Friday, January 8, 2010

Why hunt bears, when it's snakes that kill us?

Why do we think that “changing the way we live” is “admitting defeat” to al Qaeda?

Ted Koppel, in his recent interview by BBC World News America’s Matt Frei, appeared to drop a “bombshell” by declaring that the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing by al Qa’eda can be classified as “an absolute triumph for al Qaeda.”

Why? Because, according to Koppel, the United States’ reactions to the attempt has been so intense, and our attention so completely drawn to the attack, that they must be sitting back in their caves saying to themselves, “Not bad! If we can do that with a failed attempt, just think what we can do with a successful one.”

When Frei asked if the American response was an over-reaction, Koppel answered: “I think it’s an overreaction because we have spent hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars, it is all that our media has been yapping about, it is much of what our Congress has been focusing on, the President himself has had to focus visibly his attention on it. Ironically, I think his initial reaction was the right one…I’m not going to over react publicly {but} he wasn’t able to sustain it.”

Koppel then explains that with all of the media “yapping” about “connecting the dots”, it leaves the politicians “no alternative but to make it look as though you are doing something. Well, doing something is exactly what the Terrorists want; they want to feel that they control our actions, rather than we control them ourselves.”

There is an element of truth to Koppel’s analysis. Al Qaeda intentions are clearly to attack the United States and take the initiative in the struggle. As in any chess game or war, an attack that elicits a response can be considered a successful move. What’s more, a minor attack (by comparison with major, complex and highly coordinated attacks such as the 9/11 attacks) that receives as much attention as this most recent attack did must surely be considered by the al Qa’eda leadership as a success.

Frei then quotes President Obama’s declaration that “we will not let a small band of terrorists define the way that this country lives its lives”, to which Koppel response that “this is the right thing to say, but it is not the way we have responded.”

And this is precisely where I diverge from Koppel’s absurd analysis. The thought pattern that is being promoted by Obama, as it had been by Bush and other leaders, that we should not allow the terrorists to “change our lives” or else “they win”, is infantile and dangerous. It is the mentality of the people who said, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, that we should not over-react and be drawn into war. It is the same mentality of the individuals who said we should not fight against the Taliban and al Qa’eda in Afghanistan after they had killed nearly 3,000 of our citizens in New York. And it’s also the mentality of the politically correct fools who still cling to the absurd notion that—even though we know our enemy, we know what they look like, we know their religion, we know their languages, we know their profile—we should be “fair” and “just” by treating all individuals with the same suspicion rather than focusing our attention on the individuals who match the description of our enemy.

Think of it this way. If a village in India is suffering from deadly attacks of venomous snakes, should they take measures to clean the snakes out of the village, educate the villagers about the appearance and habits of the snakes, and teach them how to kill them when they are found? Or, in order to avoid discriminating against snakes, should they tell them not to worry about the snakes, because Polar bears might attack at any time? “We do not have Polar bears here in India!” they might respond. “Yes, but what if one comes here? And if you are looking for snakes, and not Polar bears, you might not be ready.” You can imagine how the villagers would immediately identify the village idiot, and they would return to hunting and killing snakes.

What’s more, imagine the stupidity of the statement: “we should not allow our enemy to change how we live our lives.” Was this the attitude that Americans took to win WWII? Did our grandparents declare that they would not report for the draft? Did the women refuse to get jobs? Did they refuse to conserve their use of gasoline?

What if Americans had allowed these village idiots to convince them that, if we respond to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it would have been a victory for the Japanese?

The ultimate truth here is that this mentality is being promoted by individuals who arrogantly believe that the United States is too powerful to suffer cataclysmic attacks at the hands of "a small band of terrorists", and therefore we should treat them with indifference, a swish of a tail for an annoying mosquito. That response would be fine, if only the mosquitoes did not carry malaria. Would these same people propose that we ignore the mosquitoes, or should we drain the swamps and spray insecticide?

These people simply cannot comprehend: we are truly at WAR.

If we do not adapt, if we do not respond, if we cease hunting snakes and instead hunt Polar bears, we give a major advantage to our enemy. And this is exactly what Obama, and Koppel, are proposing. There is no strategic advantage to giving enemy combatants a civil trial, when precedent and law allows us to try them in military tribunals. There is no strategic advantage to Mirandizing enemy combatants in the field and hobbling our intelligence community. In fact, these decisions are exactly the kind of “civilized insanity” that al Qa’eda is counting on in order to continue inflicting damage on us. There is no strategic advantage to continuing the Polar bear hunt, when we know our people are dying of snakebites.