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Sydney Siege: Coming Soon to a Starbucks Near You

The message of the Sydney siege: you may not be interested in the War on Terrorism, but it is interested in you.


After hours of speculation overnight about whether the gunman holding hostages at a downtown cafe in Sydney, Australia, might be an Islamic terrorist—despite his pretty clear gesture of forcing his captives to block the cafe’s windows with the traditional black flag of the jihadists—the gunman has issued demands that include, you guess it, being provided with an official Islamic State flag.

Thanks for clearing that up.

There are a couple of other things this jihadist SOB has helpfully cleared up for us.

First, there is the question of whether terrorist attacks are “blowback” for American military operations overseas. Well, does anyone really think that the top priority of the jihadists is to strike a blow against evil Australian imperialism? To be sure, Australia has been a reliable ally that has contributed troops and support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they’re not such a dominant force as to be a headline target for jihadists, and to my knowledge they haven’t been involved in recent airstrikes against the Islamic State.

No, the Sydney attack probably has more to do with Australia’s significant population of Muslim immigrants, some of whom are unassimilated and disaffected. The latest report is that the hostage taker has been identified as Man Haron Monis, “a 49-year-old self-styled ‘Muslim cleric and peace activist'” who fled Iran five years ago. I’m not saying that Australia shouldn’t take in immigrants from the Middle East, particularly since many recent Iranian immigrants were themselves fleeing an Islamist regime. But this does indicate that terrorism is less a reaction to Western military intervention than it is about the dangerous influence of jihadism within the “religion of peace.” It’s not about us, it’s about them. This is about the radical Islamists’ yearning to strike out against anyone who is not a Muslim.

Second, this incident gives the lie to the idea that the civil war in Syria is none of our business. Three years of dithering and refusing to take sides and treating Syria as if it really were none of our business made room for the rise of the Islamic State—and the success of the Islamic State is now rallying radical Islamists worldwide. There will be some discussion about whether this attack was planned as part of a wider conspiracy or whether it was a “lone wolf” attack, but that’s not a very comforting distinction, is it?

Islamic terrorism thrives on examples of success. The Muslim god is a god of war, and his prophet was a victorious conqueror. The example of a strident and victorious Islamist movement that carries all before it is a palpable incitement to other aspiring jihadists, whether they are directly linked to the Islamic State, or whether they’re just fanboys.

There might even be some wisdom to that old notion about fighting them over there so we won’t have to fight them over here.

That leads us to the final thing that is clarified by the Sydney attack. This is the next wave of terrorism.

Any time a show is this successful, they make a sequel. Terrorism is all about theater, about making a big splash and going down in a blaze of glory on behalf of the Muslim faith. That photo of terrified hostages holding the black flag of jihad up against the windows of an upscale cafe will be electrifying to other angry and disaffected Islamists. Anyone who cannot make it to Syria to join the jihad there—or, just as likely, someone who has already been there and come back—will see this as a new, highly effective way to bring terror to our streets.

This has been the trend for a while: many small lone wolf attacks in place of one big organized attack. The Fort Hood shooter, the would-be Times Square bomber, the machete attack on Lee Rigby, and so on. So it’s a minor miracle that what is happening in Sydney hasn’t already happened in Manhattan. We should assume that it is only a matter of time.

That’s the grimmest message from this story. You may not be interested in the War on Terrorism, but it is interested in you. Jihadism is back, and it may be coming soon to a Starbucks near you.

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