Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

What the Orlando Massacre Teaches Us

Binyamin Rose

If we’re open to learning, we can glean a lot from the Orlando Massacre. Here are 7 of the most crucial lessons.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

If the Western world had fought Nazi Germany with the same mental fogginess and cowardice it uses to engage with the perpetrators of Islamic terror, World War II might have ended differently — or might not have ended at all.

Bound by today’s politically correct rules of warfare, Winston Churchill’s indiscriminate bombing of Berlin would have been verboten. Instead, Britain would have exercised restraint to avoid collateral damage to innocent Germans. 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt would have shelved Proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527 that authorized the detention of some 31,000 security risks among German, Italian, and Japanese aliens living throughout the US. 

And certainly, Harry Truman would have faced trial for the collective punishment by atom bomb of the 200,000 innocent residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Whatever their personal foibles — and they all possessed their share — Churchill, Roosevelt, and Truman understood that clarity of purpose and the use of overwhelming military force were required to achieve their political goals in order to prevail over a ruthless and ideologically driven enemy. 

Today, the Western world and Israel are at war with the jihadists who have seized control of much of the Muslim world. The jihadists declared war on September 11, 2001, but it was five years earlier that the late Harvard University professor Samuel Huntington predicted both the reemergence of Islamic civilization as a nemesis to the West, and expressed pessimism that the West could produce a leader with the will to fight what he called a clash of civilizations. 

After the weekend massacre in Orlando, Florida, the clash of civilizations entered a new and more dangerous phase. Here are some of the lessons that should be learned from the deadliest-ever shooting attack on American soil:

1. ISIS Is an Ideology, Not an Army

The Orlando killer pledged allegiance to ISIS — the terrorist bunch that President Obama once referred to as the “jayvee squad,” compared to al-Qaeda. Many pundits rightly point out that ISIS has lost traction: They are in retreat in Syria and Iraq and more than 25,000 among their legions of black-clad fighters have been killed or have deserted. But whether terrorists don ISIS black or Hamas green, the Middle East is teeming with jihadists whose goal is to terrorize the world into submission and convert all infidels to Islam. Average Americans don’t get this from their mainstream media. Instead, they are told that 85% of Muslims are peace-loving. Even if that is true…

2. Peace-Loving Muslims Are Irrelevant

More than one historian has pointed out that often, the peaceful majority is irrelevant. Most Russians, Germans, and Chinese craved peace and quiet, but their leaders had different ideas. Joseph Stalin murdered 20 million Soviet citizens and Mao Zedong killed 70 million of his own countrymen for the sake of their revolutions. The Nazis earned only 43% of the vote in 1933 even after terrorizing their opponents, but the 57% who voted against them were rendered irrelevant during Hitler’s decade of genocidal conquest. The despotic Islamic radicals are setting the agenda in much of the Muslim world, not the so-called Arab street.

3. The “Occupation” Is Also Irrelevant

Even the mayor of Tel Aviv has laid blame for Islamic radicalism on Israel’s “occupation” of Judea and Samaria. Unlike Judea and Samaria, which G-d gave to the Jews, Orlando, Florida, actually is occupied territory. It was settled and acquired by cattleman Aaron Jernigan under the terms of the Armed Occupation Act of 1842, the idea being that armed settlers would keep Seminole Indians at bay. None of that was relevant to the Orlando mass murderer, Omar Mateen, who likely would have perpetrated his crime even if Israel had withdrawn to the pre-1967 borders or his next-door neighbor were a Seminole. Also, Mateen was no deprived, underprivileged immigrant. He held an associate degree in criminal justice technology, was married, owned a home, and worked for a global security company that also has a branch in Israel.

4. The Authorities Need to Wise Up

Mateen was also under the scrutiny of law enforcement authorities who vastly underestimated the risk he posed. The FBI called Mateen in for questioning three times; twice in 2013, when he told coworkers he had ties to terrorists, and once in 2014, when the FBI found a link between him and another Florida man who fought with the al-Qaeda aligned Nusra Front in Syria. The FBI closed its inquiry by saying the contact between the two men was “minimal.” Mateen kept his job and his Florida gun license, using it to buy a semiautomatic rifle and handgun to perpetrate his terror attack. What should authorities have done? Fox News asked Newt Gingrich — who, if he doesn’t end up as Donald Trump’s running mate, is certainly a Trump proxy: “If we know you’re in contact with people who actively want to kill Americans, we’re going to lock you up. We’re not going to wait until you actually kill Americans to prove you were sincere.”

5. Obama (and Maybe Hillary) Don’t Get It

It’s hard to expect the administration that empowered Iran, the largest state sponsor of terror in the world, to call out a Muslim for an act of terror. President Obama tried, beginning his post-massacre statement by calling Orlando both an “act of terror” and an “act of hate,” but he quickly walked back the first half. “We are still learning all the facts. This is an open investigation. We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer. The FBI is appropriately investigating this as an act of terrorism. And I’ve directed that we must spare no effort to determine what — if any — inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups. What is clear is that he was a person filled with hatred.” After we went to press, Hillary Clinton was scheduled to deliver more comprehensive remarks, but her initial reaction was at once to appeal to the law-and-order crowd and her liberal constituency, calling on the US to redouble its efforts to defend the country from threats, before tacking on a call for gun control and adherence to nondiscrimination policies.

6. The Donald Sounds Like He Gets It

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said “I told you so.” 

“If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country anymore. Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen — and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.” While no sane person wishes for blood in the streets to prove he or she is right, it will be interesting to see if Trump gets a bounce in the polls. On the morning after, the anti-Trumpers were out in force. New Yorker editor David Remnick accused Trump of exploiting the massacre for political purposes, while praising Obama’s “sense of calm resolution, grief, and outrage.” 

With the massacre inflaming election passions, the American people will decide in November — among other weighty matters — whether they want eight more years of calm resolution following acts of terror, or a Churchill-FDR-Truman type of rugged resolution.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Evolution vs. Revolution
Shoshana Friedman I call it the “what happened to my magazine?” response
Up, Up, and Away
Rabbi Moshe Grylak What a fraught subject Eretz Yisrael is, to this day
Where Do You Come From?
Yonoson Rosenblum Could they be IDF officers with no Jewish knowledge?
Heaven Help Us
Eytan Kobre Writing about anti-Semitism should rouse, not soothe
Work/Life Solutions with Chedva Kleinhandler
Moe Mernick “Failures are our compass to success”
An Un-Scientific Survey
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Are Jerusalemites unfriendly? Not necessarily
Out of Anger
Jacob L. Freedman How Angry Lawyer was finally able to calm down
5 Things You Didn’t Know about…Yitzy Bald
Riki Goldstein He composed his first melody at eight years old
When the Floodgates of Song Open, You’re Never Too Old
Riki Goldstein Chazzan Pinchas Wolf was unknown until three years ago
Who Helped Advance These Popular Entertainers?
Riki Goldstein Unsung deeds that boosted performers into the limelight
Your Task? Ask
Faigy Peritzman A tangible legacy I want to pass on to my children
Are You There?
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Emotional withdrawal makes others feel lonely, abandoned
A Peace of a Whole
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt Love shalom more than you love being right
Seminary Applications
Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, as told to Ariella Schiller It’s just as hard for seminaries to reject you