Terror War Quiz

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 25, 2003 | Go to article overview

Terror War Quiz


Byline: Clifford D. May, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

If this is the real thing - not just a metaphorical war like the War on Poverty or the War on Drugs - you have to expect real casualties; you can't expect that we will win every battle. You also need to understand how terrorists define victory. For them, victory does not mean taking a hill or pacifying a city, or forcing the surrender of a battalion. For terrorists, a tactical victory means leaving unarmed civilians - men, women, children, babies - lying on the ground, covered with blood: dead, dying, mutilated, crippled. For terrorists, strategic victory means instilling fear and, over time, destroying a way of life, extinguishing an enemy civilization.

Is the war on terrorism really about terrorism?

Yes and no. Terrorism isn't really an "ism," it's a weapon. One of our goals should be the abolition of that weapon, just as we seek to abolish the use of biological warfare. Terrorism violates one of the oldest laws of war - the prohibition on intentionally targeting noncombatants. As long ago as the Middle Ages, such slaughter was considered barbaric and dishonorable.

For pragmatic as well as moral reasons, we should not retreat from that view in this century. If terrorism is rewarded, given legitimacy or even just excused, the inevitable result will be more terrorism. If, on the other hand, everyone understands that terrorism delegitimizes those who use it - as well as their cause - and if terrorists are consistently fought and consistently defeated, terrorism will eventually come to be seen as a dead end, and its use will fade.

Is the war on terrorism only about terrorism?

Of course not. On a deeper level, the war on terrorism is about the ideologies that use terrorism in an attempt to end the democratic experiment that began in 1776 and that has so far spread to more than 150 countries. Most of those ideologies are "jihadist" heirs to Nazism and communism but with an Islamist coloration. The most important of these ideologies are Khomeiniism, Wahhabism, bin Ladenism, Ba'athism and Arafatism. All seek to force "infidels" out of the Middle East and to reconquer lands that the jihadists insist have been stolen.

Jihadist ideology has been behind virtually every terrorist blow inflicted on the United States from the Hezbollah bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks and embassy in Beirut in 1983, to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, to the 1996 bombing of our troops in the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, to the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, to the 2000 attack on the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, to al Qaeda's magnum opus on September 11, 2001. …

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