The Basque terrorist group E.T.A. has announced a unilateral cease-fire. This is excellent news for Spain and a more peaceful Europe. It is also part of a trend which has significant rhetorical implications.
In the past thirty years we have seen a great reduction in the diversity of terrorist organizations affecting the First World. The I.R.A. is retired. The J.D.L. is in jail. The K.K.K. stopped its violence and has lost public support for its worst core principles. The Tamil Tigers, who operated in Sri Lanka but attracted First World attention, were defeated. The worldwide plague of Soviet-inspired terrorism has subsided with the end of Russian support, and U.S.-inspired terrorism subsided in response. There is still plenty of terrorism in the less stable parts of Africa, but that is not on the Western public's radar so it will not affect Western discourse. About all that is left now is F.A.R.C. in Colombia, the Mexican drug gangs, and the various Muslim terrorist groups.
It is the power of the last set that will influence discussions of terrorism over the next ten years. The face of terrorism is becoming distinctly Islamic because Islamic terrorism is a rising threat while all of the other significant terrorist organizations have been defeated. Whereas twenty years ago there was only a small minority of Muslims supporting jihad against the West, the new generation fed by pro-jihad media finds more support for war. That minority today is much larger than before and threatens to become dominant in the next generation. The likely result is an increase in the acts, statements, and influence of those who believe that jihad is mandated by Islam because that is what they were told while growing up.
With these two factors -- a greater share of terrorist ideology within Islam and an Islamic monopoly on terrorism -- there is a greater likelihood that opposition to all terrorism in general, based on humanist principles, will be slandered as Islamophobia. We are seeing some of this already, and the false charge of Islamophobia is today aided by truly Islamophobic rightists within the West who condemn all Islam as terrorist, and by the dominance of these rightists within the set of those public figures who regularly speak out against terrorism.
The potential dominance of this theme, that opposing terrorism is the same as opposing Islam, will make it difficult for a democracy to effectively defend itself. Anti-terrorism policies will be condemned as oppressive and bigoted whether or not they are so simply because Muslims will be the majority of those rounded up, and the act of arresting persons for breaking secular laws against supporting terrorism will be viewed as a violation of human rights. Popular pressure will coerce democratic governments to weaken their security until they are defeated or reactionary movements take control of the government.
The reaction is likely to include counter-terrorism in the most literal sense. As populations targeted by terrorism find that the violence they suffer is approved of by the international community, reactionaries going by the same-to-you principle will begin to commit terrorist acts against the populations that the terrorists derive from. This will lead to further division along religious lines and further support for the violent in both groups of combatants as the ones capable of protecting the "us" from the "other".
Already we are seeing strong propaganda campaigns by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, and the P.L.O. which have led to Western government action in their support. Even more worrying is the failure of the British government to jail George Galloway who had himself photographed while handing a stack of money to a Hamas representative. Galloway intended to test Britain's mettle to enforce its laws against funding Hamas. Britain did nothing in the face of this high-profile and explicitly illegal support for terrorism. With no trust in their government, Britons who desire leadership which opposes terrorism in general -- or at least would protect them if the situation declines further -- are left having to turn to the hooligan mobs of the English Defense League.
That is the present state. The future threatens to be worse if Western leaders fail to make a strong, consistent stand against all terrorism on humanitarian grounds and fail to keep themselves informed by reliable sources of world events while enemy war propaganda is circulating.