Jeff Cooper's Commentaries
Special Edition September, 2001
Well, they certainly got our attention!
It does not seem that at any time in history a declaration of deadly intent has been so fearfully expressed. In condemning the world to a replay of the Dark Ages, these weird barbarians have achieved an unprecedented barbarism. One searches in vain for an objective. Killing large numbers of unprepared non-combatants is an act which must be difficult to explain, even to people on one's own side. I suppose killing an infidel is always an act of virtue for a devout Muslim, but the notion that "the only good Christian is a dead Christian" is a bit much, even for those who must admit that some sort of retribution may not be avoided.
It is clearly difficult to fight a war without an objective, and in this case that goes for both sides. President Bush has correctly stated that this is a full-house war, but it remains to be seen just what we are to attack and how we may achieve victory. We can, and we should, kill this oddball mass murderer, but that, of course, holds no terror for him because a devout Muslim is assured of his place in paradise when he has died in a holy cause - such as the killing of infidels. We can and we should uncover, confound and destroy the hatchetmen of the enemy, but this has little to do with justice. (Justice is difficult to define, and a lot of powerful thinkers have tried over the centuries - without conspicuous success.) We cannot bring this man, Osama bin Laden, to justice since he has already achieved justice in his own eyes. What we must achieve, therefore, is retribution. We cannot change the past - not even God can do that - but we can indeed give vent to our feelings. This may not be "cool" in the Christian sense, but it may indeed satisfy a philosophical sense of order.
Let us first dispense with the notion of any sort of war against Afghanistan. The Afghans are a pretty miserable people, and while some of them doubtless deserve punishment, we may take no satisfaction in reducing ourselves to the moral stature of the bad guys. In this inter-cultural war which has just been commenced, the bad Afghans will always be difficult to differentiate from the good Afghans. But the bad Afghans are there, along with the bad Iraqis, Iranians, Syrians, Palestinians, Libyans, Sudanese, Algerians, and such like. This war appears to be an inter-cultural struggle without geographical, political nor linguistic boundaries. As the goofies on the US campuses chanted in the 1960s, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go." While "Western Civ" has indeed seen better days, it is not about to GO in the sense that Osama bin Laden would like to see it go. The curious thing about the conflict is that the fanatics who would like to see the destruction of Western Civ are using its very strengths to attack it. This is both tactically and strategically unsound, and it cannot succeed. Obviously they can hurt us, but they cannot destroy us, especially since now the Western World is united in purpose as never before. That does not mean that they will not try. They have hurt us cruelly, and they will continue to do so, since they have identified the United States of America as "the Great Satan." It is up to the United States to lead in what has now become, in truth, a holy war. We have both the muscle and the mass. Now we need the objective and the will. This is going to be a long and bitter war, with unforeseen suffering on both sides. We will win, but at great cost to our social institutions and our way of life. Perhaps, in view of our ongoing social decadence, we have brought this upon ourselves. However that may be, here is the holy war in our laps. On the tube we have seen a good deal of maudlin lyrics extolling "America the Beautiful," whereas what we need to see here in the future is an increasing degree of cheer for "The glory of the coming of the Lord," as "He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored." Now we hope to see President Bush show us "The fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword." Glory Hallelujah!
It is clearly an error to refer to these religious fanatics as "cowardly." No man who willingly gives his life for his cause may be called a coward. Mass murderers may serve to give cowardice a bad name.
We had Hanneken in 1918, though our need was less. If you don't know about Hanneken, look him up - in "And A Few Marines," or in "Another Country." Problems are never exactly the same, but these are very similar. Let us hope that we can cope!