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Winning the war on terrorism

By Henry Lamb
web posted May 24, 2004

The outcome of a battle is determined by superior armaments, strategy, or tactics; the outcome of war is determined by depth of purpose. The battle of Pearl Harbor in 1941 was won by the enemy. But the war was won by a united America that was determined to stop the aggression of a Japanese emperor. The battle of New York, September 11, 2001 was won by the enemy. But the war will be lost, unless a united America is determined to stop the aggression of fanatical terrorists.

There is no depth of purpose in America to defeat the enemy, as there was in 1941. America is bitterly divided between those who see terrorism as a threat just as serious as either of the World War II enemies, and those whose priorities place the terror threat near the bottom of their list of concerns.

America cannot win the war against terrorism without a strong, united effort, and an absolute determination to stop the fanatics who celebrate the slaughter of innocent Americans.

Had America's determination faltered during World War II, Japanese or German might well be the language of our land. Had America's determination not been divided in Vietnam, there might well be a growing culture of representative governments in that region. Hindsight serves only to confirm the fact that if the war on terrorism is to be won, America must be united in purpose.

In past wars, the enemy was easily defined - a nation. In the current war, the enemy is not a nation, nor a government, but a philosophy, a world view, a religion - and terror is the tactic of choice to impose their view on others. It is not enough to simply say "let them worship as they choose." We tried that. For 20 years, we left them alone, while they continued to recruit, and build a secret underground army - and attack American targets at will.

The attack on September 11, 2001 launched a war, a new kind of war, that America must win. America has the superior armaments, strategies, and tactics, but lacks the depth of purpose necessary to win. The enemy fights with second-hand weapons, ad hoc strategies and tactics - but the enemy has a depth of purpose beyond any enemy we've ever encountered.

Few remain in this generation who remember the ration books, the black-outs, and the sacrifices required to unite America with a depth of purpose sufficient to defeat both Japan and Germany. Since those days, America's freedom has allowed the growth of ideas and philosophies that seek to divide the nation rather than to unite it.

Before the first bomb fell in Baghdad, anti-war organizations stoked up their public relations machines to sway public opinion and create diversions, and division among Americans. The flames of opposition to the war on terror are fanned by charges such as: "it's about oil;" or "Bush's revenge for Saddam's attempt to assassinate Bush Sr.;" or "it's to reward Bush's corporate buddies."

These short-sighted diversions are often nothing more than efforts to exploit the war for political advantage. Organizations such as MoveOn.org, and the Communist Party U.S.A., have as their single purpose, the defeat of George Bush, and the recapture of the White House by people more sympathetic to their socialist philosophy.

This war on terrorism is far more important than politics; it goes to the very core of America's freedom. The enemy will not change its purpose whether a Democrat or a Communist is elected President. The enemy joins the "anyone but Bush" crowd because, as during the Clinton years, the enemy could build its resources with relatively little harassment.

The war on terrorism is a long-term commitment that will require on-going sacrifices of blood and treasure. It must be fought on many fronts, perhaps simultaneously. Afghanistan and Iraq are but different battlefields in the same war. There may be more battlefields. But the war will not be won on the battlefield.

The war against terrorism will not be won until the victims of terror discover a better way to live. The most challenging task America faces is to help the victims of terror construct a system of self-governance that provides the individual freedom for people to pursue their own happiness. It will not be an easy process. The fanatics whose power is threatened will do all they can do to prevent the emergence of freedom in land they claim as their own.

The public decapitation of an American civilian is an act designed to destroy the purpose that empowers American resolve. There will be more, perhaps even more brutal acts by the terrorist fanatics. These acts should not lessen American resolve, they should unleash a rage that deepens our resolve, strengthens our determination of purpose, and unifies every American in a common purpose - to rid the world of terrorism.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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