Jewish World Review Oct. 15, 2001 /28 Tishrei, 5762
Like no other people, we tend to our own personal affairs, and we have done it so well, we are the first people in history to believe that peace is the normal condition of mankind. That is one of the two major reasons why we are never ready for the next war. Every time a war ends, we demobilize, believing war itself has been defeated. As far back as 1846, when we were on the verge of a two-front war that produced the expansion of the United States into Texas, California and Oregon, the Congress was planning to shut down the military academy at West Point. We have to be dragged into war. In the 20th century we were torpedoed into the First World War on the North Atlantic, bombed into the Second World War in the Pacific, terrified into the Cold War by Stalin, and shocked into the Gulf War by Saddam Hussein. September 11th revealed that we had once again let down our guard, despite years of terrorist attacks against Americans within and beyond our borders.
The other reason we are not ready for war is our radical egalitarianism and our belief in the perfectibility of man. We think all people are fundamentally the same, and, having turned the study of history into a sanitized hymn to the wonders of multiculturalism, we are reluctant to accept Machiavelli's dictum that "man is more likely to do evil than good." It is singularly bad form for anyone in America to suggest that there are some truly evil people, and even some thoroughly evil regimes, whose hatred of us is so intractable that "live and let live" will not do. It has to be "kill or be killed."
our character better than anyone else before or since, Tocqueville warned
that foreign policy was our Achilles heel. But he also recognized that
we have an amazing capacity to draw together, and to postpone our craving
for personal success until the common good has been safeguarded. "War
almost always enlarges the mind of a people and raises their character,"
he tells us, and "in some cases it is the only check to the excessive
growth of certain (selfish) tendencies." Just ask the Germans or
the Japanese or the Soviets, all of whom grossly underestimated our enormous
capacity to unite to accomplish a national
They are not alone; our national capacity to spontaneously organize ourselves to overcome challenges is hard to explain, even for a genius like Tocqueville. It is the mystery of American patriotism. How does it happen that in the United States, where the inhabitants have only recently immigrated...where they met one another for the first time with no previous acquaintance; where, in short, the instinctive love of country can scarcely exist; how does it happen that everyone takes as zealous an interest in the affairs of the whole state...as if they were his own?
It is because we feel ourselves part of a common enterprise-the advance of freedom and we spontaneously organize ourselves to achieve that enterprise.
One of the few to understand this magical process is Oriana Fallaci, the celebrated Italian writer, a longtime thorn in the bodies of the self-important, a proud Tuscan who has become a New Yorker, who took four full pages of the Corriere della Sera to speak of the September events and our response to them. She was struck by the response at Ground Zero to the president.
Oriana Fallaci is our friend, and she understands us very well. Our enemies don't, which is why they constantly make the mistake of striking at us before they can be sure they will take us out. Thus, the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. Thus, Osama bin Laden in New York and Washington. They see our internal divisions, they see our drive for material comfort, they know our leaders dread the thought of body bags, and they think we are not capable of fighting them hand to hand. They should listen to Tocqueville, who knew back in 1831 that once we are engaged in a fight, "the same passions that made them attach so much importance to the maintenance of peace will be turned to arms." The awesome power of a free society committed to a single mission is something they cannot imagine.
I daresay that few of us, a month ago, imagined that the American people would react with such vigor, such coherent rage, such determination to destroy the evildoers. Until then, many of us believed, feared, or suspected that our will had been sapped, that our great wealth had made us thoroughly self-indulgent and indolent, and that we might well fail such a test.
Now we know better,
and our enemies will soon see the evidence in their own streets, deserts,
and mountain redoubts. We have rediscovered the roots of our national
character, which are an unshakeable confidence in the rightness of our
mission, deep religious conviction, and a unique ability to come together
to prevail against frightening obstacles. Once we have defeated the latest
incarnation of servitude this time wrapped in a religious mantle
we must remind ourselves of what we are, and the magnitude of our
task. Next time, we must not listen to leaders who delight us with fables
of peace and who tell us we are not worthy of our
Have you seen millions of people from the West clamoring to live in Iran, Iraq, or Saudi Arabia? Do you think Assad, Saddam Hussein, or the Ayatollah Khamenei could win a free election? If their regimes come under attack, will their people spontaneously rally round them? If you answered "yes" to any of the above, kindly report for reeducation.
Finally, next time,
we must remember that those who wish for peace must prepare for war, remind
ourselves that Americans are great warriors, and get ready to fight again.
Because that's the way it
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism