Friday, July 08, 2005

Carry On, Jeeves

Regarding the cowardly, though unsurprising, atrocities committed against our British friends, Andrew Sullivan reflects thusly:

"Here's one cultural difference between Brits and Americans. Brits regard the best response to outrage to carry on as if nothing has happened. Yes, they will fight back. But first, they will just carry on as normal. Right now, a million kettles are boiling. "Is that the best you can do?" will be a typical response. Stoicism is not an American virtue. Apart from a sense of humor, it is the ultimate British one."

There is a lot of value in this concept. At the risk of sounding jejune, I want to direct you to one of many lessons afforded by a brief perusal of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas: "He couldn't stop Christmas from coming. It came." This is all the more apropos in light of the fact that if it were up to al Qaeda, Christmas would indeed stop coming - as would Chanukah, New Year's, and, for that matter, the 22nd century - not to mention the remainder of the 21st.

I've always been a proponent of getting even rather than getting mad. Granted, I've never had to personally brook such contingencies as terror attacks, but, as I frequently remark, I don't get headaches - I give them. In that vein, I think we would do well to examine our own American response to terrorist attacks. I think we'd find that stoicism was not the first quality that leapt to mind. And, in one sense, that is a good thing up to a point. On September 11, the U.S. wept, and much of the world wept with us. And, obviously, things like air travel had to be halted. Such was the inevitable cost of such a blow to our infrastructure.

But fast forward a few months and you'll notice that we squandered the world's sympathy by refusing to move on contructively - not that we should place sympathy at such a premium either, mind you. Regardless of other people's opinions, however, and more importantly, I think it was ironically quite damaging to our own morale when we trotted out that WTC flag during the Winter Olympics - you know, the one where the US never does so hot. Or at my alma mater Carmel High School's graduation, when one valedictorian used the phrase "in light of September 11th" no less than nine times in his address. Or at Stanford Class Day 2004, when Prof. Terry Karl told my graduating class that our time in college was defined by two things, one of them being 9/11 (the other, absurdly, being the Abu Ghraib prison abuses!). This made me angry. If my college experience was defined by something I merely observed, it was Nick Robinson hitting a running 35-footer to beat Arizona at the buzzer. But I digress.

So how would I have dealt with 9/11? I don't claim to have all the answers but here are a few pointers: Round up al Qaeda suspects without fanfare (see "(Don't) Flaunt It If You've Got It" from a few weeks ago) and tickle them until they cough up some information. Revamp airline security. Give every undocumented foreign national with no discernible reason to be in this country til the count of ten to vacate the premises. Finish cleaning up Afghanistan - the country that actually attacked us most directly (granted, a very difficult undertaking - but who knows what could have been accomplished had we remained focused?). Then, turn our attention on the country that financed it all - our bosom friends in Saudi Arabia.

Above all, though, I would have mandated business as usual except where business as usual constituted a security lapse. Take a tip from the Britons - stiff upper lip and all that. Brace for more attacks. They are coming. But there are not - as of this writing - enough Islamic militants to destroy our way of life if we resolutely maintain it. And, if I am proved wrong, may we fight the menace of Islamist fascism with every last rock every last one of us can hurl - and every dollar we can withhold.

That is the final part of my argument, and the final amendment to "business as usual". Let's stop doing business with Saudi Arabia and other supporters of terror, and see how they like it. We must sap them of our biggest vulnerability - our money. In short, consider, as Kipling so wisely put it, "If we have parley with the foe, the load our sons must bear."


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