Rage and Reason in the War on Terror
By: Michael Nevin, Jr.
For the better part of two decades America had a flaccid response to Islamic terror campaigns bent on destroying our civilization. Beginning with the American embassy hostage crisis in Iran and followed by the military pullout in Lebanon after hundreds of Marines were slaughtered, the United States left an early impression that we were not up to the challenge and unsure exactly how to effectively deal with extreme elements of Islam. At least throughout the 1980s one could argue the Soviet threat was a good reason for American policy makers to focus primarily on Kremlin activities. In fact, at the time it made sense to support the Mujahideen as they battled the Soviets in Afghanistan. Realpolitik is based on complicated alliances as history can attest. But history is also full of missed opportunities and gathering storms that leave us begging the question: What if.?
What if America had not taken a “holiday from history”-to coin a phrase from the venerable Charles Krauthammer-during the 1990s when radical Islam arose as the foremost national security threat? Although we showed the world from time to time that we were not afraid to engage a menace in Baghdad or the Balkans, the 1990s proved to be a decade where a deadly ideology went unfettered and metastasized as America stood on the sidelines. The first World Trade Center bombing (1993), the Khobar Towers bombing (1996), dual American embassy bombings in Africa (1997), and the USS Cole attack (2000) should have been more than enough evidence proving that radical Islam was a clear and present danger. While federal agents were perfectly able to drag little Elian Gonzalez from his relatives’ home in Miami only to return him to a destitute existence in Cuba, America was less than deft in protecting her interests from Islamic extremists.
A new century brought old challenges that would test American strength. But before military commanders could plot a response to 9/11, unsuspecting and ill-prepared civilians would be tasked with planning a counteroffensive in the skies above Pennsylvania. Armed with nothing more than knowledge of prior events involving other hijacked planes, the passengers of Flight 93 took the fight to the enemy and disrupted the plot to hit another target in Washington D.C. If someone could bottle the collective rage felt by Americans that day, they would possess quite a powerful weapon. Rage is a necessary accelerant that keeps the home fires burning when we send troops into battle. But unless Americans believe-and are reminded-that we are engaged in a battle threatening our very existence, rage will dissipate and patience will wear thin.
The mainstream media and the left are engaged in a full frontal assault but their target doesn’t hide in caves in Afghanistan or operate human slaughter houses in Ramadi-he works in the West Wing. This coterie stands opposed to any effort proposed or supported by the Bush administration. The Bush administration can stand to do a better job of communicating its message, but it would be unwise to expect anything could sway the opinion of these dedicated antagonists. In fact, the mainstream media rely on push polls to advance their agenda to weaken the president as most leftists just lap it up. They may, in fact, wind up being successful but the cost will include a weaker America-something many of them would prefer.
The recent hubbub over the National Security Agency (NSA) underscores a serious problem in the way we wage war. The problem isn’t the Terrorist Surveillance Program, data mining, or communications-network analysis-all reasonable measures meant to keep us safe. The problem is disinformation spread by the media and leaks inside our own government. When playing partisan politics trumps defending America I wonder if we are strong enough to overcome the internal conflict dividing Americans. In defending the NSA the U.S. Department of Justice explained: “The NSA program is an ‘early warning system’ with only one purpose: to detect and prevent the next attack on the United States from foreign agents hiding in our midst. It is a program with a military nature that requires speed and agility.”[Emphasis mine] That last sentence is critical. Radical Islam has made no secret of its intent to vanquish western civilization. While the enemy beheads or enslaves captured “infidels,” we waste
our time putting an al Qaeda 9/11 conspirator on trial in civilian court. That’s absurd.
Defeatists and Bush-haters will continue to wreak havoc on America’s ability to defend herself, but the president and his allies must not be deterred from focusing on a real, lethal enemy. This is an enemy committed to a long war and they are prepared to die for their cause. Americans who understand the overall conflict better come to grips with the fact that a protracted effort is required for success. Intelligence gathering, special ops, and brute force will be indispensable tactics our government should employ in this asymmetrical war. Rage and reason should be guiding the rest of us along the way.
Michael Nevin, Jr. is a contributor to several Internet websites and a staff writer for the New Media Alliance. He receives e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.