It is commendable indeed that President Bush didn't permit himself the luxury of an immediate and possibly disastrous retaliatory strike against Afghanistan. When he says he is a man with patience, we can believe it. Amazing patience. And commendable patience, since most of us who are hawks wanted to strike back and make an irrigation canal out of the Khyber Pass.
Since cooler heads prevailed, there apparently was an enormous and immediate response by the United States in the form of intelligence gathering and garnering diplomatic support before we began the fireworks on October 7, 2001. Compared with the time it took us to begin the war effort after Pearl Harbor, this was a short wait, but then Americans in 1941 moved at a much slower pace, without high tech equipment and dependent solely on radio for news. Our first retaliatory strike in WW II occurred in April of 1942.
Sixty years later we are in the Age of Instant, from coffee to satellite communications.
What we must now accustom ourselves to is the fact that we are not only in the Age of Instant, but the Age of the Unexpected. For the past fifty-six years, we as a nation have not faced the daily fact of war or the fact that in spite of war, life goes on. What we're not accustomed to is the idea, the shadow, the present threat of more terrorist attacks. We're not accustomed to living with fear.
While our own government has warned us that there indeed may be attempts at more terrorist strikes here in the US, the fear has done more damage to average American lives and the economy than is necessary. Today's "terrorist attacks" are yesterday's fears also. During WW II, rumors of the enemy using poison gas were whispered here and there, along with all manner of horror stories about how Japanese subs were just off our California coastline (which they were). The middle of the night air-raid sirens terrified me because I was a kid and not all that sure whether I was going to live to grow up. We actually heard anti-aircraft fire.
Somehow, life did go on. Once the all-clear was sounded, we were herded by the air raid wardens out of the apartment's cold, damp basement and went back to our beds and went to sleep.
Those fears of yesterday were just as real, just as terrifying to us along the Coast, as the present threats of biological attacks of smallpox, anthrax or chemical agents. People cave in to fear pretty easily, but they get over it easily also and find ways to go on.
The biggest problem of this "war" is going to be the endurance required to maintain a sustained effort against a non-nation. That is precisely why President Bush keeps calling for patience. He is aware that it is easier to have a visible nation-state that can be beaten into surrender than to maintain a campaign against an "ism" with many faces, many cells, many diabolical methods and no single headquarters. That is why the downfall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, even the assassination of Osama bin Laden, is not the end of the war on terrorism.
What we are facing may be officially designated as Operation Enduring Freedom, but it is also "enduring war" in the sense that campaigns against terrorists are ongoing and never-ending. It is an ideology, and ideologies do not surrender like vanquished nations.
As Americans, we've had fifty-six years of relative calm here in the United States. That calm gave us a sense of false security and it allowed the citizenry to become so involved with self-gratification and materialism that they forgot there exists a world outside our borders that hates us, our way of life, our people. Worse yet, it gave our previous administration the opportunity to give away our secrets, to China and others with the money to buy favors, while gutting our Central Intelligence Agency. The Clinton/Reno administration was far more concerned with controlling legal American citizens than in defending our nation against foreign attacks. We paid the bill for their negligence and sedition on September 11, 2001.
The challenge ahead of President Bush is to allow legal Americans to feel free while pursuing an unrelenting war against terrorists here and abroad. So far, we've seen heightened security measures that inconvenience our citizens without offering much protection against the real enemy. This has to change.
We cannot allow our constitutional freedoms to be abrogated because our nation is in war mode, but not a declared war, just an unending one.
There will be a fine line for our president to walk. He must keep up the struggle against the terrorist cells wherever they exist and still keep our American people with a sense of freedom that is essential to their morale and productivity. Endless war mode is not acceptable when there is no war in the sense of start, conquest, surrender and finis. This is an enduring campaign, and fighting for freedom has always been a perpetual struggle ... we just forgot about it during the past fifty-plus years. Now we are reminded.
We also need to be reminded that in times of trouble, we as a nation start to pray. There is no reason to discontinue prayer, or belief in God, when we no longer feel afraid. Perhaps it has been our disdain for our heritage, our willingness to allow anything to do with God to be eradicated from our daily lives, that finally came back to haunt us by way of a vicious strike that brought us once again to our knees, into churches, and into prayer to our Creator.
The leftists within who would take away our religious heritage and our constitutional freedoms are as dangerous to the nation's survival as are the radical Islamic terrorists. They're just less dramatic.
Tonight, and every night, remember to pray. Faith empowers, produces endurance, and builds character.
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