Perhaps nothing has shaken my natural optimism quite as roughly as this: war, which nation-states had once managed to "tame" into scheduled battles at appointed places, between uniformed armies that exhibited deep respect for the lives and property of noncombatants, has returned to its oldest and most savage roots. The most recognizable force behind this regression dares to call itself a religion, but in the absence of Islam, no doubt the "aspirations" of secular terrorist groups would have served equally well.
War, broadly speaking, is the collectivization of our tendency to seek our ends through violence. It should surprise no one that persons of low mentality and no morality should find violence an appealing means. Nor should it surprise us that persons of intelligence and good will should abhor it, even when they concede the necessity. Yet bafflingly, the savages, who by logic ought to fall on one another as readily as on us, have shown the greater facility for organizing themselves for war, while we of the nominally civilized world, for whom organization is a fundamental, deeply driven skill, wring our hands and endlessly seek a gentler way.
Terrorist scum, incapable of living peaceably in the world as they find it, have turned the world's great cities into hostages. They even slaughter those in whose names they claim to fight, without pause or pity. Villainous governments cheerfully exploit such groups, and our fear of them, to stave off the administration of punishment for their crimes.
Our magnificent military forces are, if not paralyzed, at the least greatly frustrated by the ease which which the terrorists strike their chosen targets. They yearn to be unleashed and to spring upon the foe, but until the instant he strikes, he's nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, the country they've set free and hope to guard as it establishes an acceptable system of government writhes and bleeds under the blows of the terrorists. Its people ask ever more angrily why we can't shield them any better than we've done.
I am a military thinker and a lover of justice. I burn with the desire to close upon these miscreants -- at the very least, to play a part as a planner and weaponeer in effecting their demise. But the precepts with which I've addressed armed conflict in the past are unsuitable to the wars of the present, and I can find none with which to replace them.
- We cannot rely on our traditional ways of pursuing villains, for the villains have mastered the art of hiding among persons from whom we cannot distinguish them, and who fear them more than they fear us.
- We cannot adopt their tactics for our own. They don't care whom they hurt. We do.
- We cannot simply rampage through the lands that gave birth to the terrorists, slaying indiscriminately. It would be tantamount to national suicide.
- ...but we cannot accept the status quo.
This is a war of ideas: strategic and tactical ideas. Today, the terrorists have the cutting-edge ideas, the initiative, and a range of targets against which to use them. Until we succeed in wresting those advantages away from them, the outlook will be bleak.
What, then, must we do?