The Next Islamist Rampage

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from The Wall Street Journal,

The West has to reinforce its terror defenses, including surveillance.

France’s terror rampage ended Friday as police killed three Islamists, but not before they had paralyzed much of the country, taken more hostages, and killed at least four more innocents. Europe and the U.S. had better brace for more such attacks, while reinforcing the antiterror defenses, moral and military, that have come under political assault in recent years.

The biggest question raised by Paris is whether it presages a new offensive by homegrown jihadists carrying European or U.S. passports who are inspired by al Qaeda or Islamic State. Officials say one of the killers was trained by the al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen, and we can expect other such links or sympathies.

It’s tempting but probably wrong to think that France has a unique jihadist problem because of its relatively large Muslim population (about 7.5% of the country) and the immigrant ghettoes where they congregate. These certainly are breeding grounds for radicalism. Yet the United Kingdom has Birmingham, the Islamist petri dish for the London subway bombers, and the U.S. sheltered the killer Tsarnaevs in Boston and the Somali immigrants in Minnesota who’ve gone to Syria.

America may have a better historical record of assimilating diverse peoples, but that was when the U.S. had a less fragmented national culture and an elite that was more confident in Western values. The Internet, for all its benefits, also makes it possible for young men in the West to be inspired or recruited by jihadist networks around the world.

The threat is compounded by America’s abdication in the Syrian civil war, which has become a Grand Central Station for global jihad. Thousands from the Muslim diaspora have flooded into Syria as they did in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The difference is that in Iraq they were killed by the U.S.-Iraq counter-insurgency campaign.

In Syria they have had four years to develop safe havens and training camps. Hundreds of Europeans and Americans have joined the ranks of al-Nusrah, the al Qaeda branch in Syria, or Islamic State, which controls territory from Aleppo in Western Syria through the suburbs of Baghdad.

“A group of core al Qaeda terrorists in Syria is planning mass casualty attacks against the West,” said Andrew Parker, the director general of British security service MI5, in a speech Thursday. His timing was no accident. Mr. Parker said some 600 British citizens have traveled to Syria, many joining Islamic State. “We face a very serious level of threat that is complex to combat and unlikely to abate significantly for some time.”

How to respond? One necessity is to accelerate and intensify the campaign against Islamic State and its 30,000 recruits. Jihad is more attractive when it is succeeding, and Islamic State has infused militant Islam with a new charisma. All the more so after President Obama announced a campaign to destroy it, began bombing, and then—very little. The desultory offensive so far may be winning more recruits for Islamic State than it is inflicting casualties.

The West also needs to cease its political campaign against the most effective antiterror tools. This means surveillance in particular. The same left-libertarian media who have canonized Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald now claim solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. Sorry. You cannot favor antiterror disarmament and then claim shock at terror successes.

“My sharpest concern as director general of MI5 is the growing gap between the increasingly challenging threat and the decreasing availability of capabilities to address it,” Mr. Parker, the British security chief, also said this week. “The dark places from where those who wish us harm can plot and plan are increasing” and “we need to be able to access communications and obtain relevant data on those people when we have good reason.”

Surveillance by itself isn’t enough, given the many reports that French security had tracked this week’s killers. We’ll learn in the coming days if the French missed clues that the Kouachi brothers were ready to strike, but other countries have had similar oversights. The FBI was tipped off that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had visited the North Caucusus terrorist hotbed of Dagestan in 2012 but failed to act.

The West will have to consider more aggressive interventions, including arrest or exile, for citizens who visit terror regions and show signs of embracing jihad. Tracking Muslim student groups and clerics is also essential to preventing future attacks. The Associated Press campaign three years ago against the New York police for legal monitoring of Muslim groups looks more morally obtuse with each homegrown attack.

The indispensable and now-missing requirement for this counteroffensive is U.S. leadership. Mr. Obama clearly is unable to supply it. His May 2013 speech announcing victory in the war against al Qaeda may have reflected his sincere belief. But it also revealed his willful naivete about the nature of Islamist terror, and it encouraged jihadists to conclude the U.S. was in retreat. He can’t even find the words to forthrightly defend the antiterror programs his own Administration uses.

Members of Congress in both parties, and especially Republican presidential candidates, have an obligation to show the world that help is on the way. Rand Paul has made the clearest public impression by echoing Mr. Obama’s theme that the U.S. has gone too far in its antiterror defenses. Other candidates who disagree will have to speak clearly about how they define the Islamist threat and how the West can defeat it.

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