Perceptions Can Be More Dangerous Than Reality

A mere eight months after the worst terrorist attack in the history of the world, we’re largely back to “business as usual” in America. Both political parties are shoveling out pork like it was kryptonite to terrorists while urgent security concerns are being largely ignored. As far as anyone can tell, airport security is just as mediocre as it was before 9/11 and it’s improving far too slowly. Meanwhile, we’re still handing out Visas to people from terrorist supporting nations even though we know the hopelessly incompetent INS can’t possibly keep track of them all.

Futhermore, our foreign policy is starting to look as weak and ineffective as our ‘Homeland Security’ measures. I’m not sure anyone can figure out what our ‘Israel policy’ is supposed to be. We understand that dealing with Arafat is useless but we don’t want to get rid of him. We know the Palestinian leadership is full of terrorists but we don’t want to call them that. We’re aware that we’re just marking time until the next huge terrorist attack in Israel but we don’t want the Israeli military to take the necessary steps to curtail it. It’s like that movie ‘Groundhog Day’ where we simply keep repeating the exact same sequence of events over and over again with slight variations on the same theme.

Supposedly, our next target is Iraq but it’s been leaked that we intend to put off that attack until next year ‘ if we do it at all. Is this all a ploy driven by planted Bush administration leaks or is it the real deal? Who knows? But if we’re not even serious about hitting Iraq we might as well call the ‘War on Terrorism’ a failure now and hope that we’re lucky enough to keep the American body count from reaching into seven digits in the next decade.

Ostensibly we’re going through all of these foreign policy contortions to get more nations involved in the “War on Terrorism”. We’re trying to get the ‘moderate’ dictators in the Middle East to go along with all of our decisions even though they don’t want Democracy in Iraq and don’t truly want to get rid of terrorism. We’re also desperate to get Europe to go along with us although they don’t view this as their fight and would actually like to see us get taken down a peg or two. While we certainly should try to get more nations on board for the fight against terrorism there should never be any doubt that our central mission will not be compromised. Even if we do somehow get our ‘sunshine friends’ in Europe and the Middle East to go along with us in attacking Iraq, are they going to be along for the ride if we invade Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and North Korea? It’s true that we may not need to assault those nations but it’s unlikely that they’re going to stop supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction without at least the ‘threat’ of an invasion hanging over their heads.

Despite what some pundits think, there is no real upside to appearing to be confused. All of this apparent uncertainty on our part is going to encourage terrorist groups to hit us again in order to take advantage of our perceived ‘weakness’. It’s also going to make groups in Iraq and Iran that want to overthrow their governments unsure if they can count on our support. Cynical Middle Eastern regimes and timid European nations are going to be unwilling to move forward if they think we may change our minds. Rogue nations will believe that they’re better off waiting to see what will happen rather than changing their behavior. So if all of this apparent indecision is part of a strategy, it’s a bad one that is inferior to the moral certainty and resoluteness that our nation’s leaders showed in the first few months following 9/11.

We have to ask ourselves if we want American civilians to die or whether we’d rather destroy the terrorists and the armies of the regimes that support them? Are we going to do whatever it takes to wipe these terrorists off the face of the earth or are we going to allow them to murder millions of Americans because we don’t have the will to do anything about it? Not only is the answer to that question important, but the world’s perception of how we’ve answered that question is crucial as well. If there are nations in the Middle East and Europe that believe we’re wavering in the ‘War on Terrorism’ then we need to immediately address that perception before it damages the war effort.

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