There will inevitably and understandably be a military response to this week's tragedy. The American nation demands it. As both justice and punishment. In less politically correct times we could openly acknowledge that we also seek also retribution and revenge. And who is to say that we shouldn't? But will this action be enough? Will military strikes against the areas likely to hold Bin Laden and his supporters be suffice to smite the evil? If we succeed in killing Bin Laden will that spell victory in what President Bush had dubbed this first 21st Century war?
The answer is a resounding no. To understand why - one must first look at the name we are calling our enemy. "Terrorists." This point is not about semantics. It is really not suffice to call such people"terrorists." Of course they are terrorists by any human standards - but that word is a description of the foul means they deploy in pursuit of their goal. It does not describe the ideology (venal and distorted as it is) which is at the very root of these people's actions.
President Bush has declared war on "Terrorism" as though it is a definable ideological 'ism.' But it patently isn't. It is simply the dastardly means - not the end. By the same misperception we would have waged the Second World War against militarism. But of course the real battle in Europe was actually fought against Nazism.
And that difference is important. It is not sufficient to simply bomb or attempt to annihilate the principal perpetrators. We rightly forced Germany into unconditional surrender in WW II - and then we implemented a program of de-Nazi-fication to try and de-program the millions of Germans who had been raised believing in an evil philosophy. We knew that the suicide of Hitler and the begrudging surrender of the Teutonic military would not of its own accord eradicate the scourge of Nazism from Germany.
And so it is with Bin Laden and his followers. Radical Islamics have been raising - and continue to raise - generations who believe that killing the American 'infidel' is the supreme act of honor to Allah. To die for the cause is glory and eternal life in the hereafter.
Reversing that brainwashing has to take place as part of the process - otherwise the children of those who are attacked will simply rise up again to avenge their 'martyred' parents. c.f. the kids of Hamas.
We have to make some attempt to comprehend the twisted mentality of those who have struck out against us. If any of us was asked to become a suicide bomber with the certain guarantee that we could take out an Adolf Hitler, a Saddam Hussein or an Osama Bin Laden - perhaps we would be prepared to make that sacrifice. I hope I could be that noble. But if we were asked to be part of a team that would take out 20,000 civilians in Germany, Iraq or Afghanistan as part of a generic symbolic strike against the evil that oppressed us - would we? Could we? I really doubt it. There are limits to what we hold to be morally right in pursuit of our beliefs.
But consider this carefully. There were at least 18 people on Tuesday who apparently had no doubts that what they were doing was right, And they embraced their actions knowing that they would die. They did not regard themselves as terrorists. They regarded themselves as simply following the logical extent of their faith. In the most literal meaning of the expression - they believed that they were undertaking a 'faith-based initiative.' And if that isn't scary enough - they are not alone. There are undoubtedly many more radical Islamics ready to follow them. THAT is their faith. A twisted perverted faith. An evil demented faith. But it is a faith that we are fighting. The terror that they mete out is their weapon not their belief system. And to combat one without tackling the other is to destroy the visible weed above the surface - without harming the root.
Who can challenge this vile, deviant branch of Islam? Not us for sure. The only people who can credibly mount that campaign and lead it are the so-called moderate Islamics - who must loudly denounce the radical elements of Islam as blasphemers who are distorting the words of God and Allah. Protected and bolstered by the West - they must have the courage and enlightened self-interest to know that if they don't denounce and work to polarize, isolate and expel the radicals from the Islamic faith - then their entire faith may be annihilated. That their faith will become the target for a genocidal rage which will eventually subsume the West.
An example. America has many anti-abortioners (who describe themselves as 'pro-life'). They are entitled to their views (however misguided I may think they are.) Many of them regard abortion as 'murder' of the unborn - and those who perform abortions as murderers. (In my opinion such views reflect the beliefs of the unthinking.) But they are still entitled to these views. However, when such people cross over and support the murder of abortion doctors and/or the fire-bombing of abortion clinics - then they have crossed the line of our civilization.
But simply to capture and punish them is not sufficient. It does not solve the problem forever. It is necessary for church leaders who THEY acknowledge to denounce their actions and vigorously campaign against these actions as morally wrong - and a venal perversion of the very Christianity that they purport to believe in.
It is the same with the radical Islamics. They must be denounced as being 'infidels' to God and Allah - and vigorously ostracized. And eventually their children need to be subjected to a re-education as broad and intensive as the de-Nazi-fication process of the late 40's and early 50's. The distinction has to be made between the right to hold political and philosophical beliefs and the perversion of raising children to believe that pursuit of such beliefs allows the taking of innocent lives as an act of God or Allah.
Part of the Western world's campaign to combat terror must be a clear invocation to moderate Islam to take this courageous but essential step to isolate the real 'infidels' in their own house.
Without that de-programming and re-education process - this problem will never go away. There will be no winning of the 21st Century war against terrorism. Only the seeding of the 22nd Century war against civilization.