Jewish World Review Sept. 13, 2001 /24 Elul, 5761

Thomas Sowell

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Our foreign policy speaks loudly and carries a little stick -- PEARL HARBOR is the only thing in this century that can compare to the terrorist catastrophe that has struck the United States. With all its shock and tragedy, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ended our naive innocence about the dangerous world we live in and united a very disunited country. Will this series of attacks unite Americans today?

Will it make a dent in the lofty citizen-of-the-world types among the intelligentsia who like to treat international borders as just arbitrary lines on a map, who dismiss talk of enemies as paranoia or politics, and who delight to snipe at their own country from above the struggle?

Will it stop Congress' nickel-and-diming of our military and our intelligence agencies, so that they can spend the money on more giveaway programs and porkbarrel projects? Will it stop those who like to snipe at Israel for retaliating against terrorist attacks? Will the sight of Palestinians dancing in the streets cause any second thoughts -- or perhaps first thoughts -- among those who have been brightly chirping for so long about "the peace process"?

Much of the future history of this century may depend on what the American people and the American government do in response to the worst assault on the continental United States in more than a century. The last thing we need are tough words and soft actions. That would just guarantee more of the same.

Make no mistake about it. There are people around the world who will be gloating at our tragedy. Not just the Palestinians or the professional terrorists or even our avowed enemies. There will be people in Europe who will not mind seeing America taken down a peg, including people in countries liberated from the Nazis at the cost of American lives. Not most people in those countries, of course, but some among the intelligentsia and the political classes.

This is not only a dangerous world but a world in which we are ourselves the only people we can really depend on when push comes to shove. Americans' ability to stick together may determine the survival of this country and of this civilization.

Those who make being morally one-up on "our society" their top priority will have to face the painful costs of this self-indulgence. For example, those who are for flinging the borders open to all and sundry from everywhere will have to face the consequences of letting in people who can destroy us from within.

Most of the immigrants who come here from the Middle East, for example, may be fine and decent people. But their presence provides communities where those who are neither fine nor decent can blend in unnoticed, until time to do their dirty work, as in the previous bombing of the World Trade Center.

Immigrants who come here from around the world with every desire and intention to become Americans may be hi-jacked by those activists who are ideologically committed to keeping them speaking foreign languages, loyal to foreign values and -- if possible -- taught to feel historic grievances against the country that is welcoming them today.

Magic words like "diversity" evade the brutal reality of what Balkanization actually means, whether in the Balkans, the Middle East, Rwanda, Sri Lanka or other places where "identity" rules supreme and its price is paid in never-ending streams of blood.

Back at the time of the American Revolution, the phrase was, "we must all hang together -- or we will all hang separately." That was the plain and brutal reality then and it has always been the brutal reality ever since, though it is no longer plain to those whose rhetoric has permitted them to obscure the obvious and engage in the politics of moral one-upmanship, secure in their sense of safety.

The terrorists who perpetrated these outrages and the countries that shelter such terrorists all know that we have the power to wipe them off the face of the earth. They obviously think we don't have the guts.

Unfortunately, our foreign policy establishment over the years has perfected the response of speaking loudly and carrying a little stick. If they start using weasel words like "unacceptable" and "warning" or making milk-toast military gestures, the terrorists and their protectors will know that they were right.

It is time for Americans to remain calm --- but resolute.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, Basic Economics: A Citizen's Guide to the Economy.


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© 2001, Creators Syndicate