September 13, 2004

by Reb Yudel
Mark Helprin: Bush has failed Sept. 11 challenge

Mark Helprin in the Wall Street Journal: Written on Water

We have followed a confusion of war aims that seem to report after the fact what we have done rather than to direct what we do. We could, by threatening the existence of Middle Eastern regimes, which live to hold power, enforce our insistence that the Arab world eradicate the terrorists within its midst. Instead, we have embarked upon the messianic transformation of an entire region, indeed an entire civilization, in response to our inability to pacify even a single one of its countries. As long as our war aims stray from the disciplined, justifiable, and attainable objective of self-defense, we will be courting failure.

Our strategy has been deeply inadequate especially in light of the fact that we have refused to build up our forces even as our aims have expanded to the point of absurdity. We might have based in northern Saudi Arabia within easy range of the key regimes that succor terrorism, free to coerce their cooperation by putting their survival in question. Our remounted infantry would have been refreshed, reinforced, properly supported, unaffected by insurgency, and ready to strike. The paradigm would have shifted from conquer, occupy, fail, and withdraw--to strike, return, and re-energize. At the same time, we would not have solicited challenges, as we do now, from anyone who sees that although we may be occupying Iraq, Iraq is also occupying us.

We have abstained from mounting an effective civil defense. Only a fraction of a fraction of our wealth would be required to control the borders of and entry to our sovereign territory, and not that much more to discover, produce, and stockpile effective immunizations, antidotes, and treatments in regard to biological and chemical warfare. Thirty years ago the entire country had been immunized against smallpox. Now, no one is, and the attempt to cover a minuscule part of the population failed miserably and was abandoned. Not only does this state of affairs leave us vulnerable to a smallpox epidemic, it stimulates the terrorists to bring one about. So with civil aviation, which, despite the wreckage and tragedy of September 11, is protected in an inefficient, irresponsible, and desultory fashion.

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