9/11 musings

I’m not feeling too inspired lately, so I’ll reprint something from my blog archives. Here’s my very first posting on the War on Terror:

What is a coward? President Bush says that suicide terrorist attacks are cowardly. Bill Maher disagrees, claiming that “lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away” more truly defines the word. Neither one of them is right.
Courage is the act of putting oneself in jeopardy in order to rescue someone. Cowardice occurs when one is in a situation in which that person is reasonably expected to perform a courageous act but is too frightened to do so; the list of situations that do and do not demand courageousness is way to long to be summarized here. Waging an attack from a safe distance in order to rescue someone is just plain smart; you have no obligation to become a martyr if you can beat the bad guys without placing yourself at such risk. (Someone should tell Mr. Maher that the real issue is whether or not any particular missile attack really does hinder or eliminate threats to peace.) There is no word in the English language for what the 9/11 terrorists did – putting oneself in jeopardy (if not committing suicide) in order to harm someone – although we do have a lot of adjectives like “evil” that describe the mindset behind such activity.
Giving peace a chance. A number of celebrities, Richard Gere being one of the more conspicuous, believe that our response to 9/11 should be one of “compassion,” not “violence.” This “if we will be nice to them, they’ll be nice to us” crowd misses several points:

  1. If someone is trying to kill you out of hate, stopping the attempt at murder takes priority over stopping the hate.
  2. Waging violent war against a murderous entity demonstrates compassion toward that entity’s intended victims.
  3. We’re not starting a war – we’re responding to one declared against us.
  4. Arab terrorist organizations fight us not because they think we’re uncompassionate but because they think we’re the greatest obstacle to Islamic totalitarianism.

I’d like to see a version of “The Jackal” where the Gere character uses compassion to stop the Bruce Willis character from carrying out the planned assassination.
Our enemies. One of the greatest obstacles to the War on Terror is the lack of consensus on just who the enemy is. An objective analysis identifies our enemies as all nations that aid or abet terrorist organizations that want us dead. We attacked Afghanistan because its ruling Taliban clearly fit the bill. Iraq’s role in actually aiding al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks is subject to debate; nevertheless, Saddam Hussein is a malignant enemy of peace and must eventually be taken out. So must the governments of the other two major sponsors of terror in the Middle East – Iran and Syria, without whom Islamic Jihad and Hamas, respectively, would not be as powerful as they are today. Actually, all of the Arab governments need to be taken out. It’s been pointed out by a number of people that democracies rarely wage war on each other. Peace will come to the Middle East when the Middle East wants it, and as long as totalitarian dictators call the shots it won’t.
I’m not saying that we should declare war on the entire Arab world (unless it should ever openly declare war on us). There’s three ways to take out a government: hot war, cold war, and diplomacy. It’s going to take some combination of all three to get the Arab world on the side of representative government and individual liberty. Time will tell which of the three should options should be applied to which nations. Maybe some sort of perestroika will sweep the Arab world someday.
Our allies. These nations are the primary reason for the lack of consensus on who the enemy is. Our nominal allies in the Arab are not jumping on the bandwagon for attacking Iraq this time around, although that could change, and there may even be some hope for getting some of them on board for action against Iran someday (but probably not soon). Syria they view as a friend, however. (They like Cuba, too. Go figure.) Europe oohs and ahhs when terrorists win Nobel Peace Prizes and is too scared of its sizeable Arab populations to be all that useful to us; we should accept its help whenever it makes itself available but not take it for granted. (Maybe we should try to get Japan and Korea to help; they don’t have Arab immigrant populations to worry about.) Ironically, Russia and some of its former republics, particularly Uzbekistan and Georgia, seem to be helping us out more than our NATO allies.