I wrote this about 17 years ago. Some of us haven't been asleep. ~Bob
America’s War on Terror will be Long, Slow and Cruel
August 28, 1998 Camden County, NJ
This was published three years before 9/11. A local Congressman called to tell me that he had shared it with the Congressional anti-Terrorism Caucus. For all the good that did.
Early in World War Two, a bitter joke went around
Two Scottish soldiers, rescued from Dunkerque, are in a pub. “It’s going tae be
a lang, lang war,” one Jock sighs.
“Aye,” says his mate, “especially if
England capitulates and Scotland has to fight on alone.”
Our war against terrorism is going to be a “lang, lang war,” especially if our allies capitulate and
America has to fight on alone.
The war is not new. It has escalated for years, as terrorists targeted Americans around the globe to serve their purposes. It grew out of the American defeat in
and the French defeat in Algeria.
The third world learned that western powers with modern armies and advanced
technology could be defeated, not on the battlefield, but by a long, slow,
intensely cruel bloodletting that would break the political will of the people,
without which a democracy cannot prevail.
That we are envied and hated in the world is no surprise. It has ever been the fate of rich republics. All terror needs is the conviction there is no atrocity that cannot be committed for the cause, no innocent blood, no act that is evil if it strikes at the enemy.
A man with a wild look in his eye, a pipeline to his god, and a weapon in his hand has ever been a danger. But the weapons now are explosives powerful enough to destroy buildings, snuffing out hundreds of lives.
Soon they will be gasses that can slaughter thousands, diseases that can kill millions. Perhaps even atomic bombs. And men like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein will use them without compunction.
They believe they can humble
America by breaking our will to
resist. It doesn’t matter if it’s Vietnam,
or the Clinton scandal or the troubles with Iraq,
Americans always want to “get it over with.” Can we prevail in a struggle that
may last decades? Can we cope with the frustration, the horror, the cost? Or
will we surrender when the terror has stretched out long enough, as our enemies
They may be right. Saddam has apparently backed Clinton and the UN down, faster than even I predicted, by playing brinkmanship perfectly. He’s now free to develop diseases that can wipe out entire cities. Coming soon to a location near you.
How will we prevail when the alternative is to be killed and do nothing or be killed and strike back, escalating the killing? How can we defend ourselves? What must we do to survive?
First, we need a new president.
Clinton reacted strongly and appropriately to
the embassy bombings. I do not believe he took action to divert attention from
his scandals. But that people think so points up the importance of the
much-maligned “character issue.” Could the embassy bombings have been timed to
take advantage of his perceived weakness under self-inflicted wounds? We cannot
have a president who creates that opportunity for our enemies.
If we are to rally in this war, we need a president—probably a series of presidents—who have served in the military, who understand the nature of war, and who have the moral authority to lead us in desperate times. Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey, who earned the Medal of Honor in
Vietnam, and Republican Senator John McCain, a
heroic POW in Hanoi,
come to mind, but there are other Americans we can respect instead of snicker
Second, we must be willing to go after the leaders, to repeal the executive order against assassination. Somehow, the “Blame America” crowd convinced us it’s okay to drop bombs on his followers, but to put a bullet between bin Laden’s running lights would be immoral. What rubbish.
Third, we must be prepared to go after terrorists in countries we are not at war with, as
has just done. TV news called the attack “unprecedented,” but it’s not. Nixon
ordered the bombing of North Vietnamese soldiers in Cambodia
to protect American troops, though we were not at war with Cambodia. Many believed this was
immoral, that it was better to let American soldiers die than to kill their
enemies when they were hiding over a line in the jungle.
Everyone who would rather have your family murdered than kill enemies hiding in a neutral country, raise your hand. Thank you.
Fourth, we must be willing to accept what’s called “collateral damage.” That is, innocent civilians will be killed, including children, when we go after terrorists. That’s the nasty price of war, created by those who attack us. And it will be on the evening news, with moralists condemning
Fifth, we must beef up the military, especially on equipment and special training for small groups of Marines and Army Rangers who can fight sharp, dirty actions against terrorists. Bombs and cruise missiles will not do all the bloody work. And we will have casualties, both military and civilian.
Sixth, we must increase our intelligence capabilities. The CIA must have the human assets—spies and assassins—to combat this plague for us. It will be war in the shadows, nasty and brutal.
Lastly, we must let it be known that any country who launches an attack with weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological or nuclear, or any country who harbors a group who launches such an attack, can expect us to use nuclear weapons to destroy them.
And we must mean it.