A Question of Innocence|
Pundits and politicians are going to poke and push the limits of their courage and their ethics to see where the US should go in running to ground those responsible for the September 11th air attacks in New York and Washington. There will be some who want to turn this into a legalistic prosecution through The International Court at the Hague to ensure we have the exact murderers who pulled the trigger. At the other end of the spectrum are those who will back from a cry for a declaration of war when they can't quite figure out against whom to declare it. But they will do so slowly, and reluctantly. Their ultimate political insecurity and a measure of formalistic daintiness will cause them to equivocate. That leaves the middle ground, where the rest of us live.
As America wrestles with the problems of terrorism a couple of facts need to be kept in focus:
First, everyone is involved, from rural Kansas to the barren recesses of the Middle East.
Second, the struggle is never-ending. There is always someone with a beef, and as technology makes weaponry stronger while making it smaller, the means are at hand to cause widespread damage easily. Small groups with fluid memberships and varied agendas are difficult to pin down, and essentially impossible to predict in an open society.
This attack transcended security precautions, so the question becomes does it transcend security abilities? The answer is no.
Our recent after-the-fact technical responses to heedless challenges aimed at our free society are not useful right now. We must consider what are our other security options. The bottom line, is that they involve offensive tactics. The fanatics have our attention, we must gain theirs. "We seek not to start a war but to avoid war, and the surest way to avoid war is by asserting our willingness to wage it." says both common sense and common knowledge.
How did we, mankind, get here, being forced to defend ourselves blindly? During World War II the rules of combat and combatants changed dramatically. As we progressed from warfare between soldiers to annihilation of whole populations, tens of millions of civilians were killed, intentionally. Hitler bombed London, the Japanese individually murdered 300,000 civilians in Nanking, the US firebombed Dresden and Tokyo and obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each of these representative but not isolated events left hundreds of thousands of non-combatants dead. Each of these acts, in addition to any other intention, was designed to destroy the will of the people. All-out war on civilians is now a fact of modern combat and modern politics.
Those involved in September 11's barbarism have declared war on us, starting as Hitler did, with the innocent. We need to do them a return favor, only we are bigger thus the stakes are higher. That's a price they are counting on us not to pay. It is not time for a declaration of war from us, but it is time for an intention of war, a prosecution of our response in war-like fashion. And we need to not do this solely from 30,000 feet or 300 miles away. This means "innocent" people will be killed. There, I've said it, now let's examine it.
Being exposed to discomforting ideas is the price of freedom. What is most important to remember as we look forward to what we are about to do, is to recall what has been done, and to fear not the consequences of our actions but the consequences of our inaction. First, then, we recognize that innocents have already been killed, that's where our enemies started.
And, as we make our decisions to risk more of the blameless being killed,
we are forced to ask: Who is innocent? The group who hijacked four jetliners
from three different airports and were able to drive these complicated
machines to their destination in all but one case, have to be termed
sophisticated, educated, trained, and disciplined, to the point of death.
Those ingredients in a human conspiracy are as dangerous as the results they
obtained. We must be seen by all as just as menacing, only a lot bigger and
substantially more capable. That includes, unfortunately, the magnitude of
our potential mistakes.
This article first appeared in Columbus Alive.