On the other hand, Greenwald’s argument is both banal and incomplete. It’s banal because, by Greenwald’s criteria, every country with great power or even regional aspirations should be awash in terrorism right now. As bellicosity goes, Canada is way down on the list of countries. There’s obviously the United States and United Kingdom, but there’s also, you know, Russia and China and Iran and Saudi Arabia and Turkey and North Korea and… well, you get the point. Furthermore, if Greenwald thinks Canada is wallowing in war glory, I’d really love for him to focus on the Russian response to its actions in Ukraine, or the Chinese response to its actions in the Senkyakus. If the logic were as simple as “if Country A uses force, it will be awash in terrorist responses,” then Moscow and Beijing would be besieged by suicide bombers.
No, the reason there’s shock in Canada and elsewhere is that democracies at least claim to adhere to jus in bello when they prosecute violent conflicts, whereas some of their opponents do not agree to those parts of the just war canon. When Russia invades Ukraine or mucks around in Sweden or the Baltic states, Moscow is not anticipating that it will be awash in Estonian suicide attacks. Similarly, when China bullies the Philippines, it’s not anticipating Filipino terrorist responses. Democracies do not always adhere to the rules governing armed conflict, but they do tend to shy away from terrorist responses.
It’s possible that the deep source of frustration behind Greenwald’s post is that voters in Canada and other democracies continue to support a robust anti-terrorism response — despite what Greenwald sees as catastrophic anti-terrorist policies. But that’s democracy. It’s not enough to criticize existing policies as stupid — one has to persuade voters that there’s a better way. And despite the fact that publics can and should be receptive to this message, it hasn’t played all too well in elections. Which suggests that Greenwald needs to do a better job with persuasion than he has to date.