In today’s Wall Street Journal, my old professor Fouad Ajami explains why the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan both were appropriate and necessary responses to 9/11.Â An excerpt:
But it will not do to offer up 9/11 as a casus belli in Afghanistan while holding out the threat of legal retribution against the men and women in our intelligence services who carried out our wishes in that time of concern and peril. To begin with, a policy that falls back on 9/11 must proceed from a correct reading of the wellsprings of Islamist radicalism. The impulse that took America from Kabul to Baghdad had been on the mark. Those were not Afghans who had struck American soil on 9/11. They were Arabs. Their terrorism came out of the pathologies of Arab political life. Their financiers were Arabs, and so were those crowds in Cairo and Nablus and Amman that had winked at the terror and had seen those attacks as America getting its comeuppance on that terrible day. Kabul had not sufficed as a return address in that twilight war; it was important to take the war into the Arab world itself, and the despot in Baghdad had drawn the short straw. He had been brazen and defiant at a time of genuine American concern, and a lesson was made of him.
There was never any doubt that we would strike back at Afghanistan — precisely one member of Congress voted against the authorization for use of force.Â President Gore or President Kerry would have toppled the Taliban.Â There was really no choice.
President Bush, to his enduring credit, knew that we had to do more than just Afghanistan.Â After years of mismanaging the Iraq war, Bush finally found a general and a strategy to turn the war around.
Now some of the same voices who urged surrender and rooted for defeat in Iraq are going wobbly on Afghanistan.Â President Obama, who seized hold of the “good war” as a club to batter Bush’s “bad war,” has little choice other than to give the strategy that succeeded in Iraq a chance to succeed in Afghanistan.
This post was first published a year ago today.Â It is dedicated to the men and women of the United States armed forces, and to every firefighter who has ever run into a burning building — 343 of them in particular.
The name of this blog comes from something that English statesman Edmund Burke apparently did not actually say, so I’ve felt free to modernize the language:
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”
Regardless of who said it first, that sentence is the purest possible distillation of my worldview, and today is a powerful annual reminder of why I regard it as an enduring truth.
The events of 9/11 were the legacy of more than two decades of doing nothing, or next to nothing, in response to attacks from fascists in Islamic guise.
Militant Islamists declared war on America in November 1979 by taking hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. This was followed by 1983 attacks on the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut; the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie in 1988; the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993; the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996; the simultaneous 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania; and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000; along with smaller atrocities too numerous to list.
Only after 9/11 did America, led by a President who despite his substantial flaws was resolute enough to call evil by its name, finally mount a sustained response and take the battle to the enemy. And no, Saddam was not behind the 9/11 attacks — but liberating Iraq and planting a (still-fragile) democracy in the heart of the Islamic Middle East is an essential part of the broader war.
All of this is why, despite profound disagreements with the Republican Party on social issues, despite voting for Bill Clinton three times (including 2000), I can no longer vote for Democrats for President. Not until the party has a standard-bearer who understands the cost of meekness in the face of fascism, and who is prepared to stay on the offensive against people for whom “death to America” is not a metaphor.