These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
-THOMAS PAINE, The American Crisis, 1780
We too live in trying times-and thus far our fellow Americans have passed every test. They have shown themselves, as President Bush said in his speech in the National Cathedral on September 14, 2001, "generous and kind, resourceful and brave." They have fought and won two campaigns on the opposite side of the globe, saving millions of Afghans from famine and the nation of Iraq from tyranny. They have hunted down terrorists and killers, while respecting the rights of the innocent. And they have uncomplainingly accepted inconvenience and danger through tiresome years of lineups at airports, searches at public buildings, and exposure to further acts of terror.
Now comes the hardest test of all. The war on terror is not over. In many ways, it has barely begun. Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas still plot murder, and money still flows from donors worldwide to finance them. Mullahs preach jihad from the pulpits of mosques from Bengal to Brooklyn. Iran and North Korea are working frantically to develop nuclear weapons. While our enemies plot, our allies dither and carp, and much of our own government remains ominously unready for the fight. We have much to do and scant time in which to do it.
Yet at this dangerous moment many in the American political and media elite are losing their nerve for the fight. Perhaps it is the political cycle: For some Democrats, winning the war has become a less urgent priority than winning the next election. Perhaps it is the media, rediscovering its bias in favor of bad news and infecting the whole country with its own ingrown pessimism. Perhaps it is Congress, resenting the war's cost and coveting the money for its own domestic spending agendas.
Or perhaps it is just fatigue. President Bush warned Americans from the start that the war on terror would be long and difficult and expensive. But in 2001 those warnings were just words. Today they are realities. And while the American people have shouldered those realities magnificently, America's leaders too often seem to flinch from them. Every difficulty, every casualty, every reverse seems to throw Washington, D.C., into a panic-as if there had ever been a war without difficulties, without casualties, without reverses. In the war on terror, the United States has as yet suffered no defeats, except of course for 9/11 itself. But defeats may well occur, for they too are part of war, and we shudder to think how some of our leaders in their current mood will respond.
We can feel the will to win ebbing in Washington; we sense the reversion to the bad old habits of complacency and denial.
Throughout the 1990s, thousands of terrorists received training in the al-Qaeda camps of Afghanistan-and our government passively monitored the situation. Terrorists attacked and murdered Americans in East Africa, in Yemen, in Saudi Arabia-and America responded to these acts of war as if they were ordinary crimes. Iraq flagrantly violated the terms of its 1991 armistice-and our government from time to time fired a cruise missile into Baghdad but otherwise did little. Iran defied the Monroe Doctrine and sponsored murder in our own hemisphere, killing eighty-six people and wounding some three hundred at a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires-and our government did worse than nothing: It opened negotiations with the murderers. Mullahs and imams incited violence and slaughter against Christians and Jews-and our government failed to acknowledge that anything important was occurring.
September 11 is supposed to have changed all that. Since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, terrorism has become the first priority of our government. Or so it is said-but is it true? The forces and the people who lulled the United States into complacency in the 1990s remain potent today, and in the wake of the victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are exerting themselves ever more boldly.
With a few stalwart exceptions, such as Senator Joe Lieberman, the administration's Democratic opponents seem ready to give up the fight altogether. They want to give up on Iraq. They denounce the Patriot Act. They condemn President Bush's policies (in the words of Richard Gephardt) as a "miserable failure." Traveling to France in October 2003 to criticize her country, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright declared, "Bush and the people under him have a foreign policy that is not good for America, not good for the world." But as to what to do instead, they say nothing, leaving the impression that they wish to do nothing.
Nor is it only the president's political opponents who seem bereft of ideas. At the State Department, there is constant pressure to return to business as usual, beginning by placating offended allies and returning to the exaggerated multilateral conceit of the Clinton administration. Generals, diplomats, and lawmakers who retired and now work for the Saudi government or Saudi companies huff and puff at the damage the war on terror is doing to the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Members of Congress complain about the cost of fighting terror. On television, respected commentators intone about quagmires and overstretch. Leading journalists deplore Muslim and European anti-Americanism in a way that implies we are its cause.
If you ask them, many of these respectable characters will insist that they remain keen to wage war on terrorism. But press them a little, and it quickly becomes clear that they define "terror" very narrowly. They are eager to arrest the misfits and thugs who plant bombs and carry guns. But as for the larger networks that recruit the misfits and thugs, as for the wealthy donors who pay the terrorists' bills, as for the governments that give terrorists aid and sanctuary, as for the larger culture of incitement and hatred that justifies and supports terror: All of that they wish to leave alone. As the inevitable disappointments and difficulties of war accumulate, as weariness with war's costs and rigors spreads, as memories of 9/11 fade, the advocates of a weaker line against terror have pressed their timid case. Like rust and mildew, they make the most progress when they receive the least attention, for their desired policy coincides with the natural predilections of government.
President Bush's war on terror jerked our national security bureaucracy out of its comfortable routines. He demanded that the military fight new wars in new ways. He demanded that our intelligence services second-guess their familiar assumptions. He demanded that the State Department speak firmly and forcefully to those who claim to be our friends. He demanded that our public diplomacy make the case for America without apology. He demanded fresh thought and strong measures and clear language-none of which comes naturally to any part of the vast bureaucracy that Americans employ to protect the nation.
All of this departure from the ordinary has generated resentment and resistance. The resisters are supported by the heavy weight of inertia, by every governmental instinct
toward regularity and predictability and caution, by the bureaucracy's profound aversion to innovation, controversy, and confrontation. And let us not forget that, for all the bravery of our soldiers, our military is a bureaucracy, too: It didn't like being told that cavalry had to make way for the tank, and the battleship for the aircraft carrier; it doesn't like it any better when contemporary modernizers tell it that artillery must give way to the smart missile or that conventional tactics must be reinvented for a new era. Really, it's no wonder that those few policy makers who have urged a strong policy against terror have been called a "cabal." To the enormous majority in any government who wish to continue to do things as they have always been done, the tiny minority that dares propose anything new will always look like a presumptuous, unrealistic, intriguing faction.
Taken all in all, it could well be said that we have reached the crisis point in the war on terror. The momentum of our victories has flagged. The way forward has become uncertain and the challenges ahead of us more complex. The ranks of the faint hearts are growing, and their voices are echoing ever more loudly in our media and our politics.
Yet tomorrow could be the day that an explosive packed with radioactive material detonates in Los Angeles or that nerve gas is unleashed inside a tunnel under the Hudson River or that a terrible new disease breaks out in the United Kingdom. If the people responsible for the 9/11 attack could have killed thirty thousand Americans or three hundred thousand or three million, they would have done so. The terrorists are cruel, but they are not aimless. Their actions have a purpose. They are trying to rally the Muslim world to jihad against the planet's only superpower and the principal and most visible obstacle to their ambitions. They commit terror to persuade their potential followers that their cause is not hopeless, that jihad can destroy American power. Random killings-shootings in shopping malls, bombs in trash cans-may be emotionally satisfying to the terrorists, but they are strategically useless: Two kids at Columbine did as much, and the Republic did not totter. Only truly spectacular acts of mass murder provides the propaganda the terrorists' cause requires. They will try again-they have to.
Throughout the war, the advocates of a strong policy against terror have had one great advantage over those who prefer the weaker line: We have offered concrete recommendations equal to the seriousness of the threat, and the soft-liners have not, because we have wanted to fight, and they have not. For us, terrorism remains the great evil of our time, and the war against this evil our generation's great cause. We do not believe that Americans are fighting this evil to minimize it or to manage it. We believe they are fighting to win-to end this evil before it kills again and on a genocidal scale. There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust. This book is a manual for victory.
END OF THE BEGINNING
Pessimism and defeatism have provided the sound track to the war on terrorism from the beginning, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq. Remember the "dreaded Afghan winter"? Remember how the Iraq war was "bogging down" when allied forces paused for two days to wait out a sandstorm? In Afghanistan, U.S. troops astonished the world with a whole new kind of war on land and in the air. In Iraq, U.S. forces overthrew Saddam Hussein's entire regime with half the troops and in half the time it took merely to shove Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991.* It did not matter: The gloomsayers were unembarrassable. Having been proven wrong when they predicted the United States would sink into a forlorn quagmire in Iraq, they reappeared days later to insist that while military victory had been assured from the beginning, the United States was now losing the peace: There was looting throughout the country; the national museum had supposedly been sacked; hospitals had been stripped bare by thieves; power was blacked out; and sewage was running into the Euphrates.
Now the pessimists are quivering because the remnants of the Baath Party have launched a guerrilla war against the allied forces in Iraq. These guerrillas are former secret policemen and informers, the regime's specially recruited enforcers, murderers, torturers, and rapists. They are men with nowhere to go. If they are found, they will be tried for their crimes, unless the families of their victims kill them first. The surviving leaders of the regime, hidden by one another, have money. It is not hard for them to recruit these desperate characters into paramilitary units and terrorist cells-what other future do they have? But it is wrong to describe these paid killers as a "national resistance," as some even normally sensible people have sometimes done. For a dozen years after Appomattox, former Confederate soldiers terrorized their neighbors, robbed trains, and killed Union soldiers. Was the Ku Klux Klan a "national resistance"? Was Jesse James?
The aftermath of war is always messy and often bloody. In the six months after the liberation of Paris in 1944, the French killed upward of ten thousand accused collaborators. A dozen years after the fall of communism, electricity and water sputter unreliably in much of the former Soviet Union. A Swedish journalist who visited Germany one and a half years after the end of World War II observed that
the electricity is still out. People are "bitter, disillusioned and hopeless." They express fury at the Allies, especially the English, whom they believe to be "sabotaging renewal." Many argue that things are worse than under the old dictatorship. On the streets, foreign correspondents interview barefoot orphans, who clamour for an American visa. Above all, there looms the profound hypocrisy of the occupation itself, and its "attempt to eradicate militarism by means of a military regime."*
Post-Saddam Iraq has emerged from more than three decades of totalitarian rule and mass murder, from more than a decade of economic sanctions and systematic corruption, and finally from a month of deadly accurate bombing. Should anyone have been surprised that it took the United States a few weeks to get the lights working?
Yet a good many people who ought to have known better did claim to be surprised. And they have claimed more than that. They have claimed that the Iraq campaign somehow detracted from the overall war against terror-and that Saddam's success in concealing his weapons of mass destruction program somehow proves that he should have been left in power to build those weapons. These critics complained that President Bush weakened the case for war by offering too many different justifications for it. It never seemed to bother them that they had more than one reason for doing nothing-and that unlike the president's, their reasons contradicted one another:
-Opponents of the Iraq war like German foreign minister Joschka Fischer protested that they were "not convinced" that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction at all.* Meanwhile, former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft warned that if attacked, Saddam would retaliate with weapons of mass murder "unleashing an Armageddon in the Middle East."
-Opponents of the war insisted that Saddam had no connections with terrorism. Then they fretted, in the words of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, that if the United States attempted to overthrow Saddam, the United States could instead "precipitate the very threat that we are intent on preventing-weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists."
From the Hardcover edition.