Professor Bernard Lewis in today's OpinionJournal, on the Islamist view of the threats posed by the former Soviet Union, and more recently, the United States. As he writes, the radicals took on the USSR first--with limited support from Arab states--because the Russians represented the most immediate threat. The next step in their jihad (driving the Americans from the Middle East) was perceived to be far easier, based on our tepid response to previous attacks. Lewis reminds us that the invasion of Afghanistan and the later attack against Iraq came as a genuine shock to the terrorists; it was completely out of character with past reactions, and forced a revision of the terrorist strategy. Perhaps the U.S. wasn't such a paper tiger after all.
Or maybe the Islamists were right all along. Professor Lewis notes that public discourse within the U.S. is convincing "increasing numbers of radicals...that they need only to press a little harder to achieve the final victory." He also observes that the terrorists view the current battles as merely the latest episode in the millennial struggle between Christendom and Islam. You may recall that Texas Congressman Ron Paul--a man who wants to be President--believes that Muslim hatred of the U.S. dates to circa 1991, and the First Gulf War. Someone might want to send Mr. Paul a copy of Lewis' scholarly works on the Middle East; Dr. Paul's kook-fringe observations during the South Carolina GOP debate suggest that the only serious books he's read are Gray's Anatomy and the Physician's Desk Reference.
As for terrorist perceptions that they are closing in on victory, Professor Lewis observes that "it is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences--both for Islam and for America --will be deep, wide and lasting." With Representative Paul (and virtually all Congressional Democrats) clamoring to get out of Iraq now, it's clear that they have no concern for the consequences of their proposed policy.
Hat tip: Powerline.