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Some Impressions on the War on Terrorism

The core issue still remains this: How real is the threat of terrorism? The experts have convinced me that the threat is real. Does this give carte blanche to the U.S. or any other country to fight a war on terrorism? It does, provided that the aim is clear, the intelligence is true, and the results are effective.

Two fears crop up. One is that nothing will happen for awhile, the country will get complacent, it will let its guard down and then be vulnerable to attack. The other fear is that in the next two years an attack will occur on U.S. soil that competes with 9/11 for its brutality and carnage. This would have an immeasurably worse effect than 9/11 since it will appear, at that time, that the U.S. is defenseless. After invading two countries, killing and capturing many Al-Queda operatives, using every means of intelligence to get a bead on terrorist networks, with Homeland Security, and the rest in place, it would appear the country is an open and easy target that would result in some kind of crazed response. That is a fear.

The deeper question is, "has the divisions in the world come to this? Is the hatred for the technologically superior West so profound that bands of people would dedicate themselves to try and destroy it, using its own technology?"

And what happens to the crucial element of critique when such fears run rampant?

America does not desire to be scorned and hated by the world. And a prudent observer of the world needs to separate the authentic feelings from the fabricated ones generated by religious and political leaders who see an excellent opportunity to deflect attention on their own short-comings. And you have to throw in a good deal of the global intellectual community into that pot; envious as they are of the success the U.S. has had in defeating totalitarian doctrine.

What would people have the U.S. do? And, if the U.S. were to vanish from the scene tomorrow, would the world be a better place? Would all its problems be solved? I doubt seriously whether they would be solved. In fact, when the U.S. disappears from the stage the world will descend into a dark age again and utterly new configurations will arise from the carnage and muck; perhaps several centuries worth.

What the American people need to fathom is that the Soviet Union, too, had a great military, a very sophisticated police and intelligence network, an impressive industrial base, a hearty population of many millions, huge natural resources in a larger land mass, and yet disappeared. It does no good to hide behind the power of your own nation. You need to continually express and manifest the best qualities of that nation. You must continually build as if a future counts.

Certainly, there are times when fear has the upperhand. When fear says, "this is the most dangerous period of time that America has faced." And it even empties out a scenario that would go along this direction: Several countries, who feel oppressed by the presence of American power, decide that it would be fitting if it were taken down a notch or two. And they would outfit a motley band of terrorists to carry out a series of devastating attacks on vital American interests. And the result would be a deep recession that would result in the shattering of American hegemony. Is not the world that treacherous? I think it can be.

We would survive but be diminished and never regain our footing at the pinnacle of world power. That would result in a wholesale change in history as wars would break out between alliances. The world would exhaust itself and, finally, this epoch, our epoch of science, democracy, technology, capitalism, would end.

Could a Roman citizen in the rule of Marcus Aurelius, see what was going to happen to the Empire in a century or two?

Obviously, these fears were present during the Cold War. But, again, perhaps the Cold War simply prepared the way for the major superpowers to be destroyed by the weapons they fashioned to scare off the other. These are fears. And they arise naturally in the types of hatreds that have been spewed of late. And the weapons that are on the fingertips of hatred. Fears. Not reality, but fears. We need to exercise wisdom in relation to our fears.

Posted June 18, 2003

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David Eide
copyright 2003
March 27, 2003