Fourteen years after a massive and highly sophisticated attack on multiple critical targets in the United States from a foreign invader, the outlook is grim:
The instantaneous rally of the American people in one voice after 9/11 demanding retribution and assurance of no repetition of these catastrophic events has been replaced with a cacophony of bickering about a confused and indecisive foreign policy.
The immediate response of the George W. Bush Administration to destroy the model for any sanctuary providing a base from which any such future attack might result has ended in two contentious, indecisive wars.
The possibility of a similar sanctuary being provided to new jihadists with the same intent not only cannot be ruled out, but in fact, seems almost inevitable given the continuing growth of radical Islam and new terrorist movements employing our own and most novel techniques for social interchange.
Mobilization for what must be seen as a long and complex war against Islamic extremism is beset with contradictory and failing effort. Perhaps most of all, there is a failure to identify correctly the ideological enemy as was done through an intellectual mobilization parallel to the arms buildup during The Cold War.
Worst of all is that even critics of current policies and failures suggest wholly inadequate remedies, if at all, such as Gen. David Howell Petraeus’ proposal that we play one Islamic terrorist faction against another, presupposing intelligence and Machiavellian prowess current U.S. leadership does not have.
This failure to cope with the continuing threat to the U.S. with a studied withdrawal from leadership wherever possible has led to a virtual breakdown of the post-colonial Arab and Muslim political structures. And that has led to a massive movement of displaced persons toward refuge in Europe. Their acceptance, however justified on humanitarian and economic grounds [with the catastrophic decline in Western birthrates and its labor force], is fraught. It is far from clear that post-Christian Europe, with its inability to muster a dedication to a new civic culture, including a failing European Union, can withstand this erosion of its traditions that will come with the onset of this new Muslim totalitarian infusion.
It is possible, of course, perhaps even likely, that the American people will reverse course in 2016, with a new visionary leadership. That happened, of course, after an earlier period of disenchantment and despair, with the arrival of Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s leadership was more psychological and emotional than highly evolved economic and political strategies despite all the attributes now accorded his rallying leadership.
That may not be necessary again. The U.S. is still the overwhelmingly superior power on the world stage with no likely immediate competitor. It still has abundant resources, and above all, a capacity for technological breakthroughs, that makes it possible to once again lead the kind of struggle against Islamic terrorism which eventually caused the Soviet Union to implode. But we are dealing with an old, if reactivated, enemy that always lurks inside the broader aspects of one of the world’s most important religions and its 1.3 billion nominal adherents.
Nor will abandoning “leading from behind” for a new leadership role work wonders quickly. The losses of the past decade will not be accommodated quickly, and to do so will require leadership and a new civil spirit to follow it that is not yet visible in American public life or in the beginnings of the campaign for the new presidency. Candidate Donald Trump may play on the long simmering frustrations and appetite for change, but he does not nor is he likely to provide the kind of informed leadership that is required.
There will be a great deal of oratory during the next few hours recalling the 9/11 tragic circumstances. But the country still awaits a clear and resounding call for a new understanding of our problems and a dedication to overcome them.