Don’t repeat the war on terrorism
Should the federal government mount “a war on terrorism” against white nationalists? asked Max Abrahms. After the El Paso massacre and other acts of domestic terrorism by white nationalists, some on the Left are calling for a “massive, post-9/11–like counterterrorism response”—this time, against far-right Americans. The impulse is understandable. The U.S. has poured resources into fighting Islamist terrorism while largely ignoring extremists at home, even though white supremacist terrorism has “historically made up the lion’s share of attacks.” But “in this climate, we run the risk of bouncing from a longtime underreaction to a sudden overreaction.” In the emotional aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. invaded a country with no connection to the attack, tortured and imprisoned suspects without trial, and approved a massive secret surveillance program tracking nearly every phone call in the U.S. and abroad. In the process, we arguably created more terrorists and gave rise to ISIS. White nationalism is a real threat, but it would be a mistake to have the FBI surveilling and rounding up Americans who have discussed “offensive—even reprehensible—political visions” on the internet. Without expressed intent to commit acts of violence, ignorance and bigotry are not crimes.