Our Opinion: Terror succeeds if West goes for the bait


The Paris attacks, according to Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, were "an organized attempt to destroy Western civilization." Like his older brother, Mr. Bush has a gift for dangerous hyperbole.

The horrific attacks were an organized attempt to cause terror by a group capable of killing innocent civilians but not of destroying civilization. By its actions, ISIS would love to trigger anti-Muslim hysteria in the West that it can sell as a holy war in rallying recruits and posing a greater threat than it does.

Taking the bait, unfortunately, was Massachusetts' otherwise reasonable Republican governor Charlie Baker, who said Monday he is not willing to accept Syrian refugees into the state. He joined eight other Republican governors who made similar pledges. A voice of reason was Democratic Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who declared that "It's the spirit of all Vermonters to ensure that when you have folks who are drowning, who are dying in pursuit of freedom, that Vermont do its part."

Refugees must be carefully screened, as Governor Shumlin said, and screening doesn't mean accepting only Christian refugees, as Mr. Bush suggested. Applying religious litmus tests is un-American.

At a press conference Monday, President Obama resisted being pressed by Republicans and reporters into rash actions or statements. Paris does present an opportunity for a broader coalition against ISIS consisting of many countries, including Russia, that have a common interest in defeating ISIS.

That would be a constructive response to Friday's tragedy. Punishing the innocent rather than the guilty or playing into ISIS' strategy with misguided overreactions would constitute a destructive response, similar to that in America post-9/11. Let's not make that mistake again.


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