The security bottom line: It is impossible for civil society to defend itself against the sheer, barbaric insanity of Islamic extremism.
The political bottom line: Suicidal implosion in the Muslim world is what fuels the crisis of Democracy far beyond its borders -- the rise of Trump, Brexit, the explosive growth of neo-fascist xenophobia everywhere.
There are, of course, other factors in this profound crisis -- the arming of America, the cynicism of pseudo-populist demagogues, the broad assault on civil liberties and regulatory structures, the campaign against what remains of a responsible press, the triumph of viral rumor over documented fact. Although few of these phenomena are entirely new, today all of them derive their spurious but powerful legitimacy from the menace of terrorism, both real and perceived.
The mass-psychological bottom line: Perception is lethal. The actual toll of Islamic violence beyond the Middle East and Africa is statistically null compared to the human cost of the Developed World's own insanities in the 20th Century -- the 75-90 million victims of Great Power nationalism and ideological conflict between August 1914 and August 1945. Yet Democracy largely prevailed over the unprecedented carnage of two world wars and their Cold War aftermath, while it is foundering today.
What can be done? That is the defining question of our time, and at the moment, there is nothing close to a satisfactory answer.
Frank Viviano © 2016
Frank Viviano is a Sicilian-American journalist and foreign correspondent.
Art: Dan Hubig @ 1979