TCS Daily


Not Terrorism, But War

By James K. Glassman - September 17, 2001 12:00 AM

Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001 -- The New York Times got it right: "U.S. ATTACKED."

And so did President Bush this morning: "The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war."

Terrorism, as we have known it in the past, has been a campaign, through nearly random acts of violence mainly aimed at civilians, to force nations to do what a small set of opponents want them to do. But what happened on September 11, 2001, was not terrorism.

It was an attack, an invasion on U.S. soil - an event that has not happened in nearly two centuries of history. The perpetrators are not trying to coerce us into letting prisoners go or changing our essentially neutral policy in the Middle East. Instead, they want to destroy us. They hate our culture, our economy, our way of life. They want to kill Americans and leave this nation in ruins. They want to destroy our freedoms.

"This is not crime," wrote the columnist Charles Krauthammer. "This is war." It is a war that began long ago, with attacks on our embassies and on our military. But, until now, he writes, we have responded with "a few useless cruise missile attacks on empty tents in the desert" or by "issuing subpoenas."

We need to think about what has happened in the right way. These acts were not, as the politicians keep saying, "cowardly." They were the opposite of cowardly. We did not call the Japanese cowards in World War II. They were dedicated enemies. The enemies who flew airliners into three buildings yesterday, Krauthammer writes, "are deadly, vicious warriors and need to be treated as such."

Nor can we dismiss them as "fanatics" or people committing "senseless acts of violence." These are serious people - no less serious than the Japanese and Germans in World War II or the communists in Vietnam and Korea - and their intentions and actions are not senseless. Quite the opposite. They want to destroy this nation, and yesterday they launched two highly effective attacks, against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, in fulfilling those aims.

The obvious answer is war, but the obvious problem is that, unlike Japan and Germany, this enemy is not a nation state. It is not hard to discover, though, the countries that "harbor" the perpetrators, as President Bush said last night. Such countries are enemies as well.

Krauthammer recommends that Congress actually declare war, and that sounds to me a good idea. In this new era, the specific opponent may not simply be other countries, but, as Krauthammer puts it, "radical Islam. Not Islam as practiced peacefully by millions of the faithful around the world. But a specific fringe political movement, dedicated to imposing its fanatical ideology on its own societies and destroying the society of its enemies, the greatest of which is the United States."

Americans are angry, and they are willing, I believe, to make the sacrifices to wipe this scourge from the face of the earth - not bring it to justice in some international court but to bring it to its knees. We must adopt the military resources necessary to achieve this objective, just as we did in World War II. Concerns about surpluses that are getting smaller seem almost quaint at a time like this.

Another policy that needs examining is energy. It is clear now, if it was not before, that the United States must develop its own resources, to give us the security necessary in an economy that runs on oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy. At the same time, we should increase our efforts to find other sources that make economic sense. But over the past decade, we have tipped the balance away from boosting supply, and we have made ourselves more vulnerable. That balance must be redressed immediately.

Finally, financial markets: It is my strong belief that this war will make the United States and the rest of the world stronger. The fall of communism did not create a "new world order"; instead, it created a vacuum that, for want of a better term, the Terror State, has filled. In end, the defeat of the Terror State will pave the way to greater prosperity and peace. But, in the meantime, markets will be rocked.

Stock prices have already fallen sharply abroad, though perhaps less than one would expect. U.S. markets will almost certainly fall, too, when they are reopened. And they need to be reopened quickly - Thursday, at latest -- whatever the short-term consequences in prices. We need to show the enemy that it cannot impair any of our freedoms, including economic freedom.

My guess is that patriotic Americans will not throw their holdings in U.S. corporations overboard, nor will they rush to shelter in gold. The Federal Reserve will provide the necessary liquidity, and Wall Street will stand. More important, America will stand - but only if this threat is treated the way it must be, as war.
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