole of jihadist banditry, and began invading the surrounding areas.
If the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing humanity he did not exist, then the greatest service Bush the Lesser ever did to the Prince of Lies was invading Iraq. By doing so, he helped create a perception that there was no such thing as jihad, and that the principal dynamo of Muslim grievance was the occupation. Yes, it plays a part. And so does the existence of Israel (the "occupation of Palestine" actually refers not to the territories taken in 1967 from Jordan and Egypt - but to the existence of Israel, period). But where was Israel in 1453, when Mehmet II sacked Constantinople? Where was "Crusader aggression" in 732, when Charles Martel stopped the Muslims at Tours? That, by the way, is in France - a long way from Arabia.
We're looking at two different things here, then. One is the imperial impulse in Washington (or London before that), which results in murderous overseas adventures and the backlash they inspire. The other is the commandment to the followers of Mohammed's teachings to spread the faith by fire and sword and slay the infidel wherever they find them. Many people ignore one of these aspects, trying to explain the world strictly through the prism of the other. That's a mistake.
This is why Afghanistan is not Kosovo, and why Chechnya is not Iraq. Picking a fight halfway around the world is not the same as having to defend your own life, at your own doorstep. Of course, in the world according to Emperors on the Potomac, the latter is a crime and the former is statesmanship.
In the ensuing confusion, jihad advances.