The Jerusalem Post (September 12)
BARBARIANS AT THE GATE
By Gerald M. Steinberg
In thousands of years of history, the human race has passed through a number of long and difficult "dark ages," after the most advanced civilizations were suddenly eclipsed at the height at their power. Historians blame different factors, including internal corruption, external enemies and general overconfidence and arrogance.
The world interconnected as never before in a single economic civilization, sits on precipice of another devastating period of darkness. Many of the things that we now take for granted material wealth on an unprecedented scale, instant Internet communications, satellite television, world wide travel are all endangered. The lives of thousands and even millions of people are on the line, and the horror of the attacks against New York and Washington is only a minor taste of the type of devastation that would occur with the use of weapons of mass destruction against the major cities of the world.
Today's barbarians, armed with most modern technologies, are the international terrorist organizations, in all of their guises and forms. These groups are motivated by deep hatreds and jealousies, magnified by a distorted religious fanaticism that justifies the taking of innocent lives at random.
For many years, members of these groups have waged total war, in different forms and on diverse levels, against the world's democracies and leading powers. They have gathered weapons, raised funds and recruited suicide bombers, ready to die and kill many others in the name of various ideologies. Many receive direct assistance and protection from governments around the world notably, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and the Palestinian Authority. The Osama Bin-Laden group, which is considered the most likely perpetrator of the atrocities in New York and Washington, is aided and abetted by a number of different partners.
For many years, the various terrorist groups were allowed to develop and multiply, often exploiting the free speech, open borders, humanitarian immigration policies, and other liberal democratic rights that they condemned and are trying to destroy. In contrast, the efforts to combat this modern plague were largely defensive and poorly coordinated. Narrow interests and competition for status and power between the democracies and weakened this effort, rendering it largely ineffective.
In many cases, excuses for terrorism were offered and accepted, and a policy of appeasement was adopted. Ten years after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and his programs to acquire weapons of mass destruction were uncovered, the minimum remaining sanctions have disintegrated. Similarly, Palestinian terror attacks were often rewarded with political recognition, and the minimal Israeli efforts to strike back were denounced as "excessive use of force," even at times - by the US government.
In America and the other democracies around the world, as well as in Russia and China, the inhuman attacks in New York and Washington should leave no questions regarding the need for powerful and consistent action to uproot terrorism from its foundations. As the leader of the modern world civilization, and as a result, the primary terrorist target, the US is the only force that can lead the campaign to rid the world of this threat.
In the past, the US spearheaded the allied counterattack in World War I, and after Pearl Harbor, applied all of its considerable resources for four years until the defeat the Nazis and Japan in World War. The same type of effort will be required now. No shelter for terrorism must be allowed to remain no quarter can be given, or the plague will resume with even greater fury.
Only such a total global effort will keep the modern barbarians away from the gates of civilization, and prevent another global eclipse of civilization.
© 2001 The Jerusalem Post