On Wednesday, after a Canadian soldier was killed in what appears to be a deliberate car attack by a radicalized Muslim convert, but before the shootings in Ottawa, Glenn Greenwald published a jeremiad decrying the official Canadian response to the first killing. The key paragraphs:

The right-wing Canadian government wasted no time in seizing on the incident to promote its fear-mongering agenda over terrorism, which includes pending legislation to vest its intelligence agency, CSIS, with more spying and secrecy powers in the name of fighting ISIS. A government spokesperson asserted “clear indications” that the driver “had become radicalized.”….
It is always stunning when a country that has brought violence and military force to numerous countries acts shocked and bewildered when someone brings a tiny fraction of that violence back to that country. Regardless of one’s views on the justifiability of Canada’s lengthy military actions, it’s not the slightest bit surprising or difficult to understand why people who identify with those on the other end of Canadian bombs and bullets would decide to attack the military responsible for that violence.
That’s the nature of war. A country doesn’t get to run around for years wallowing in war glory, invading, rendering and bombing others, without the risk of having violence brought back to it. Rather than being baffling or shocking, that reaction is completely natural and predictable. The only surprising thing about any of it is that it doesn’t happen more often.
The issue here is not justification (very few people would view attacks on soldiers in a shopping mall parking lot to be justified). The issue is causation. (Bolded italics mine)

On the one hand, when you strip away the polemical parts of Greenwald’s post, he has a point on causation. International Relations 101 tells us that when Country A attacks Country B, there will usually be a military response. In cases where Country A is pretty damn powerful, it will not be surprising if that response is asymmetrical — guerrilla warfare, terrorism, etc. Furthermore, there’s an entire literature on enduring rivalries that examines why particular dyads in world politics seem to fight each other again and again and again and again.

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.