Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams
Praise for Voice
"A smart fellow...I do like, recommend and learn from Barbera's blog." -Roger L. Simon
"Your blog is bullshit"- anonymous angry French reader.
'Dispute it like a man," says Malcolm to Macduff, when the news reaches him that his whole family has been slain, all his pretty chickens and their dam.
And Macduff replies, "I shall do so; but I must also feel it as a man!"
That is where we were a year ago: a reasonable place to start. The appropriate first response to the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., after rescue efforts, was grief for all our losses. As they were terrorist attacks, intended to instil fear in us, it was also important that we not fear, nor panic. No enemy is defeated by lashing out. An enemy is defeated deliberately.
Where it brought us.
The time had come to look only forward, to "dispute it like a man." We have had a full year to assess the issue before us and, while there are many fine points to be raised about tactics along the way, these are secondary.
Unfortunately, the United States is one year into a complex war, which most other Western countries and fellow targets, just watch them fight. First against Afghanistan and soon against Iraq, the U.S. seeks to do what is painfully necessary to end the threat of massive terror attacks, and its allies carp and second-guess, throwing the odd scrap of aid, usually in expectation of payoffs.
What we need to remember.
But al-Qaeda is only a small part of the problem. Without the complicity of powerful established interests, and the direct patronage of rogue regimes, and co-operation between one terror group and another, no single organization could last very long. From Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda to Yasser Arafat's Fatah, they flourish because they help one another. And they are unreachable because they have so many places to hide, whenever they need to hide -- from Lebanon's Bekaa Valley across a great arc of land to "Azad" Kashmir --and within Somalia, Sudan, Libya, elsewhere.
One must be naive to think the issue reduces to al-Qaeda; catatonic to believe that, for example, Saddam Hussein is not in the thick of terrorist support and planning; or that Hezbollah and Hamas exist to attack Israel alone; or that the Saudi princes are unaware of what their protection money goes to pay for; or a great many other propositions people would like to believe because if they were true, we might not have to fight.
And yet the greatest possible foolishness is to believe that Islamist terrorism is an expression of despair and hopelessness. It is a living, communicating force. It is, no less than Nazism was to the Germans, a response to defeat, victimhood, resentment, despair. But it is the opposite response: like Nazism, Islamism expresses a triumph of the will.
The Islamists think that they are finally winning, that they have found a method to defeat the West, that the United States is a paper tiger. They thrive on appeasement, as the Nazis thrived, and they have no intention of becoming peaceful.
Celebrations will occur today, to mark the anniversary of 9/11, in so many parts of the Muslim world -- from the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, to the Kebayoran mosque in south Djakarta. Imams will be leading prayers to commemorate what they will describe as a great Muslim victory. This is not despair but triumphalism.
There is no possible quick fix to a breach so large in the world's order. And there will be no peaceful way to close it. We are living in a fantasy ourselves if we think it will somehow blow over.
What we must do.
But we have faced that kind of thing before. The Nazis were living an apocalyptic fantasy; so were the fascists of Mussolini's Italy, and the emperor-cultists of Tojo's Japan. In many ways, the antebellum U.S. South once fell into such a collective fantasy, and behaved aggressively in a like way. Such enemies were never going to be won over by reason or negotiation, and every proposal for appeasement strengthened their hand.
One thing and one thing only can rescue the Islamists from their fantasy world -- and that is total, ignominious defeat. But so long as there is a single jurisdiction, anywhere on the planet, where they are free to hide, plot and dream, the war isn't over. Iraq is just the start.
That is the hard fact of life. Only the infantile narcissism in so much of the post-modern West prevents us from seeing it plain. The enemy we confront is defeatable, though it may be a hard and bitter fight.
A question remains about the enemy within: ourselves. Do we have the stomach to do what it will take? Can we stop our whimpering and "dispute it like a man?"
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