The Nation's Pulse

First Principles: Why We Fight

What other choice do we have?

By 1.18.07

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With a watershed election just behind us and an Iraq war troop surge in front, we read and hear daily hundreds of voices in debate over details of our present conflict. Our politicians, in particular, have quibbled over details of the fighting to the point where the principles of the conflict have been obscured.

Mostly that's what politicians do, obscure the real issues. Democrats obscure the real issue in this conflict because, post-Clinton, they have become a party of purely Leninist aims, pursuing power at all costs. Clinton started it with his declaration to Dick Morris, in the matter of impreachment, that "We'll just have to win, then." This blind partisanship has gotten worse, much worse, because of Democrats' poisonous hatred of George W. Bush.

With rare exceptions, like Joe Lieberman, Democrats obviously do not care about anything but themselves, and take no account of the country's welfare whatsoever.

The Republicans are not much better. President Bush knows what the real conflict is about, but seldom says it. Other Republican office holders have betrayed much the same self-dealing deceptiveness as Democrats. Exasperated voters penalized them for it.

SO WHAT IS REALLY going on here? An enemy -- call it what you will -- has declared his intentions to destroy our country, indeed, our entire edifice of Western civilization. I think most people would agree that that is so. Most people have read or heard the words of Osama bin Laden or of Mahmoud Ahmadinijad, and that's what they say, all right. The loss of the forest for the trees begins with how seriously people take that threat.

For a few weeks or months after 9/11, most of the country seemed to take that threat very seriously indeed. I even gloated in print back then that the self-referential moral preeners of the liberal establishment simply had nothing to say, that 9/11 seemed finally to have shut them up. We know now that there is no shutting up that faction in American life. That faction is determined to change American society in its own image, and grows ever more belligerent in its attempts to do so. Terrorists? They are best regarded as a kind of nuisance, or, better, as an indicator of America's faults.

That view, of course, finds stout representation in the establishments of official Washington: The State Department, the CIA, and (unfortunately) much of the former (untransformed) military. The press whoops it up right along with that establishment, all the while posing as speakers of "truth to power." Truth be told, they are the power. George W. Bush is the rebel.

SO WHY TAKE THE THREAT of Islamic terrorists seriously? Several reasons, each of which deserves long treatment. But here they are, in short form.

First, Middle Eastern countries have a history of creating and supporting cat's paw terrorist groups for political ends. Gamel Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt, created the Palestine Liberation Organization. Yasser Arafat took it over with the radicalizing claim that the PLO were "stooges of Nasser." The PLO spun off Black September, and the terror-asymetric movement metastasized. Today, the notable terror organizations, like Hezbollah, are sponsored principally by Iran, whose participation in the movement began with the Khomeini takeover of 1979.

With that takeover, the terrorist movement took on a religious motivation, without which it simply cannot be understood.

So the terrorists are there, well organized into various brigades, with state sponsors, principally Iran, but also including Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt. We could perhaps still regard those organizations as local nuisances, except that they have carried out an escalating series of attacks on America and Americans, and on Europeans and European countries.

Second, in a time when, for all kinds of reasons -- the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the nuclear ambitions of North Korea, the geopolitical maneuverings of the Chinese -- these movements can and will acquire weapons of mass destruction, they cannot be ignored. It is all too imaginable to wake up one day to find an American city turned into a nuclear or disease-ridden ruin.

Third, our enemies know very well how to divide us. They are skilled propaganda warriors. Our present reluctance to face what's really going on plays right into their hands. It gives them time, and time lets them grow stronger.

ON SEPTEMBER 12, 2001, I ran into a friend of mine at a coffee shop. She is practically a parody of an Eastern liberal: A New York psychologist, Jewish, president of her temple, yet. And she is shrewdly aware of being who she is.

"So what do you think?" she asked me.

"I think it's time to go kill those people," I said.

She gave me a grim nod.

We can debate the details of that mission, and we should. But we cannot evade it. If we take the mission seriously, we can perhaps avoid a terrible next attack. But there is no talking to our enemy. That is a joke.

There is only one serious kind of debate. How to kill our enemies most effectively. That is an awful task, an awful charge. But it does happen. It has happened throughout history. It is much better to do it as fast as possible, and have it over and done with.

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.