Chapter 8: Observations on the War on Terror
The current conflict between terrorism and the modern world, like it or not, is the most important struggle of our lifetime. There is as much at stake here as there was in the two World Wars and the Cold War. Maybe even more so; Kaiser Bill, the Nazis and the Communists were at least products of Western civilization, albeit a nastier faction of the West than the faction that defeated them. Now that we have been fighting terrorism for several years, only four groups of people in the West still don't see the threat posed to their way of life by militant Islam. Those are:
First, there isn't a clear date as to when the War on Terror started. You may be saying right now that it started on September 11, 2001, but if you do so, you forget that Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States three years earlier. Did it start then? With the attack on the U.S.S. Cole? The bombing of the US embassies in Africa? The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center? Hezbollah's 1983 attacks on the peacekeeping troops stationed in Lebanon? Or did it begin all the way back in 1979, when Iranian militants took 65 Americans hostage and held most of them for 444 days?
Second, the terrorists are not declared combatants, with flags and uniforms to call their own. You probably wouldn't recognize them as enemy warriors, if you met one of them on the street. Women, children and even animals are occasionally used as suicide bombers, especially in Israel. And while we've been led to believe the typical terrorist is a man of Middle Eastern ancestry, between the ages of 17 and 40, they can also come from anywhere else, or be native-born converts. Examples of these include the following:
Third, the totalitarian ideology in this war has more believers. An estimated 1.3 billion people--one fifth of the world's population--claim Islam as their religion; Mohammed is the world's most common first name. A 2008 survey reported that only 7 percent of Moslems favor terrorism and a society governed by the Shari'a, but that's still a problem; it means Islam has 91 million potential terrorists! And I suspect that the real percentage is higher, judging from the way moderate Moslems have been so silent when extremists make their religion look bad. At the height of the Cold War, communism claimed a billion followers, but those were coerced followers. Long before the collapse of the Soviet Union, most of its citizens stopped taking Marxist philosophy seriously. Even fewer believed in Fascism or Nazism; most of those who did were confined to a few countries (mainly Germany, Italy and Japan), and only in Spain and Portugal did a Fascist dictatorship last for two generations.
Fourth, there's the creepy death cult promoted by Moslem extremists. Some will compare it to the kamikaze pilots of World War II, or the monks in South Vietnam who burned themselves to death to protest an anti-Buddhist government. Well, keep in mind that the monks did not try to take anybody with them. As for the kamikazes, remember that they only attacked military targets, and their tactic was an act of desperation. The Japanese started turning their planes into flying bombs late in 1944; at this point, the war had less than a year to go, and most observers knew Japan was going to lose. Aside from the Japanese, who were motivated by samurai teachings about an honorable death, most Fascists, Nazis and communists lived for the present, and didn't want to die for the cause if they could help it. Nikita Khrushchev, for example, frightened the West when he said, "We will bury you," but he wasn't willing to sacrifice Moscow for a chance to obliterate New York City. By contrast, today's terrorists value dying more than living, and are in a hurry to go from this world to the next one. That means we won't be able to contain Islamic fundamentalism by threatening to destroy it, the way the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine kept the United States and the Soviet Union from using nuclear weapons on each other. MAD doesn't work against those who are truly mad.
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