Cars are torched in Paris, gang rapes happen in Oslo, rockets are fired in Lebanon, teachers are beheaded in Thailand and journalists are beheaded in Pakistan all because something made them do it. Within this narrative, each terrorist atrocity is a reaction to a provocation that can be prevented by nullifying the provocation. So the "Reactive Theory of Terrorism" argues that if the US improves its image with Muslims, Israel gives up territory to the terrorists, England and Spain withdraw from the War on Terror-- terrorism will no longer be a problem for them.
The "Reactive Theory of Terrorism" consciously or unconsciously dominates most talk of terrorism. Reactivists push for negotiations and commonly use phrases such as "We need to explore the root of the conflict", which is Reactivistspeak for, "We need to understand what we've done to make them hate us." Reactivists further argue that fighting terrorism is essentially useless, because terrorism is itself a reaction to the measures we take against it. Kill a terrorist, and "in reaction ten more will rise in his place". The Reactivist position is that only addressing the source of the terrorists' grievances can bring peace.
But is any of that actually true? The Reactivist assumption hinges on the supposed power imbalance between the terrorists and the nations they target. They argue that since the nations have more freedom of action and more power than the terrorists do, they function as proactive players, while the terrorists react to their actions. This conveniently fits into left wing ideas about class and their need to romanticize third worlders as "Noble Savages" who cannot originate plans of attack, but only respond to oppression. It also fits into the ideas of some isolationists on the far right.
Their understanding of the power imbalance itself however is altogether wrong. For one thing Reactivists routinely treat a terrorist group as an entity apart, while leaving their sponsor countries out of the equation. Thus they evaluate Al Queda in conflict with the US and Europe, without adding Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE. into the equation. Just as when it came to the PLO vs Israel, the Reactivists ignored the backing of the Soviet Union and various Arab countries who stood behind Arafat. Similarly too Hamas is used as shorthand for "the People of Gaza" without acknowledging that Iran stands behind Hamas. So too in conflicts with Islamists in Europe, their organizations are treated as being entirely separate from their Saudi sponsors.
But by looking at terrorist groups not only as individual organizations, but as proxies in larger regional and even global conflicts, the power imbalance changes a great deal. But the imbalance of power is itself not a moral or political test of responsibility for the conflict. A facile form of such a test might be to ask which party is seeking to perpetuate the conflict and which party is seeking to end it. But a deeper test is to seriously examine the motives behind the proxies, are they really defensive or offensive, do they seek to be left in peace ot to expand their power base into an enemy country?
The politically correct narrative in the West denies that Islam is expansionistic, that it seeks to seize more land and followers for itself today, and that it has done so throughout history. Instead the politically correct narrative transcribes the numerous crimes of Islam worldwide, as class warfare and a reaction to oppression. And that is where the reactive vs proactive interpretations of Islamic terrorism collide.
The problem with the Reactivist narrative is that it ignores who the terrorists are and where their origins lie. Al Queda and Hamas, for example, are joined at the hip as products of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was and is an Islamist organization whose goal is to forcibly impose Islamic law. The Muslim Brotherhood grew in tandem with the rise of Nazism in Europe, and drew inspiration from the Nazi ethos. It has branches and cells all around the world, some open and some disguised behind various front groups. Its operatives engage in assassination and terrorism. Its goal is the Caliphate.
Hassan Al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood put it plainly enough in his treatise "On Jihad", citing Muslim religious authorities;
People have been for some time stigmatizing Islam because of the religious ordinance of jihad and the [divine] permission to wage war until the [message of] the precious Qur'anic verse is fulfilled: "We shall show them Our signs in the farthest horizons and in themselves, until it is made clear to them that it is the Truth" [Q.41:53]. (That is until they become Muslims)
God ordained jihad for the Muslims not as a tool of oppression or a means of satisfying personal ambitions, but rather as a defense for the mission [of spreading Islam]...
"Jihad in its literal significance means to put forth one's maximal effort in word and deed; in the Sacred Law it is the slaying of the unbelievers, and related connotations such as beating them, plundering their wealth, destroying their shrines, and smashing their idols.
The desired aim is to strive to the utmost to strengthen the faith by such means as fighting the inhabitants of the Dar al-Harb and the tolerated Scripturaries (People of the Book, Jews and Christians) ((if they rebel)), as well as the apostates, who are the vilest of unbelievers, for recanting after they have affirmed [their belief], and oppressors. It is initiated by us as a communal obligation, that is, it is obligatory on us to begin fighting with them after transmitting the invitation [to embrace Islam], even if they do not fight against us. It is incumbent on the Imam to send a military expedition to the Dar al-Harb every year one or two times, and it is incumbent on the subject populace to aid him.
The idea is plain and simple enough. Jihad, as viewed by the Muslim Brotherhood, is an obligation on every Muslim in order to spread Islam to the infidels and subjugate Jews and Christians who refuse to live under Islamic law.
Through its political arms and military arms, the goal of the Muslim Brotherhood is worldwide conquest. This is a plan that extends not only throughout the Middle East, but into Europe, Australia and America and Canada as well. The Muslim Brotherhood's general strategic goal for North America was defined as follows,
"Enablement of Islam in North America, meaning: establishing an effective and a stable Islamic Movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood which adopts Muslims' causes domestically and globally, and which works to expand the observant Muslim base, aims at unifying and directing Muslims' efforts, presents Islam as a civilization alternative, and supports the global Islamic State wherever it is."
The role of "the Muslim Brother in North America" was defined as follows;
The process of settlement is a "Civilization-Jihadist Process" with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions.
This is not a plan formulated by oppressed people reacting to events beyond their control. This is a plan of conquest. It is being carried forward by an organization that is now nearly a century old, that has committed countless murders, that is behind some of the most notorious terrorist organizations in the world.
And if you think that any of this is theoretical, next time you hear the name of a Muslim organization in America, the odds are that it will be CAIR, ICNA, MSA or ISNA; all of them fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Only Western arrogance could view Islamic terrorism as reactive. The ugly truth is that Islamic terrorism worldwide is part of a much greater project that believes that Islamic law as implemented by a Caliphate is the only moral and legal form of authority. To misunderstand Islamic terrorism as a reactive response, is to ignore the reality of Islamic terrorism as a proactive assault on every nation in the world that is not ruled by Islamic law.
Islamic terrorism is not a response to oppression. Like Communism it sees itself as the ultimate answer to all of mankind's question. An answer that unlike most religions today, it is determined to impose by force. It is not simply a reaction to events in the 20th century, but a continuation of a political and religious process begun by Mohammed over a thousand years ago. That process was not reactive, it was proactive. The Islamic terrorism of today has extended that process further than Mohammed or his immediate successors were able to, but the goal of the process has never changed.
To view the attacks of Al Queda or Hamas, the terrorism by Muslim insurgents in Kashmir, Thailand, the Philippines, Israel, Spain, England and all across the world as "reactive" mimics the claims in the 1930's that Nazi Germany was only reacting to the unfair settlement of WW1. Islamic terrorism is an aggressive proactive entity. Its long term plans are not motivated by outrage over civil rights, but by the rejection of all rights and laws that do not extend from Islam.
That is the true face and the true goal of Islamic terrorism. It is not a goal that we have forced it to adopt. It is what Islamic history and belief demand of their followers. Terrorism is not a cry for help, it is the devout duty of Muslims to implement an Islamic kingdom on earth.