Ever since the 9/11 panic, where so many American chicken littles were willing to give up so much of our freedom and the values on which it is based, merely because one American week’s mortality went up about 7%, I have maintained that terrorism was an overrated threat. Now here comes Colin Powell, via Pat Buchanan, backing me up.
”Terrorism, said Powell, is not a mortal threat to America. ‘What is the greatest threat facing us now?’ Powell asked. ‘People will say it's terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only we can change ourselves. So what is the great threat we are facing?’”
Indeed, it seems in our fervor to defend against another terrorist attack, we have forgotten what makes a terrorist what he is. Terrorists use terror as a weapon because they lack the ability to effect political change via the other two common methods: the ballot box, and military might. That lack both, thus being reduced to lobbing Molotov cocktails from the shadows. 9/11 was, in its very essence, one great big act of vandalism and murder. Without an army with which to invade (such as the Nazis and Communists had), terrorism is impotent to do much more. All this has been ignored over the last six years. Buchanan puts it all in perspective:
”Terrorists can blow up our buildings, assassinate our leaders, and bomb our malls and stadiums. They cannot destroy us. Assume the worst. Terrorists smuggle an atom bomb into New York harbor or into Washington, D.C., and detonate it.
Horrible and horrifying as that would be -- perhaps 100,000 dead and wounded -- it would not mean the end of the United States. It would more likely mean the end of Iran, or whatever nation at which the United States chose to direct its rage and retribution. Powell's point is not that terrorism is not a threat. It is that the terror threat must be seen in perspective, that we ought not frighten ourselves to death with our own propaganda, that we cannot allow fear of terror to monopolize our every waking hour or cause us to give up our freedom. “
Exactly. We have been like an elephant charging off a cliff for fear of a mouse. Terrorists can hurt us, but they cannot destroy us, and they could not begin to inflict the kind of damage to us that we have inflicted on ourselves over the last six years. Nor could they do anywhere near the damage that the Nazis or Communists could have done, which is why comparisons to those empires are so idiotic, as Buchanan spells out:
”For all the blather of a restored caliphate, the ‘Islamofascists,’ as the neocons call them, cannot create or run a modern state, or pose a mortal threat to America. The GNP of the entire Arab world is not equal to Spain's. Oil aside, its exports are equal to Finland's. Afghanistan and Sudan, under Islamist regimes, were basket cases. Despite the comparisons with Nazi Germany, Iran is unable to build modern fighters or warships and has an economy one-twentieth that of the United States, at best. While we lack the troops to invade Iran, three times the size of Iraq, the U.S. Air Force and Navy could, in weeks, smash Iran's capacity to make war, blockade it and reduce its population to destitution. Should Iran develop a nuclear weapon and use it on us or on Israel, it would invite annihilation.
As a threat, Iran is not remotely in the same league with the Soviet Union of Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, or Mao's China, or Nazi Germany, or Imperial Japan, or even Mussolini's Italy. “
Bingo. We have completely lost our perspective of what a real threat to our nation would look like. We have boarded up our houses and reduced the liberties of everyone living in them all because some crazy kid with a god complex threw a rock through a window.
Buchanan cannot leave well enough alone and wastes several paragraphs on his favorite bugaboo: immigration. Powell’s wise words save the article, and make a good closing:
”If America ends, it will not be the work of an Osama bin Laden. As Abraham Lincoln said, it will be by our own hand, it will be by suicide.