Terror comes to France

People gather in solidarity of the victims of a terror attack against a satirical newspaper, in Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Wednesday's shocking terror attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is further evidence that radical Islam sees itself at war with the civilized world. And it is clearly determined to target Western values - including freedom of speech.

At least two masked gunmen killed 10 members of the magazine staff and two policemen, and wounded at least 11 others before escaping. Reports indicate that the attack was revenge for satirical portrayals of radical Islamists and Mohammed.

The murderous assault also shows the rising risk of violence spilling over from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan into urban Europe and, potentially, the United States. And it exposes the dangerous lack of information about recent developments in the Middle East, including the operations of the Islamic State.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., offered this apt reaction Wednesday: "Simply stated, radical Islam - through extreme violence and intimidation - is trying to replace our way of life with theirs. I have no doubt they will ultimately fail, but the question is how many will be injured or killed before that day arrives?"

Sen. Graham called for rethinking the Obama administration's approach to this threat. Having discarded the term "War on Terror," the White House appears poorly prepared to meet the threat of rising Islamic State (ISIS) violence in the Middle East and to determine what it means for the terror threat in Europe and the United States.

As a result, said Sen. Graham, "I fear our intelligence capabilities, those designed to prevent such an attack from taking place on our shores, are quickly eroding. ... President Obama should immediately change his interrogation and detention policies as we are gradually losing the ability to detect, disrupt and prevent future terrorist attacks."

That would mean, for instance, making use of the Guantanamo prison rather than trying to shut it down.

In an interview with CNN, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson echoed the concern that we know too little of the evolving terrorist threat.

While Secretary Johnson is naturally concerned about obtaining adequate funding for his department, the problem is obviously larger than the challenges facing his agency. It rests with the president's sense of priorities. He has put various domestic issues - health care, immigration, investment in green industries, and so forth - at the forefront of his presidency and tried to de-emphasize the national security threats we face.

President Obama's approach may remain popular with many war-weary Americans.

But it can create a dangerous vulnerability with the rise of the Islamic State.

Or as columnist Noah Feldman speculates on today's Commentary page, al-Qaida might be trying to re-assert itself on the terror front rather than let ISIS steal a march on it.

Regardless, dire realities have forced President Obama to re-engage American forces in the Middle East. The administration is still playing catchup to the damage done by its premature abandonment of Iraq, one that gave new life to radical Islamist forces and their war with the West.

The Paris massacre appears to be a chilling warning of more trouble to come.