The 3,000 victims of 9/11, it turns out, did not suffice to shake Western complacency. 30,000 dead, in all likelihood, will also not suffice. Perhaps 300,000 will. For sure, three million will. At that point, worries about Muslim sensibilities and fear of being called an “Islamophobe” will fade into irrelevance, replaced by a single-minded determination to protect lives. Should the existing order someday be in evident danger, today’s relaxed approach will instantly go out the window. The popular support for such measures exists; as early as 2004, a Cornell University poll showed that 44 percent of Americans “believe that some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim Americans.”
Israel offers a control case. Because it faces so many threats, the body politic lacks patience with liberal pieties when it comes to security. While aspiring to treat everyone fairly, the government clearly targets the most violent-prone elements of society [note: if this were true Israel would be targeting the IDF]. Should other Western countries face a comparable danger, circumstances will likely compel them to adopt this same approach.
Conversely, should such mass dangers not arise, this shift will probably never take place. Until and unless disaster on a large scale strikes, denial will continue. Western tactics, in other words, depend entirely on the brutality and competence of the Islamist enemy. Ironically, the West permits terrorists to drive its approach to counterterrorism. No less ironically, it will take a huge terrorist atrocity to enable effective counterterrorism.
Meanwhile, in the real world:
Fourteen Muslim-Americans were indicted for violent terrorist plots in 2012, down from 21 the year before, bringing the total since 9/11 to 209, or just under 20 per year. The number of plots also dropped from 18 in 2011 to 9 in 2012.
For the second year in a row, there were no fatalities or injuries from Muslim-American terrorism. Meanwhile, the United States suffered approximately 14,000 murders in 2012. Since 9/11, Muslim-American terrorism has claimed 33 lives in the United States, out of more than 180,000 murders committed in the United States during this period. Over the same period, more than 200 Americans have been killed in political violence by white supremacists and other groups on the far right, according to a recent study published by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy. Sixty-six Americans were killed in mass shootings by non-Muslims in 2012 alone, twice as many fatalities as from Muslim-American terrorism in all 11 years since 9/11 (Charles Kurzman, Muslim-American Terrorism: Declining Further, 1 February 2013).