Missing In Action: All-American Courage

by RALPH PETERS September 9, 2011
Why have conservatives become such captives of fear? Before 9/11, conservatism stood for stalwart courage and confidence in the United States of America. Across the past decade, however, we succumbed to a weird mania that wildly exaggerates threats and revels in our purported strategic vulnerability to furtive religious perverts sinking along with their doomed civilization.
The enthusiasm with which many of my fellow conservatives paint militant Islam as a mighty movement capable of a takeover of Europe and America is a grotesque wallow in political masochism. Islam is on the ropes of history, battered, bleeding and disfigured. And it’s never going to be a contender again. Yet, many Americans appear determined to cower in our corner of the ring. It’s baffling:  We’re winning in every possible respect, but tell ourselves we’re losing.
Certainly, Islamist terrorists remain deadly. But we’re much, much deadlier. Since our national humiliation on September 11th, 2001, we’ve slaughtered terrorists by the thousands around the world, including almost all of al Qaeda’s top leaders. Muslims overwhelmingly have turned against al Qaeda, and the organization’s popularity in today’s Middle East is lower than Casey Anthony’s in Florida. Before his well-deserved death, Osama bin Laden himself had been reduced to a prematurely aged pornography hound confined to a virtual prison where he was afraid to walk around in his own courtyard.
Al Qaeda Central has been shattered. Regional franchises struggle to remain relevant amid popular revolutions that have left the terrorists behind as yesterday’s men. In Europe, teetering elites can no longer contain the people’s rage at left-wing multiculturalist farces. Here in our own country, radical Islam is little more than a last resort for losers, surviving only among prison inmates, isolated sociopaths and eroding lobbying organizations--and in mosques funded by Saudi Arabia’s degenerate royals (who are terrified that American freedoms will transform their stunted faith).
We’ve made mistakes. First, we took terrorists prisoner who should have been killed on the spot. Second, Ivy-League-poisoned Washington officials and our irresponsible media invented legal and human rights for subhuman monsters. Third, instead of settling for effective, efficient punitive expeditions that butchered our enemies and left instructive ruins in our wake, a Republican administration decided that we could rebuild feckless, failed Muslim societies in our own image—a notion as pointless as it has been colossally wasteful.
But let’s get a grip. Taking stock of the events of the last decade, we should be proud of the stunning effect our military, our intelligence services and our law-enforcement organizations have had, as well as of the knock-on effects of our policies. Al Qaeda can still kill—mostly fellow Muslims--but can no longer shake the world. When not restrained by political correctness, our might terrorizes the terrorists. And one after another, the dictators and terrorist potentates whose oppression generated countless recruits for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have fallen or are struggling to survive: Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak (who was not our friend), Muammar Qaddafi, and Bashar al Assad. Except in Iraq, which has been abandoned by our current president, Iran’s influence is collapsing beyond its borders, with its sole Arab ally, Syria, under siege from its own people and both Hezbollah and Hamas refusing to obey Tehran’s command to condemn the Syrian protesters. Contrary to still more reflexive hysteria among conservatives, Israel will be far safer with a new regime in Syria, no matter its make-up.
It’s been a terrific decade for the good guys. Yet, we’re relentlessly glum about our security. That may be good business for unscrupulous defense contractors and our 24/7 media, but it’s neither sensible nor healthy for our country.
Under President George W. Bush, conservatives championed democracy and freedom in the Arab world. Iraq was supposed to be an example that would spark regional change. Well, the irony is that Iraq’s democracy, however flawed, has, indeed, inspired Arab democracy movements elsewhere. But now that we have a different president, my fellow conservatives have decided, with breathtaking hypocrisy, that Arabs can’t be trusted with democracy, don’t deserve freedom, and will all vote for Islamist terrorists, anyway.
Certainly, the future of these post-dictatorship states of the Middle East isn’t going to be a stream of easy successes. We won’t like the results of every election and there will be grim set-backs for local moderates and modernizers. But the region had to change—and we could no longer stop it from changing. Now we have to grow up and do the hard analysis, not just parrot mindless slogans that wallow in inflated fears. Repugnant though it is, the Muslim Brotherhood is not synonymous with al Qaeda. Nor is it a monolithic organization whose every member spends every waking hour obsessing about America’s destruction.   Besides, any electoral successes it enjoys will only continue to hold back local development, further castrating Arab civilization. In any case, the Arab world is going to be blessedly weakened for years to come, consumed by local issues and economic challenges: 2011 has been a very good year.
Instead of shaking in our massive American boots, we need to try to understand the nuances of what’s happening and why. And we must grasp the complexity and many layers of fundamentalist Islam (if nothing else, it’s easier to kill enemies you understand, should the need arise). If we could work with mass murderers such as Saddam, Qaddafi, Assad, the Chinese and generations of Soviet and Russian thugs, surely we can figure out how to maneuver and triumph in a world in which Islamists field parliamentary factions—in countries so broken and weak that, in the 21st century, not one of them can build a competitive bicycle.
We’re the ones in the position of incomparable strength, for heaven’s sake. Despite our current bipartisan-wrought recession (and psychological depression), we remain the mightiest state in history. We have avenged 9/11, and we will continue to do so. Wherever we locate terrorists, we’re killing them: The left’s degenerate obsession with imaginary legal rights for terrorists has had the wonderful unintended effect of leading our military’s special operators and CIA paramilitaries to kill, rather than capture. Yet, our government refuses to trust honest citizens at airports (but trusts illegal immigrants on our streets, of course). And panic-mongering about a handful of shabby Muslim extremists has become a booming business among conservatives.
Come on, folks. We’re Americans. We need to be bold. And proud. And courageous. Instead of nervously dreading what terrorists might do to us, we need to concentrate on what we can do to them.  We need, above all, to regain our sense of proportion. There is no sane reason to spend hundreds of billions of dollars attempting to turn Afghans, or anyone else, into fourth-rate Americans. The problem isn’t impoverished farmers or the lack of electricity in Merdeville, Afghanistan. Our problem is terrorists. We need to focus exclusively on killing them, not on building fancy sewage systems at the butt-end of the world. All of our nation-building nonsense is bogus, when not downright counterproductive. It bankrupts us, while killing and maiming our troops. Only corrupt locals and unscrupulous contractors gain from it.
We need to stop and think. Are we really willing to live in constant fear of a pack of Islamist pederasts who haven’t even mastered indoor plumbing? Yes, there are terrorists who still want to kill us. Some may pull off occasional headline stunts. But they have lost the power to pull off another 9/11. And as tragic as that September morning ten years ago remains, it pays to remember that, even in the Year of Our Lord 2001, six times as many Americans were killed by drunken driving as perished from terrorism. If we prioritized the man-made threats to American lives today, the list would start with junk food, drunken driving, drug crime, gangs, domestic violence…with terrorism way, way down on a long, long list. We’re losing our fellow citizens to suicide due to Obama-era joblessness, bankruptcies and home foreclosures, not to Islamist terrorists.
9/11 was a shock and a national humiliation. Those people weren’t supposed to intrude on our country like that. And the casualties were, indeed, horrific, their impact intensified by the fact that they all came at once. But it’s time for us to bury our dead and move forward.
We won the post-9/11 decade. And we won it with a wildly lopsided score. Terrorist risks remain, but at a much-reduced level. We must be vigilant, aggressive and bold. But we have to stop scaring ourselves with wild exaggerations of the dimensions of the threat. It’s the disastrously failed societies in so much of the Muslim world that are under siege, not us. Have faith in our country, our Constitution, and our values. No one’s lining up to get a green card to go to Yemen or Sudan, and there are a lot of good reasons why.
Past a point, mourning becomes morbidity and ostentation. On this tenth anniversary of 9/11, I dread the inevitable speeches from self-serving politicians who never bothered to serve our country in any way that involved a hint of sacrifice. Memorials to this event should not be a campaign sideshow. Yes, terrorists will continue to strive to kill us. Sometimes, they’ll succeed. But the state of our economy, the obesity epidemic and the politicization of our public schools are all vastly greater, graver threats to our nation’s future:  Fat, unemployed illiterates will not be globally competitive.
It’s time for conservatives to stop seeing terrorist bogeymen under every bed and to roll up our sleeves to fix our ailing country. Stop the hysterical bedwetting and man up. We can’t afford to be a nation of ‘fraidy cats (leave that role for the left). Ten years after 9/11, we’re doing far more harm to ourselves than terrorists ever have done.
Let President Obama “lead from behind.” The rest of us need to get back in the vanguard of freedom.
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Ralph Peters is a retired Army intelligence officer who warned of the threat from terrorists long before 9/11. As a soldier, researcher, journalist and traveler, he has first-hand experience in more than seventy countries and has covered multiple conflicts. He is the author of 28 books, including the new Lines Of Fire (on sale September 19, 2011), a collection of his most-influential work on strategy, security, terrorism and military affairs from the past two decades.

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