Froma Harrop: Stop tying terrorist attacks to unrelated issues

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop

Traumatic national events often lead promoters of various causes to attempt a product tie-in. The terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, was no exception.

The agendas may be worthy of support, but trying to Scotch-tape them onto only vaguely related circumstances comes off as phony. This is done across the political spectrum, but in the recent tragedy, the left has gotten especially sloppy.

Yes, America needs to ban weapons of war and the sale of all guns to crazy people. But the gun control advocates’ campaign to make the outrage in San Bernardino about the free flow of guns is disingenuous.

Gun control laws do not deter terrorists who can make bombs out of common household chemicals. France has strict gun laws, and look at the weaponry the Paris monsters got their hands on. The Sept. 11 hijackers used box cutters. It’s not that our uncontrolled flow of guns isn’t a serious problem. It’s just that it is not this story.

About admitting the Syrian refugees: Our ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, made a counterproductive argument in favor during an interview with PBS’ “NewsHour.” She noted in reassuring tones that “the vast majority of those who’ve come to the United States — too few from Syria, a number that we’d like to increase, as you know — have been families, very few single, unattached men, unattached to families and so forth.”

Just moments before, on the same program, a report highlighted the unsettling fact that the San Bernardino terrorists, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, headed a model family unit. They were husband and wife with a brand-new baby. Yet Farook helped mow down the co-workers who had recently thrown him a baby shower.

If the State Department wants to argue that the vast majority of these refugees are desperate people needing sanctuary and that very few harbor radical Islamic beliefs, that would be an honest position (if not an easy sell). But Power did the cause no good by acting as though the public would be too dim to notice that the couple fit the profile of families she was promoting for entrance.

After the massacres in Paris, the French economist Thomas Piketty wrote on Le Monde’s website that economic injustice in the Islamic world had propelled the perpetrators to lash back at the society. Piketty authored “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” a much-discussed book on economic inequality.

Economic inequality is his subject; we get that. But pulling if off the shelf as the stock explanation for these terrorist attacks seems unwise.

Nearly all the poor immigrants streaming into Europe and the United States come from places characterized by stark divides in wealth, but only those from certain cultures are striking out against their new neighbors in lands of opportunity.

Piketty does note, and with accuracy, that Muslim immigrants in France are often subjected to discrimination in hiring. But how would he explain the targeting of San Bernardino, a Californian blend of struggling people from everywhere? And Farook and Malik were economically better off than most Americans.

There are those on the right, meanwhile, for whom sending large numbers of young Americans onto chaotic battlefields — where even allies aren’t always allies — has become a standard response to outrages committed on domestic soil. There are times for that, but President Obama deserves applause for not jumping on the bandwagon in his Sunday address.

What’s clear is there are no easy answers here. Those who want to supply answers are welcome, but they would do everyone a favor, themselves included, by staying on topic.

Email:  fharrop@gmail.com

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