In calling for a united effort to rid the world of terrorism, America has raised a standard to which all nations of the Earth must repair, or face a future of anarchy.
It would be a pleasant surprise if a statesman (in contradistinction to politico or pundit) were to appear on the TV-screen and say that we urgently need to think through the differences between a terrorist hunt and a war between nations, and strive to pursue the one to a successful conclusion without getting into the other!
Too bad ole honest Abe Lincoln is not still around to caution us, as he did in 1861, "This war was got up drunk, but it will have to be settled sober." We are cold sober, but grief and anger can blind too. A single shot fired at Ft. Sumter was all it took to spark the Civil War, which cost the lives of 622,511 Americans before it was settled at not-so-sober Appomattox.
As the world champ when it comes to due process and all that jazz, you would think we Would want to set a good example by exhausting political, economic and judicial remedies before resorting to military action.
We slap the wrists of the Israelis for over-reacting, yet here we go into full mobilization. War is nothing more nor less than all-out, licensed reciprocal terrorism, so it is no way to put terrorism down, or win friends and influence people.
This is not to say that punishment of the guilty is not imperative. Without punishment of crime there would be no such thing as civilization.
But it would be a poor tribute indeed to the 5,000 innocent Americans who have already died if we were to compound that atrocity by killing as many or more innocent Muslims--and no telling how many more Americans in the process. And in that event, would God bless America?
We bemoan the centuries-old cycles of violence that characterize much of the world, and now the terrorists have sparked one, which could engulf the whole world. Our job is to stop it, not accelerate it.
We must take care not to let our righteous wrath cause us to stop to fighting terror with terror. Which would be both unavailing and self-defeating. Instead of a world freed from terrorism, we might very well bring on an everlasting global reign of terror. Nobody needs that.
Not yet said out loud is the inevitable world reaction, 'Uncle Sam can dish it out, yea, even on the scale of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; but when his turn comes to. Take it, he freaks out."
The real test of American determination to see justice done is whether we can keep our cool, and not go off half-cocked and shooting from the hip.
That would be altogether too reminiscent of the British redcoats who, bagpipes swirling, marched into the American wilderness straight into a redskin ambush.
Nor do we need a repeat performance of the ill-fated Children's Crusades, or Waco, where officialdom decided, when the Christian fundamentalists inside refused to come out, to reduce them to gray dust.
The purpose of the recent attack upon us was destruction, yes, but it was also intended as a provocation. We must see through that, and not play into the hands of the enemy by enlarging his ranks a billion-fold.
As a downhome example of how this sort of terrorist mentality works, we have only to look back at the series of child murders the KKK carried out in Atlanta, in the hope that blacks would respond by rioting against whites, and the KKK could use that as an excuse to launch a jihad to restore Jim Crow apartheid and white rule.
America rightly prides itself on being the land of the free and home of the brave, but it is regrettably also the land of the lynch mob. That particular form of terrorism is notorious for not caring very much whether its victim is guilty or not, just so it draws blood. Let us pray that what we are about to do will not bear any resemblance to that, and that we will nail the real goats, not scapegoats.
The first thing an artillery recruit hears when he gathers around a big gun is his sarge saying, "Aiming point identified!'
In the instant case, the problem is that neither the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense, or Commander in Chief are able to say, ''Aiming point identified!''
We say that terrorism has declared war against us, so we have in effect declared war against Terrorists Unknown. To show them and the world that we mean business, we are mobilizing and preparing for war. But nobody knows for sure who and where the enemy is. We have a lot of "smart bombs," but they are not smart enough to chase shadows on the move in the dark.
In the wake of Pearl Harbor, identifying the perpetrators was no problem, and we proceeded accordingly. But in this sneak attack the 'Infamous 19" who struck the blow forfeited their own lives in the process. (The way- we read the Scriptures--which Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike hold sacred--they went straight to Hell, not Heaven.)
Before we squeeze the trigger, we need to make sure we are not following in the footsteps of those 19th century cannoneers who fired salvos at street intersections to "dispel the miasma" which everyone felt sure was the cause of yellow fever.
What has not yet fully penetrated the political, military, and public mind is the fact that, in a single day, September 11, 2001 A.D., the Atomic Age may have been superseded by the Age of the Box-Cutter.
It is now all too apparent that not even The Superpower's atomic arsenal (capable of wiping out the world seven times over), ICBMs galore, and a missile shield like no other on earth, offer any protection against a bin Laden terrorist armed with a box-cutter--or a McVeigh driving a U-haul full of hay and fertilizer, for that matter.
Even our $120 billion down payment on a warchest may avail us naught, so long as there are any terrorists left alive, and a box-cutter can be had for $1.29 plus tax.
And as we know, the box-cutter is just one of an infinite number of weapons available to terrorists for small, medium, and mass destruction. Matches are cheapo, gas cheap enough, and biological and chemical warfare well within reach.
There is of course nothing new about conventional modes of warfare (bow-and-arrow, catapult, cavalry) being surpassed by some technological breakthrough in weaponry. Comes now the lowly box- cutter, capable of converting a passenger liner into a kamikaze dive bomb, trumping everything the Pentagon has to offer.
A world-class army, navy and air force will always be handy things to have around, but it may be that our Defense Department is going to have to add on a new branch of service to cope with terrorism At its head we need something other than the military, police, or counterspy perspective, such as a statesman with a broad and objective understanding of what is going on in the world.
Just as ominous a terrorist war is the prospect of a terrorist "peace.'
The chain-reaction scenario, which could bring about a global reign of terror goes like this:
If that should come to pass, w e may be looking back with nostalgia to those halcyon days of the Cold War, when the two superpowers kept a super abundance of atomic missiles trained on each other, in a sort of serene Balance-of-Terror.
Our position that any nation that is harboring terrorists must hand them over for judgment, or "suffer the consequences," is valid enough in the circumstances.
In so doing we might take a page from our colonial history, whereby we sometimes avoided reciprocal scalping parties by letting Indian chiefs capture and punish their own. Given that any Muslim head-of-state who hands over anything to Uncle Sam is a dead duck, why not follow the lead of Pakistan, and give Muslim chiefs or the Arab League the first crack at carrying that ball? This is why a coalition is needed as never before; many regimes can give in to a coalition, but would rather die than give in to the US.
To preempt any charge of a double standard, will we be asking Britain to surrender the IRA, Japan the sect, which gassed its subways, and Nigeria its Christian minority "terrorists"?
Before we get in much deeper, some of our hunting partners may want to know whether, after we have finished bombing the training camps at Kandahar, Kunar, Paktia, and Nangarhar in Afghanistan, are we also going to bomb the aviation schools in Opa Locka, Del Ray, Daytona, Venice and the nine other Florida cities where the hijacker pilots were trained?
The same questioner may also want to know whether President Bush intends to bomb his brother Gov. Jeb Bush in Tallahassee for allowing so many terrorists to be harbored and trained in Florida.
If we (meaning the family of nations) are to ever succeed in eradicating terrorism (a mission almost as impossible as eradicating AIDS) we must know the enemy for what it is and is not.
Terrorists come in a wide variety of forms, faiths, complexions and nationalities, and with all sorts of agendas. But one thing they have in common: the sick notion that the way to make points and move their agendas is to blow up crowds of innocent people, the more the merrier, and they don't give a damn how they do it.
Generally speaking, terrorism is the weapon, perhaps not of choice but of necessity, of people who, rightly or wrongly, feel they are up against an oppressor who has a monopoly on the instruments of power. More often than not, they are convinced that they are God-guided. Even we Americans, when we were revolutionaries, assured ourselves that resistance to tyranny is obedience to God." The big difference was, we never thought God told us to blow up non-combatants.
Often, the question of just who is a terrorist devolves into the question of who's In and who's Out. There is a global tendency for incumbents to brand their opponents terrorists; and for the opponents, so soon as they turn the tables, to pin the label on the erstwhile incumbents.
Our leaders are repeatedly telling us that this was an 'attack upon civilization and humanity." - But nobody consciously embarks upon a suicide mission for any such reasons.
If we refuse to look at where the Muslim world is coming from, and address its grievances real and fancied, the terrorists will keep on coming, time without end. Like cannibalism, piracy, and slavery before it, terrorism has got to go!
The United Nations was founded for just such purposes, and it alone (not some jerrybuilt Made-in -USA coalition) can do the job.
Sad to say, of late Uncle Sam has been strutting about the world stage, telling one and all--friends and foes alike-- to "bug off" in such vital matters as disarmament, environment, and human rights. It's really a wonder, now that we are crying Help, that anyone responds.
There is plenty of room on this one-and-only livable planet for all cultures to co-exist on a basis of equality, mutual respect, fair-play, self-determination, and non-interference. It has to be that, or nothing.