“We are truly fortunate in the stupidity of our enemies.”

Thus said a friend of mine as we discussed a breaking news story. After looking over the story myself, I can only agree.

A terrorist group which claims to be the same ones who killed Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni has taken two French journalists hostage, and is threatening to make them shorter by the head if France doesn’t rescind its ban on the wearing of headscarves in public schools.

My friend called particular attention to this quote from the above-linked story…

The crisis stunned France, which campaigned against the 2003 invasion of Iraq and so had considered itself relatively safe from militant attack. France also opposed the 1990-2003 economic sanctions on Iraq.

Imagine that! The French thought they were safe because they opposed the United States—perhaps trusting in the terrorists to honor the old Arabic proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” But then they went and discriminated against Muslims (and, to be fair, Christians and Jews) in schools, and voila…funny how that works.

You might be wondering, even so, how the terrorists could be so stupid as to attack the closest thing to a friend they had in the Western world—one of the only Western countries that consistently stuck up for Iraq, even if they might have been doing it more for the sake of opposing us than helping Iraq. This was the nation that campaigned so heavily against the USA, that got on so many American nerves that it led to restaurants renaming French Fries to “Freedom Fries.” (We certainly didn’t change food names for any of the other countries that opposed us. German chocolate didn’t become “freedom chocolate”—we didn’t even go back to calling sauerkraut “liberty cabbage” like we did in World War I.) You’d think the terrorists would be smart enough to leave them alone as an example of a their philosophy of, “You scratch our back, we don’t shoot you in yours.”

The fundamental problem is explained in this article that looks at the email files on the hard drives of captured al-Queda computers. Despite what people may think, there isn’t any one monolithic terrorist faction over there in Iraq, but a loose coalition made up of a lot of niggling little groups, each of which has differences in philosophy, goals, tactics, and so forth from all the others. As the article points out, the real reason for the 9/11 attacks was not so much to give us a black eye as it was to provide a rallying point to draw all the terrorist groups closer together, to get them to present a united front.

But now that we’ve been playing havoc with the communication network of terrorist groups over there, apparently Osama doesn’t have as tight a hold on the reins as he needs—and this in turn leads to terrorist groups going around chopping the heads off of American journalists, Italian journalists, and apparently now French journalists, right when it might be better all around for the terrorists to lay low for a while and let the outside world’s memories grow hazy. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch, and it only takes one group of stupid terrorists to ruin things for all the reasonably intelligent ones.

The problem this particular terrorist group seems to have is that when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. They’re so accustomed to solving their problems with terror and executions that, when a country does something that offends them, their only tool for forcing change is, yes, more terror and executions. Even if that country had stuck up for them in the past.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I certainly hope, for the sake of those journalists and their families, that France and the terrorists can come to some sort of accomodation. But even if they do, that just means the terrorists will be emboldened to take even more action against France in the future. Either way, I suspect the French (and those who joined them in their opposition) may be starting to take a slightly less rosy view of the Middle East now…

I guess we truly are fortunate in the stupidity of our enemies.

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