Thomas Sowell / December 9, 2008

The Meaning of Mumbai

Will the horrors unleashed by Islamic terrorists in Mumbai cause any second thoughts by those who are so anxious to start weakening the American security systems currently in place, including government interceptions of international phone calls and the holding of terrorists at Guantanamo?

Maybe. But never underestimate partisan blindness in Washington or in the mainstream media where, if the Bush administration did it, then it must be wrong.

Contrary to some of the more mawkish notions of what a government is supposed to be, its top job is the protection of the people. Nobody on 9/11 would have thought that we would see nothing comparable again in this country for seven long years.

Many people seem to have forgotten how, in the wake of 9/11, every great national event– the World Series, Christmas, New Year’s, the Super Bowl– was under the shadow of a fear that this was when the terrorists would strike again.

They didn’t strike again here, even though they have struck in Spain, Indonesia, England and India, among other places. Does anyone imagine that this was because they didn’t want to hit America again?

Could this have had anything to do with all the security precautions that liberals have been complaining about so bitterly, from the interception of international phone calls to forcing information out of captured terrorists?

Too many people refuse to acknowledge that benefits have costs, even if that cost means only having no more secrecy when making international phone calls than you have when sending e-mails, in a world where computer hackers abound. There are people who refuse to give up anything, even to save their own lives.

A very shrewd observer of the deterioration of Western societies, British writer Theodore Dalrymple, said: “This mental flabbiness is decadence, and at the same time a manifestation of the arrogant assumption that nothing can destroy us.”

There are growing numbers of things that can destroy us. The Roman Empire lasted a lot longer than the United States has lasted, and yet it too was destroyed.

Millions of lives were blighted for centuries thereafter, because the barbarians who destroyed Rome were incapable of replacing it with anything at all comparable. Neither are those who threaten to destroy the United States today.

The destruction of the United States will not require enough nuclear bombs to annihilate cities and towns across America. After all, the nuclear destruction of just two cities was enough to force Japan to surrender– and the Japanese had far more willingness to fight and die than most Americans have today.

How many Americans are willing to see New York, Chicago and Los Angeles all disappear in nuclear mushroom clouds, rather than surrender to whatever outrageous demands the terrorists make?

Neither Barack Obama nor those with whom he will be surrounded in Washington show any signs of being serious about forestalling such a terrible choice by taking any action with any realistic chance of preventing a nuclear Iran.

Once suicidal fanatics have nuclear bombs, that is the point of no return. We, our children and our grandchildren will live at the mercy of the merciless, who have a track record of sadism.

There are no concessions we can make that will buy off hate-filled terrorists. What they want– what they must have for their own self-respect, in a world where they suffer the humiliation of being visibly centuries behind the West in so many ways– is our being brought down in humiliation, including self-humiliation.

Even killing us will not be enough, just as killing Jews was not enough for the Nazis, who first had to subject them to soul-scarring humiliations and dehumanization in their death camps.

This kind of hatred may not be familiar to most Americans but what happened on 9/11 should give us a clue– and a warning.

The people who flew those planes into the World Trade Center buildings could not have been bought off by any concessions, not even the hundreds of billions of dollars we are spending in bailout money today.

They want our soul– and if they are willing to die and we are not, they will get it.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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