Capability and Intent
Belmont Club has another excellent post, this one about the decapitation of Kenneth Bigely. The essence of the post is in this quote:
Radical Islam is self-evidently at war with the West because their efforts are limited only by their capability. And the West is just as clearly not yet at war with radical Islam because its actions are still limited by its intent. Zarqawi sawed off Bigley's head simply because he could; America spares Fallujah from choice.
How true. We are self-limiting. They aren't. As long as this is the case, the Islamists can keep up their games with the infidels of the decadent West. They can make political pawns of British hostages and manipulate the British public into weapy passivism ("the entire city of Liverpool going into a week of Dianysian emotional masturbation over some deceased prodigal son with no inclination to return whom none of the massed ranks of weeping Scousers from the Lord Mayor down had ever known" as Mark Steyn put it). They can flount a few corpses before Al Jezzerah and keep the Marines from leveling Fallujah.
But the world is full of other, less sensative infidels and, as I wrote here, I think the Islamist will cross a line with them sooner rather than later. The Russians and Chinese do not have histories of compromise and reconciliation with enemies, nor overly emotional, theraputic cultures that winces at enemy deaths, nor political systems of opposition that will argue against fighting the Islamists with all their capabilities.
I was a child ,when the Iranians took the embassy workers hostage. The ordeal seemed to go on forever, especially to a child for whom a school year is an epoch. I remember clearly at one point well into the crisis, out of frustration and impatience and boredom I asked my parents (I'm paraphrasing), "Why doesn't the president just say that if they don't release the hostages that he will assume they are dead and bomb the city?" I had seen pictures of World War II Europe in the World Book encylopedia and I thought that was what bombing was - total devastation, survivors in gray tatters crawling over rubble. And I thought that was appropriate. Year later I thought, "How childish. How simple-minded. How unjust and cruel. Just like a child to think, 'If I can't have it I'll break it.'" Now, even more years later, I have come closer to how I thought as a simple-minded child. We cannot allow our own capability to intimidate us more than the enemy itself.
As Steyn put it about Bigley, "A war cannot be subordinate to the fate of any individual caught up in it." That is true whether the individuals are British or Muslim.