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A British View of the US/Bin Laden affair by Andrew Sullivan in the London
Times

No eloquence can match the impact of their evil. Americans' critical
weakness in the past two decades has been their reluctance to shed blood for
their goals. They believed they could construct a huge military and never
have it fight real wars and suffer real casualties. They thought they could
alter history and advance their interests from the air alone.

With the exception of the Gulf War, which they hesitated to finish, they
have shrunk from the fight. When the current enemy struck again and again
throughout the 1990s, Bill Clinton responded without real credibility,
struck back without real endurance, enraged the terrorists without truly
hurting them. We are now living with the consequences of his
appeasement, and of his refusal to challenge Americans beyond what the polls
said they already wanted to do. Whoever launched this war on Americans has
now accomplished the task Clinton didn't dare embark on. America has been
bloodied as it has never been bloodied before. I would be a fool to
predict what happens next. But it is clear that Bush will not do a
Clinton. This will not be a surgical strike. It will not be a gesture.
It may not even begin in earnest soon. But it will be deadly serious. It
is clear that there is no way that the United States can achieve its goals
without the cooperation of many other states - an alliance as deep and as
broad as that which won the Gulf War. It is also clear that this cannot be
done by airpower alone. As in 1941, the neglect of the military under Bill
Clinton and the parsimony of its financing even under Bush must now not
merely be ended but reversed. We may see the biggest defense buildup since
the early 1980s -- and not just in weaponry, but in manpower.

It is also quite clear that the U.S. military presence in the Middle East
must be ramped up exponentially, its intelligence overhauled, its vigilance
heightened exponentially. In some ways, Bush has already assembled the ideal
team for such a task: Powell for the diplomatic dance, Rumsfeld for the deep
reforms he will now have the opportunity to enact, Cheney as his most
trusted aide in what has become to all intents and purposes a war cabinet.
The terrorists have done the rest. The middle part of the country - the
great red zone that voted for Bush - is clearly ready for war. The
decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead - and may well mount
what amounts to a fifth column. But by striking at the heart of New York
City, the terrorists ensured! that at least one deep segment of the country
ill-disposed toward a new president is now the most passionate in his
defense. Anyone who has ever tried to get one over on a New Yorker knows
what I mean. The demons who started this have no idea about the kind of
people they have taken on. But what the terrorists are also counting on is
that Americans will not have the stomach for the long haul. They clearly
know that the coming retaliation will not be the end but the beginning.
And when the terrorists strike back again, they have let us know that the
results could make the assault on the World Trade Center look puny. They
are banking that Americans will then cave. They have seen a great country
quarrel to the edge of constitutional crisis over a razor-close presidential
election. They have seen it respond to real threats in the last few
years with squeamish restraint or surgical strikes. They have seen that,
as Israel has been pounded by the same murderous thugs, the United States
has responded with equanimity. They have seen a great nation at the
height of its power obsess for a whole summer over a missing intern and a
randy Congressman.

They have good reason to believe that this country is soft, that it has no
appetite for the war that has now begun. They have gambled that in response
to unprecedented terror, the Americans will abandon Israel to the barbarians
who would annihilate every Jew on the planet, and trade away their freedom
for a respite from terror in their own land.

We cannot foresee the future. But we know the past. And that past tells
us that these people who destroyed the heart of New York City have made a
terrible mistake. This country is at its heart a peaceful one. It has done
more to help the world than any other actor in world history. It saved the
world from the two greatest evils of the last century: Nazism and Soviet
Communism. It responded to its victories in the last war by pouring aid
into Europe and Japan. In the Middle East, America alone has ensured that
the last hope of the Jewish people is not extinguished and has given more
aid to Egypt than to any other country. It risked its own people to save
the Middle East from the pseudo-Hitler in Baghdad.

America need not have done any of this. Its world hegemony has been less
violent and less imperial than any other comparable power in history. In
the depths of its soul, it wants its dream to itself, to be left alone, to
prosper among others, and to welcome them to the freedom America has helped
secure.

But whenever Americans have been challenged, they have risen to the task.
In some awful way, these evil thugs may have done us a favor. America may
have woken up for-ever. The rage that will follow from this grief and shock
may be deeper and greater than anyone now can imagine. Think of what the
United States ultimately did to the enemy that bombed Pearl Harbor. Now
recall that American power in the world is all but unchallenged by any other
state. Recall that America has never been wealthier, and is at the end of
one of the biggest booms in its history. And now consider the extent of this
wound - the greatest civilian casualties since the Civil War, an assault not
just on Americans but on the meaning of America itself. When you take a
step back, it is hard not to believe that we are now in the quiet moment
before the whirlwind.

Americans will recover their dead, and they will mourn them, and then they
will get down to business. Their sadness will be mingled with an anger that
will make the hatred of these evil fanatics seem mild. I am reminded of a
great American poem written by Herman Melville after the death of Abraham
Lincoln, the second founder of the country:


There is sobbing of the strong,
And a pall upon the land;
But the People in their weeping
Bare the iron hand;
Beware the People weeping
When they bare the iron hand."

I just wish that Bill, Hillary, and Al would read this also.
 
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