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Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2002 / 30 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
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Force vs. fanaticism | No one can doubt any longer that we are in a new kind of war, the first of the 21st century, a war of terror and a war on terror. It is a global guerrilla war but one without a battleground. It is open-ended, without boundaries, without a specified nation-state as a belligerent with definable or negotiable ambitions.

One cannot be sure who the enemy is or where to find him. We can only be sure that this enemy will fight unrestrained by moral scruples or even by rationality. We will have to wage this war as we have others: inspired by the values we defend but determined in our readiness to adapt. We have to find new weapons for old fanaticisms.

It will be hard. The menace is too many-sided. Terrorists strike everywhere in different guises. They kill at random in the gentle suburbs of Washington, in a packed theater in Moscow, in a dance hall in Bali, in the crowded buses in Jerusalem, in the churches of Pakistan, in the Arab Street, in the air, and on the high seas. They blow up a French oil tanker saying it is a "Christian" vessel, but they also fire rockets at a school in Afghanistan because it educates young Muslim girls. There may be no single bloody hand in the planning and execution of all this, but there is a common, mad nihilism with the common purpose of threatening civilized life as never before.

Lockdown. The snipers who were arrested for killing 10 people over several weeks revealed our vulnerability. Outdoor activities were canceled, parks emptied, schools locked down. President Bush, after 9/11, had encouraged us to shop and travel again, but the opposite happened this time. Fear was the name of the game, aggravated by nonstop coverage as we watched with horror.

Our helplessness was only amplified by the revelation that the two accused killers were apparently unsophisticated and alone, driving around in a battered car with a single gun yet able to paralyze an entire metropolitan region. They had even gotten away with sleeping in the car, rousing the curiosity of Baltimore police but escaping suspicion for the murders they were apparently carrying out.

The sniper-terrorists are an important illustration of the vulnerability of urban centers-a vulnerability that will be compounded when we are attacked by well-organized terrorists with weapons that can kill in the thousands, fanatics who are prepared to die, who have the tactical advantage of picking and choosing when and where to strike, and who have even more latitude in the choice of targets if their purpose is simply to create fear, panic, and economic destruction.

We are going to have to get used to a long and many-fronted war without the prospect of a clear victory, and perhaps with high costs. The enemy is Hydra-headed-individual crazies and well-organized conspirators. Al Qaeda, as our competent CIA director put it, has "reconstituted" itself and intends to strike us again. Saddam Hussein is a proven psychopath of mass destruction. We must understand in these cases that it is better to take the risk of acting early than the risk of reacting too late.

To acknowledge our vulnerability is not to be fatalistic or defeatist. It is simply to recognize the magnitude of the challenge. Europe and other parts of the world will not feel the same way as we do, for we are the No. 1 country and thus the No. 1 target. For most of them, terrorism is nothing more than a TV drama. When Bush said, "Either you are with us or against us," many Europeans replied, "We don't accept either option."

Bush is meeting the issue with a moral clarity that begets diplomatic and strategic clarity. He sees the threat for what it is-not a political argument that might be compromised but a mortal threat that can never be mediated, only defeated. He is so right to eschew a policy of kicking the can down the road. Weakness and decency only inflame the madmen whose daring and cruelty grow bigger every day.

That is why we will have to get used to taking the battle to the enemy. We simply have to take into account the implacable hatred of America that resides in the militant Muslim world. It is worth reading what the al Qaeda spokesman, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, actually means when he describes America as "the head of heresy." He says America "leads an infidel, democratic regime that is based upon separation of religion and state and on ruling the people by laws that contradict the ways of Allah."

One who believes in Allah, in Islam, and in Mohammed, he says, cannot possibly accept humiliation and inferiority when "he knows that his nation was created to stand as the center of leadership, hegemony, and rule" such that "the entire Earth must be subject to the religion of Allah . . . even if it costs the believer his soul, his time, his property, and his son."

No change in policy can ever appease such maniacs. We must, instead, keep in mind what Cicero once said: "Let them hate us so long as they fear us."

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JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


10/30/02: Land of the sinking sun
10/22/02: No more cat and mouse
10/15/02: And pigs will fly
10/07/02: A shameful contagion
09/26/02: Calling a madman's number
09/23/02: Our rainbow underclass
09/13/02: Why America must act
09/04/02: After bubbles, a double dip?
08/20/02: No time for equivocation
08/06/02: No time for politics
07/30/02: Getting off the dime
07/17/02: What scandal cannot dim
06/18/02: Time to crack down: Where is the outrage?
06/05/02: The next new thing
04/30/02: Roller-coaster nation
04/25/02: A critical tipping point
04/15/02: Israel's endgame will impact the free world
03/21/02: In the face of pure evil
03/14/02: A man on a mission
03/07/02: Land of the Sinking Sun
02/12/02: Speaking truth about energy
01/15/02: Putting our house in order
01/12/02: Talking points for 2002
12/24/01: The shape of things to come
12/11/01: Finally, a clarity of vision
12/04/01: Apocalypse now
11/26/01: The Big Apple's core
11/06/01: What it will take to win
10/22/01: Getting the mayor's message
10/08/01: A remedy for repair
10/01/01: A question of priorities
09/26/01: Our mission, our moment
09/11/01: Running the asylum
08/29/01: Hail, brave consumer
06/14/01: Blackouts --- or blackmail?
06/01/01: A time to reap --- and sow
05/25/01: A question of confidence
05/18/01: A question of confidence
05/04/01: Making the grade
04/26/01: The caribou conundrum
04/19/01: Chinese boomerang
03/27/01: The man of the moment
03/20/01: The Fed must be bold
03/15/01: Japan on the brink
03/01/01: Rethinking the next war
02/09/01: The education paradox
01/08/01: How the bottom fell out
01/03/01: Quipping in the new year
12/20/00: A time for healing
11/13/00: The need for legitimacy
10/30/00: Arafat's bloody cynicism
10/18/00: Arafat torches peace
10/03/00: A great step backward
09/08/00: The Perfect Storm
08/29/00: Don't blow the surplus
08/15/00: Voting for grown-ups
08/01/00: Arafat's lack of nerve
07/17/00: Can there be a new peace between old enemies? Or will new enemies regress to an old state of war?
07/11/00: A time to celebrate
06/19/00: A bit of straight talk
06/08/00: Using hate against Israel
05/26/00: Is the Federal Reserve trigger-happy?
04/18/00: Tensions on the 'Net
04/13/00: A paranoid power
03/10/00: Fuel prices in the red zone
02/25/00: Web wake-up call
02/18/00: Back to the future
01/21/00: Whistling while we work
01/11/00: Loose lips, fast quips
12/23/99: The times of our lives
12/14/99: Hey, big spender
11/18/99: Fountain of Youth
11/04/99: An impossible partner
10/14/99: A nation divided
10/05/99: India at center stage
09/21/99: Along with good cops, we need a better probation system
09/08/99: Though plundered and confused, Russia can solve its problems
08/31/99: The military should spend more on forces and less on facilities
08/05/99: Squandering the surplus
07/06/99: More than ever, America's unique promise is a reality
06/24/99: The time has come to hit the brakes on affirmative action
06/15/99: America should take pride in honoring its responsibilities
06/02/99: The Middle Kingdom shows its antagonistic side
05/11/99: Technology's transforming power is giving a lift to everything
05/04/99: The big game gets bigger
04/30/99: On Kosovo, Russia talked loudly and carried a small stick
04/21/99: No time to go wobbly
04/13/99: The Evil of two lessers

© 2001, Mortimer Zuckerman