The talk of retaliation for the murderous acts by terrorists at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is not sufficient if we are to win this war, whether declared or undeclared, that has been brought to our soil. Retaliation will only provide a never-ending cycle of horror and retribution. This is not a war of hours or cruise missiles. This is a war of years, of police and intelligence agency investigation, of military action, and of American civilian sacrifice beyond that of World War II.
For us to have victory in this war we have to eliminate the capability of others to commit terrorist acts. We have to destroy the evil that brought bloodshed to New York and Washington. Arresting and prosecuting a few operatives will not work – terrorists can recruit more people. Destroying a few buildings in the middle of a wasteland will not work – terrorists can rebuild structures. This is an elusive enemy. Unlike the enemies of our fathers and grandfathers, this enemy does not wear uniforms. Unlike our enemies of the Cold War, this enemy does not, and probably cannot, brandish missiles, bombers or tanks. This enemy must be more innovative to deliver destruction.
If the events of Sept. 11 represent a failure in our intelligence, then we must have the will to improve our capability. And we must improve our capability before we take serious action. Not to understand our enemy better is to invite disaster. We need to understand our enemy well enough to dismantle its terrorist organization(s). And to do so will take patience, coldness of purpose and determination that we have not needed for 60 years.
This enemy is not of one religion. This enemy uses religion to mask and promote its hate. The faithful of this religion are not the enemies. It is those elements that twist this religion who are our enemies. We must focus our energies on this radical minority to be successful. To do so will be incredibly difficult. To do otherwise, makes us no better than our enemy.