September 14, 2004

Three Years of War

Three years ago, Islamist terrorists hijacked four airliners in the United States. Two of these airliners were deliberately crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City causing massive fires and the collapse of both towers with the loss of over 2,000 lives. A third airliner was deliberately crashed into the “E” ring of the Pentagon causing part of the structure to collapse with a loss of some 200 lives. On board the fourth airliner, ordinary Americans fought back, they thwarted the terrorists’ plans but were unable to control the airplane which crashed in Pennsylvania killing all on board. Shortly after the September attacks President Bush asked for, and received from the Congress of the United States, authorization to conduct what has become known as the Global War on Terror.

In the intervening years, the United States - at the head of various coalitions - has ended the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Both these countries had supported terrorist activities and, in the case of Afghanistan in particular, had provided training bases and political support for the September 11 terrorists and for their leaders including the notorious Osama bin Laden. Despite the political left’s most desperate desires, there is a majority sentiment in this country that the Global War on Terror is worth fighting and that the United States will prevail. However, this war will not end anytime soon.

Something else is going on. One of the Islamists’ most cherished goals has been to disrupt American life to the extent that we would turn inward, and with wringing hands retreat from world affairs. They believed (and still do) that the soft, spoiled Americans would be no match for hardened fanatics murdering in the name of God. In fact, quite the opposite has happened. It seemed the United States was entering a period of semi-isolationism following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now the United States is back and taking a leadership position in world affairs and back with a vengeance.

The Islamists are finding, as others have, that Americans have a spine of steel hidden from view. Ordinary Americans take no more note of “threat level” warnings from the Department of Homeland Security than they do of the nightly weather report. In short, America has buried its dead, turned to the military to kill off the terrorists, and gotten on with life. Like settlers on frontier, though, post 9/11 Americans keep one eye on the horizon and always know where the shotgun is kept. In the Old West after the Apaches or some band of desperados raided a town or settlement word would go out and detachments of U.S. Army Cavalry would be sent out and hunt down the offenders and kill them. For the military, a strategy of “pre-emption” soon emerged where tribes and bands that didn’t surrender of their own accord were pursued on general principle. When engaged in war against small, lethal, and highly mobile bands operating over vast distances pre-emption is a strategy that works.

Worse yet, from the perspective of the Islamists and their war aims, they are in very real danger of being reduced to an irrelevancy. For the most of the world, the Islamists and other groups who desire a return to the glory days of the 11th Century are a pack of rabid vermin gnawing on the hind parts of History. The attack on a Russian schoolhouse last week brought this into sharp focus. The Global War on Terror is a vast exercise in pest control. Like rats, terrorists can never be completely eliminated, but they can be kept out of the house by cleaning out the places where they hide and breed.

Some of our wars have been fought for base reasons, and sometimes America has done things not to be proud of, but one theme remains the same. Throughout its history this country has fought for the rights of the individual against those who would subjugate those rights and for the future against the past.

May it always be so.


Posted by Ted at September 14, 2004 8:56 PM