The National Post:
Until Tuesday, when Islamist fanatics murdered Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, the last U.S. envoy to have been killed in the line of duty was Adolph “Spike” Dubs, in February 1979. Mr. Dubs was shot to death in Room 117 of the Kabul Hotel during a gun battle, after he had been kidnapped by four armed militants posing as police officers.
The differences between the two tragic killings show how much the world has changed in just 33 years.
In 2012, Afghanistan – like Libya and other large swathes of the Middle East – is convulsed by a violent ideological struggle over the role of Islam in public life. But in early 1979, that struggle was still in its infancy. The Shah was still clinging to power in Iran. And the Setami Milli terrorists who seized Spike Dubs weren’t Islamists, but a fringe communist splinter group – just one of hundreds of radical left-wing guerrilla sects that targeted Americans around the world.
With America’s peaceful triumph over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, these radical groups lost their raison d’être, and went extinct en masse. But the terrorist threat from Islamist groups has proven more deadly and robust – because there is no centralized U.S.S.R.-like foe that can be defeated.
The jihadis who have infiltrated the rebel ranks in Syria, like the mobs that invaded the U.S. embassy in Cairo this week, fly a plain black flag – a symbol that bespeaks their nihilistic rejection of the very concept of national sovereignty and organized political movements. In their view, every act of blasphemy against God’s will – or even against his long-dead human prophet, or against a paper-and-ink Koran mass-produced by his prophet’s followers – carries the death penalty. This perversion of Islam is more akin to a death cult than a political movement or a religion.