A war is coming.
My first thought when I saw the Twin Towers burning on 9/11/2001 was “I’ve been expecting this for twenty years”. Sixty years of feckless diplomacy; rewarding radicals and punishing moderates, had made it inevitable that some idiot would attack America. I was simply surprised that it had taken so long. I had no great expectations for George Bush, either. I expected that he would be bullied by the likes of Teddy Kennedy into a course of ineffectual letters of protest and U.N. resolutions. I was wrong.
Bush took the best information he could get, went to a thoroughly spooked Congress, and got a blank check. He put together two very well planned operations, and demonstrated to the world that America could take out two well entrenched, heavily armed governments in a matter of weeks. He fought a limited war by limited means for limited ends, and did so very effectively. If he had been one half as effective on the home front, I think it highly likely that the various terrorist organizations would have taken to the hills and be so far out on the fringes of the world that they would have to ship in daylight.
Unfortunately Bush’s enemies at home were more successful. The concatenation of trendy media types, university intellectuals, and political left activists that passes for leadership of the Democrat Party hated (and still hates) Bush. He had had the temerity to object to Al Gore’s fairly crude attempts to steal the 2000 election, for one thing. For another, they were probably afraid that he would use their trendy flirtations with Radical Islam as an excuse to purge the Universities, since that is what they would have done in his place. The idea that he had more important things on his mind than persecuting academic idiots would not have occurred to them.
In consequence the force of the object lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan has been seriously blunted. The world may have had proof that we can occupy pretty much any capitol city other than Beijing in two weeks from a standing start, but they have room to believe that we lack the will to do so. The drumbeat of disunity from our home media combines with sixty years of appeasement of Islamic radicals to ensure that we will be attacked again, and yet again, until something changes.
There are people on the political Right who profess to worry that Islam will bury us if we don’t take action. I seriously doubt it. The Islamic Radicals do not have the power to destroy us. What they do have the power to do is goad us into losing our tempers. For all the drama and tragedy of 9/11, it was largely a failure. Had the crashes taken place two hours later the death tool might well have been ten times what it was. In the decade following 9/11 I often encountered hand-wringing Liberals who declared themselves ashamed that we had “lashed out in unreasoning fear and anger”. They were always faintly offended when I would say we hadn’t done anything of the kind. If we had “lashed out in unreasoning fear and anger” after 9/11, Mecca would not be standing. Should a terrorist attack kill ten times the number that perished on 9/11, unreasoning anger will be a real probability. I don’t think that either the Islamic Radicals or the American Political Left have any appreciation of this. Which is unfortunate, because it puts us on a straight track to trouble.
The Left will keep beating the anti-war drum, no matter who is in office. They can’t help it. Too much of their present political identity is tied up in the Vietnam narrative. So they will cry “give peace a chance” louder or softer, depending on who is in the White House and Congress, but cry it they will. They will do everything they think they can get away with to make it harder to identify and neutralize terrorist threats, whether civil rights are being violated or not. And whatever security apparatus remains when they are done will be far more interested in securing its budget than in finding trouble. So terrorists will slip through. They probably won’t get to anything very crucial, and no planeload of American passengers is going to sit frozen in place while their transport is used as a missile – not again, anyway. But there are places a terrorist cell could infiltrate without too much trouble, and operate for quite some time with little to worry them.
Detroit is the place that keeps coming to my mind. The city has lost a quarter of its population over the space of ten years. It is falling apart, bankrupt, and corrupt. A terrorist cell could operate almost openly without distracting the city from its own troubles. I don’t believe that the kind of people who operate terrorist cells are likely to build an atomic bomb without dying of radiation poisoning. But atomics are not the only way, or even the easiest, to make a huge explosion.
Say that a large fuel-air explosion takes place in central Detroit tomorrow. It wipes out an area of a few hundred meters, and starts fires all over. Immediate deaths, if they were a tenth part of the city populace, would be 70,000, twenty times the death toll of 9/11. And America would not have to be twenty times as outraged, afraid, and angry as we were after 9/11 for the consequences of such an attack to be very grave indeed. The sitting President, whether Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, would have little choice but to respond with brutal military force. The populace wouldn’t stand for anything else. Americans may look disunited most of the time, but give them a cause, and injury to avenge, and a direction, and they can make life extremely unpleasant for their enemies. Ask the Japanese for references.
Moreover, with the Left’s “Can’t we all just get along” thoroughly discredited, there would be no holding the witch hunts. Bush wasn’t interested in jailing nitwit academics who played Radical Chic games with Palestinian activists to try to persuade themselves that their opinions mattered. Let the terrorists kill even 10,000 Americans at a stroke, and no further such forbearance will be forthcoming. Trendy intellectuals will get slung into prison so hard they bounce, as will anti-war protesters. And requests to see their ACLU lawyers will be answered with the truthful statement “He’s in the next cell.”
The American Military will roar overseas, and sort out the odds and sods in the Middle East in jig time, and not much will be left standing. When the dust clears America will hold Mecca, Medina, and such parts of Jerusalem as Israel doesn’t want, and we will be stuck there for the next fifty years, at a minimum. Likelier still, we will have altered to become the Imperial America the Intellectuals always professed to fear. And we will not be as good at it as the Victorian British, or even the Caesars. Imperialism will not be good for us, and will be an absolute disaster for the Middle East.
It won’t matter materially to me. I’m fifty. If anything the war boom will ensure that my remaining days are filled with pleasant luxury. But the Great Experiment that began with the ratification of the Constitution will be as dead as the Roman Republic was when Caesar rose. My only consolation will be that the people who get it in the neck worst of all will be the ones who were most contemptuous of the Constitution. May God have mercy on their souls. I doubt that we will.