September 10, 2004


Three Years On: We still haven't learned the lessons of 9/11. (MARK HELPRIN, September 10, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

Three years after September 11, where do we stand?

Out of fear and confusion we have hesitated to name the enemy. We proceed as if we are fighting disparate criminals united by coincidence, rather than the vanguard of militant Islam, united by ideology, sentiment, doctrine, and practice, its partisans drawn from Morocco to the Philippines, Chechnya to the Sudan, a vast swath of the earth that, in regard to the elemental beliefs that fuel jihad, is as homogeneous as Denmark.

Too timid to admit to a clash of civilizations even as it occurs, we failed to declare the war, thus forfeiting clarity of intent and the unambiguous consent of the American people. This was a sure way, as in the Vietnam era, to divide the country and prolong the battle.

We failed not only to prepare for war but to provision for it after it had begun, disallowing a military buildup, much less the wartime transformation of the economy. In the First World War our elected representatives decisively resolved that "to bring the conflict to a successful termination all the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States." In the Revolutionary War we as a people pledged our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

What is different now of course is that we are combating neither the British Empire nor Imperial Germany, but an opponent who is fundamentally weak militarily, economically, and, in the long run, ideologically. Still, he has by his near mastery of terrorism and asymmetrical warfare necessitated that we mobilize as if we were in fact fighting a great empire.

So if we built a few aircraft carriers and were spending real money--even though they'd be totally useless--would that make us more serious?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 10, 2004 6:41 PM

I'm one of the few conservatives who doesn't get all that excited about Helprin's books, and I have to admit I get even less excited about his exhortations that we are not serious about fighting the war on terror because government has not confiscated private means of production in the name of war. It's bizarre.

Posted by: kevin whited at September 10, 2004 7:04 PM

We shouldn't be building aircraft carriers, we should be building DARPA's monsterous blimps, the "Walrus".

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 11, 2004 2:59 PM