Milestone No. 5
By John E. Carey
The Washington Times
September 11, 2006
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack was unprovoked and unannounced. No state of war existed before the attack.
On April 18, 1942, just more than four months later, America retaliated with a bomber attack on Tokyo. The pilots had been trained and qualified, in that short time, to do something never tried before: fly off a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean, conduct a bombing mission and ditch instead of land at an airfield.
On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked at the World Trade Center in New York City and at the Pentagon near Washington D.C. The attack was unprovoked and unannounced. No state of war existed before the attack.
On October 7, 2001, less than a month later, the United States attacked Afghanistan.
It is difficult to imagine any other nation in the world being able to respond so quickly and so professionally after an attack like that suffered by the United States on December 7, 1941, or on September 11, 2001.
Both days were dark days. Both days challenged our unity and resolve. Both days ended with great jubilation in quarters of the enemy camp. And both days marked commencement of a long, arduous struggle.
Since September 11, the damaged section of the Pentagon has been rebuilt, a plan is in place in New York, and despite terror attacks in London, Madrid and elsewhere, there has not been a significant follow-up strike against the United States on U.S. soil.
By carrying the battle to the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan, with our professional military forces and not our women and children and other innocents, we, as a nation, have already achieved a significant advantage over the enemy.
And, as the president said last Thursday during an interview with Katie Couric, of this new enemy: “They share the same jihadist mentality, this radicalism. See, that’s the interesting thing about this war, Katie. It’s — we’re not facing a nation-state. We’re facing people from other nation — around the — around the globe, frankly, that share an ideology and the desire to — achieve objectives through killing innocent people.”
So this war is different from all others. And we have responded differently. We reformed our government and created the Department of Homeland Security. We energized and reformed our intelligence services and created the director of national intelligence (John Negroponte) above the Central Intelligence Agency director. We monitored the terrorists’ communications, computer networks, financing and banking. We commenced a war like no other war ever on Earth.
We, the United States, redefined war. The war on terror we are engaged in, what the Pentagon calls the Global War on Terror (GWOT), and the underlying wars like the war between Israel and Hezbollah, may best carry this new definition: We will do what we have to do, on all levels throughout the world, to keep the enemy on the run, off-balance and living in fear.
The GWOT is more than a military confrontation. It is also a spy game, a media battle for “hearts and minds,” a war of financial sleuthing and intrigue, a war on the internet and much more.
Saddam Hussein is behind bars or in court. Despite some ugly military prison scandals of our own, the rule of law prevails and reforms are in place. We have not lowered ourselves to the level of the terrorists.
Sure, one can criticize. Sure the effort has proceeded slowly and deliberately. Sure, the enemy has changed the rules of the game several times (he is not stupid) like springing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) on us and attempting to instill sectarian violence so severe Iraq may splinter into civil war.
But our nation is perhaps the only nation that could have responded so quickly, so professionally and, seemingly, so effortlessly to the attacks we sustained. Shopping malls in America still teem with happy shoppers. Cars still sell. Gas is not yet even $4 a gallon. Our economy is strong. We continue to pursue projects in space.
Yes, we have made sacrifices, principal among them the sacrifice of life and blood and limb by our men and women in the combat forces. But what is the second biggest sacrifice? Processing before an airline flight takes longer? One has to remove ones shoes before boarding a plane?
Our schools continue to function. People still go to work. Our mass transit systems are operating just fine. Our football season is getting underway. No American has spent a night in a bomb shelter — even though many Israelis spent a month or more living in bomb-proof underground facilities as Hezbollah rained down missiles.
We should not be complacent. As the president has said: This will be a long war.
So what is our weakness? Our Achilles heel is our own resolve. Our weakness is our own lack of unity, now exacerbated by an election cycle.
And our enemies are still with us. In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defies not just the United States but the entire international community. He is the first president ever to defy the United Nations in the pursuit of nuclear projects. He pushes ahead despite U.N. Resolutions to the contrary.
What are Mr. Ahmadinejad’s goals? Well, he calls the United States the Great Satan. Israel is only the little Satan. And he blithely says he intends to “wipe the Zionist state off the map.” So what will his plan be for the Great Satan?
And in North Korea, an attention-seeking dictator has nuclear weapons and strives to perfect his long-range ballistic missiles.
So, like the Roman Emperors, we face the Huns on many fronts.
And like our forefathers in Rome and in other great civilizations, we have to guard against our own disagreements and divisions from becoming crippling. We have to watch our Achilles heel.
Because our enemies are real. And they want to win.