Three years ago this week, Muslim terrorists declared full-scale war on the United States. Our government immediately took up the challenge. Some notes, at this juncture: A terrorist might be defined as “anyone who despises a nation or culture enough to attempt violence upon it.” With that as a given, terrorism against the U.S. began many years before September 2001. It will go on long after everyone reading these words has (as mealy-mouthed John Edwards likes to say) “passed.”
If body counts are a measure of effective warfare, the U.S. (aided by a few allies) is ahead. We have probably killed more terrorists than they have killed Americans. I doubt if that is much consolation. Some folks would count Americans killed in the Iraqi fighting as part of the war on terrorism. I do not. Iraq is more about politics than terrorism, although it has had some related fallout (see below).
If preventing further major attacks on Americans at home or abroad is an indicator of success, the U.S. has done OK in the past three years. That could end at any time, but each day without another 9/11 is a good day.
Money spent: The U.S., I would guess, has expended much more money and other resources than the terrorists have. If in the end the U.S. loses to the terrorists, it may be due to bankruptcy rather than body counts. George Bush promised to seek out and destroy the terrorists. To a great extent he has kept his word, even though bin Laden is still at large.
Unfortunately, with his Iraq policies, the president has surely inflamed anti-U.S. attitudes among would-be Muslim terrorists, causing enlistments to soar. More people hate the U.S. today than three years ago.
One of the things Americans can be proud of is our treatment of our Muslim fellow citizens. While some anti-Muslim backlash has occurred since 9/11, most Muslim-Americans can feel just as safe here as Scottish-Americans (another under-appreciated minority, if I may say so).
If American Muslims can be criticized for anything since 9/11, it is their failure to take a higher profile in the nation’s affairs. Can you name 10 Muslims in the U.S. who serve as leaders? Not outside the ranks of professional sports, you can’t. On the other hand, perhaps we shouldn’t criticize Muslims for staying out of the public eye as much as possible. If I lived in Mecca on the day American terrorists bombed the central mosque, I don’t think I’d run through the streets singing “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.”
Has our war on terrorism taken a great toll on our individual living standards, or our peace of mind? Each of us will have to answer that question on our own. Maybe we won’t know the truth until years from now.
Would John Kerry be a strong anti-terrorism president? Let’s ask him, and then try to figure out what he said.