When it comes to the delicate question of how to dissipate anti-liberal animus in Muslim communities within Western nations, it’s useful to recall that the liberal bargain can take a range of forms — and that some of those forms seem somewhat better than others at inspiring Muslim allegiance. The Islamic community in the United States, for example, is more fully integrated into American life and much less radicalized than analogous (but much larger) communities in Europe. That is no doubt in part because American law and mores permit a larger role for religion in public life than does, say, the French republican ideology of public secularism (laïcité). That might point toward the wisdom of adopting something closer to the American model of church-state relations on the European continent.

As for the West’s interactions with the wider world, there we must be lucid about the limits of our power. The most illiberal elements in contemporary Islamic civilization will either come around in time to see the value of the liberal bargain or they won’t. There’s very little that we in the West can do to hasten that reckoning and reevaluation. It certainly won’t be catalyzed by additional military escapades in the Middle East and South Asia that only inflame anti-Western sentiments.

And that points above all to the need for patience — and the resolve to keep our cool and muddle through what could be a long era of civilizational tension and mutual suspicion that simply cannot be resolved on the battlefield.

When confronted with an intractable problem, sometimes the wisest, most courageous thing to do is wait it out.