I. NORTH KOREA
Let’s stipulate, at the outset, that as loony as North Korean President Kim Jong Il seems to be, he almost certainly wouldn’t lob a hydrogen bomb at Los Angeles knowing that the next morning his entire country would be a smoldering hole in the ground. Thus, as we debate the significance of North Korea’s recent decision to test fire a missile potentially capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the continental United States, the critical question should be whether Kim does indeed still recognize that smoldering-hole-in-the-ground outcome.
This isn’t idle psychologizing. The idea that “9/11 changed everything” has become a cliche, but the truth behind it, as I’ve written before, is this: On the day they killed 3000 Americans, Islamic terrorists effectively called our nuclear bluff. If you cannot grasp that basic concept, then, to be blunt, you cannot engage in intelligent debate about American foreign policy. From the end of World War II until 9/11, America’s national security rested, first and foremost, on the belief that a direct attack on the United States would be answered by retaliation on an epic, unimaginable scale. But after Osama bin Laden hit us, and even after the Taliban government in Afghanistan refused to hand him over, we didn’t incinerate Kabul. It was with a scalpel, not a terrible swift sword, that we deposed the Taliban and proceeded to hunt after Osama. The sheathing of America’s terrible swift sword — or, rather, our enemies’ perception of that sheathing, is the essential change in the international landscape since 9/11. It’s the current against which we now swim.
Nevertheless, leading Democrats continue to speak and act as though our deterrence were undiminished. On Meet the Press last Sunday, Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) insisted that we can send a “real simple message” to the North Koreans to prevent their involvement in a direct or indirect nuclear attack on the United States: “You do something like that, we will annihilate you.” He then added, to Tim Russert, “We have the complete capacity to annihilate them.”
Well, yes, we have the capacity. But there’s no longer reason to think we have the will, regardless the provocation.
Indeed, the war in Iraq, of which Biden is now so critical, was triggered by this new reality — and, again, if you cannot get your mind around this idea, you’re never going to understand President Bush’s decision oust Saddam Hussein. Without the prospect of sudden annihilation to deter attacks on the United States, Bush decided that the threat posed by Saddam passing along Iraq’s WMDs — the continued existence of which, it now turns out, even senior Iraqi officials were unsure of — to foreign or home-grown terrorists was no longer tolerable. The fact that Saddam stood in breach of the 1991 cease fire agreement that kept him in power after the first Gulf War provided the necessary fig leaf for Bush to take him out without violating international law.
North Korea, of course, is another kettle of fish. But the underlying reality remains constant. Even though Kim Jong Il’s much-hyped Taepodong II long-range missile failed less than a minute after launch, Kim’s decision to fire it off confronts us again with our post-9/11 state of diminished deterrence. Perhaps Kim is, like a cranky toddler, only rattling his playpen, demanding more attention. Or perhaps he’s calculated, in the way crazy tin pot dictators often calculate, that the moment is right for his ascendancy, that he can become a major player on the world stage, that nothing can hinder him at this point, that America, the only cop left on the beat, would be unwilling to grind out another Iraqi-type war in North Korea…even with a mushroom cloud settling over downtown Los Angeles.
These are perilous times. This is the Post-9/11 Era.
You either understand the connection, or you don’t.
II. THE MIDDLE EAST
Suppose, with one hand, I grab my two-year-old daughter and clutch her to my chest, and, with the other hand, I grab an AK47 and go on a shooting rampage in midtown Manhattan. Now suppose, in order to stop the shooting rampage, the police return fire and wind up killing both me and my daughter. Whose fault is the death of my daughter?
If you answered “the police,” congratulations, you’ve got a future as a terrorist apologist.
After Israel ended its occupation of the Gaza Strip last September, ceding control to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for the prospect of a lasting peace agreement, Hamas terrorists immediately began using the territory to fire Qassam rockets across Israel’s southwestern border and into Israel. The terrorists intentionally launched the weapons from between civilian homes in order to make Israeli retaliation more difficult. Then, two weeks ago, the terrorists staged a kidnapping from Gaza, grabbing an Israeli soldier on border patrol, and demanding the release of thousands of terrorists for his safe return.
To retrieve the solider and end the rocket attacks, Israel sent its military forces back into Gaza — at which point, Hezbollah terrorists, operating out of southern Lebanon, staged their own kidnappings of Israeli soldiers and began firing rockets across Israel’s northern border. Israel is now responding with targeted missile strikes and precision bombings of known Hezbollah locations, which, like Hamas strongholds in Gaza, are intentionally embedded among civilian homes. In the course of Israel’s actions in Gaza and southern Lebanon, hundreds of terrorists have been killed — but so have scores of unarmed civilians.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?