The slaughter of 22 concertgoers in Manchester last week was followed four days later by the murder of 29 Christians traveling by bus to a monastery in the desert south of Cairo. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for both attacks. In an internet video, a masked spokesman denounced the Manchester victims — many of them teenage girls, fans of pop singer Ariana Grande — as “crusaders.” As for the Egyptian Christians, also known as Copts, they have been described in other Islamic State videos as “our favorite prey.”
It would be useful if we — Republican and Democrat, left and right — could at least acknowledge that this bloody pudding has a theme. Self-proclaimed jihadis — “holy warriors” — have war aims: in particular, to “cleanse” Christians and other religious minorities from what we have come to accept as the “Islamic world,” and to make those living in the multicultural world — once upon a time known as Christendom — so fearful and demoralized that they surrender their freedoms.
This and more the jihadis have been telling us — over and over in words and terrible deeds. In their eyes, there is the Dar al Harb, the House of War, in which the “arrogant” — including disbelievers, heretics and apostates — violate Allah’s laws. In competition with the Dar al Harb is the Dar al Islam, the House of Submission, in which the jihadis enforce Allah’s laws — as they interpret them. To extinguish the former and expand the latter is their religious obligation.
Last week’s attacks coincided with Donald Trump’s first trip abroad as president. The messages he chose to send were relevant. In Saudi Arabia he literally lined up with more than 50 rulers of Muslim-majority states to declare unified opposition to what he called “Islamic extremism and the Islamists, and Islamic terror of all kinds.”
He admonished the assembled potentates: “Drive them out! Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this Earth.”
They did not contradict him. They did not accuse him of Islamophobia. Some — not all — may actually regret the extent to which they, their oil wealth and their religious establishments have helped create the Frankenstein’s monsters that now threaten them no less than us.
The president also spoke candidly about the Islamic Republic of Iran, a regime as fervently committed to jihad as the Islamic State and al Qaeda. “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region,” Mr. Trump told his audience in Riyadh. “For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror. It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.” Imagine: Not a word about Iran’s “moderates.”
From Saudi Arabia, Mr. Trump flew directly to Israel — a first for an American president — and from there he went to the Vatican. Mike Deaver could not have come up with a better way to endorse interfaith amity.
Next came Brussels and the 28th NATO summit. During the presidential campaign last year, Mr. Trump called NATO “obsolete.” What I suspect he meant was that it was obsolescent. In any case, on this occasion, he was clear: “The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration,” he said, “as well as threats from Russia and on NATO’s eastern and southern borders.”
Without significant European determination and effort, a NATO 2.0 will not evolve. In response to jihadi attacks and infiltration, Europeans need to do more than place flowers, light candles, post hashtags and reassure themselves that they are “Manchester united!” and “Manchester strong!”
It’s not helpful to say, as Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, did last year, that terrorist attacks are just “part and parcel of living in a big city.” It’s delusional to suggest, as left-wing United Kingdom Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn did on Saturday, that terrorism is an understandable response to grievances over Western foreign policies.
Every NATO member should be spending at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product on its own defense every year — as President Trump not so gently instructed. Only five of the 28 members currently meet that minimum standard. Most NATO members also need to develop new and improved military capabilities to address both the current global conflict and the resurgent Russian threat. And they need to be willing to deploy their troops against our common enemies.
These complaints have been voiced by previous administrations. In his final speech as defense secretary, Robert Gates, who served under eight presidents, said Americans were growing weary of spending money “on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.” European leaders smiled, nodded and turned to other matters.
Meanwhile, the jihadis have been learning and innovating. Expect the frequency and lethality of their attacks to increase. As the Islamic State is flushed out of Syria and Iraq, its leaders will increasingly focus on “external operations.” That was the message they sent last week in England and Egypt.
Those who want their children to live in liberty should be mounting a common defense — a plan to decisively defeat the 21st century’s jihadis. That was the message President Trump sent last week in both the Middle East and Europe. Politics and personalities aside, can we all at least acknowledge that it would be wise to heed both messages?
• Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.
Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.