Thursday, December 07, 2006
The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 occurred 1913 days ago. 2,973 were killed in the attack, the vast majority of them civilians. Most of the deaths occurred when the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was conducted by elements of the Imperial Japanese Navy, comprising six aircraft carriers, two battleships, three cruisers, nine destroyers, eight tankers, 23 fleet submarines, five midget submarines and 441 planes, the largest carrier strike force up to that time. (Source: Wikipedia.).
The attack on September 11 was conducted by 19 men who were agents of al-Qaeda, a non-governmental radical Muslim terrorist group. Fourteen of the terrorists were Saudi subjects, two were from the United Arab Emirates, and one each were Lebanese, Yemeni and Egyptian. (Source: BBC News)
World War II ended 15 August 1945, 1347 days after the Pearl Harbor attack, following the use of two atomic bombs by the US against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Since September 11 the United States has toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq, but fighting continues in both countries. Al-Qaeda and other non-state terrorist actors (some with state sponsorship) are still active around the world. It is possible that in the future al-Qaeda or another terrorist group will obtain one or more nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and successfully deploy them against one or more American cities. If that should occur, I believe the American public will demand that their government bomb somebody back into the Stone Age, and I don't think they'll be too fastidious about determining exactly who the perpetrators are--the attitude is likely to be more like, "Kill them all and let God sort them out."
The nature of the terrorist enemy that the United States (and Western civilization generally) faces today is vastly different from that of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, not to mention the Soviet Union during the Cold War, North Korea and North Vietnam. It seems to me that the war against radical Muslim terrorism is similar to a worldwide counterespionage effort melded with a worldwide campaign against organized crime.
That said, I don't think that either a law enforcement or military model alone is sufficient to counter the threat because the enemy is bigger than a criminal organization but at the same time is decentralized and self-guided, with ad hoc alliances forming and dissolving constantly. Police organizations are overwhelmed by the size of the problem and at the same time are hampered by the "rules of engagement" properly imposed on civilian law enforcement in constitutional democracies. As capable as our military is, I don't think that military action alone can conquer radical Muslim terrorism because the enemy is not a conventional military organization. They hide in the general population, don't wear uniforms and don't give a whit for the "laws of war" that civilized society has developed over centuries. The military rules of engagement are designed to protect civilians, but as a practical matter it is next to impossible to tell the difference between a true civilian and a radical terrorist until the terrorist acts.
I don't think there is a political solution to the problem either, because I believe the foundation for radical Muslim terrorism is cultural and religious, rather than political. My feeling, and fear, is that the problem of radical Muslim terrorism won't go away unless and until the vast majority of the world's 1.2 billion to 1.6 billion Muslims take an active role in ending it.
I believe it is true that the radical terrorists comprise a tiny fraction of the world's Muslims. I believe it is true that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are good people, who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace and pursue happiness in their own way. Edmund Burke said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." From where I sit it is obvious that all of those good Muslims have to date done nothing to end the evil of terrorism, and it doesn't appear to me that they'll find the motivation to do so anytime soon. Not being a scholar of Islam, I worry about whether the Koran and other foundational writings of the faith do in fact sanction such terrorism for the good of Islam.
I don't know what the answer is, but I shudder to think what the future holds for the human race if this cancer of radical Muslim terrorism is not excised. God help us all.
UPDATE: 20061207:1218PST: I didn't read Victor Davis Hanson's column for today before I wrote this. Honest!