The tenth anniversary of the attacks conducted on September 11, 2001 and the current terrorist alerts for New York City and Washington, DC served to remind me that the war on terrorism has not been won and is far from over.

When Annemarie and I arrived at the airport for our trip, I was also reminded that as many people continue to stew in airport terminals because of the ever increasing level of security, we may have all lost sight of the real problem.  As I see it, the real problem is not that we get angry at the way terrorism is changing our lives, it is that we never get angry enough to have the will to decisively win the war on terrorism.

The long, costly, and indecisive wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan were compromised before they were even started because right from the beginning we were more worried about how we were going to get out than how we were going to win.  We needed an exit strategy whereas the terrorists are in it to win no matter how long it takes.

Part of the problem is that we have become a nation that has lost the resolve to wage war.  What I mean by that is even when we are provoked into a war, we are only willing to wage a limited and restrained war where as few people as possible get hurt.  The terrorists know better and are willing to do whatever it takes to win.  Even though we have vastly more resources and weapons then the terrorists, they have something even more important, the will to win.

For example, we developed rules of engagement that mistakenly relied on the premise that we could distinguish the terrorists from the general civilian population.   Thus we have waged war with great concern that no innocent civilians are harmed.  Terrorism is, by and large, a grass roots enterprise conducted by civilians who are encouraged by their fellow citizens and inspired by calls for a holy war from their religious leaders.  You have to question the innocence of the civilian population.   The response to the 9/11 attack of people rejoicing in the streets in parts of the Middle East only served to show that many are, at least, guilty of complicity in terrorism.  Further, there appears to be a culture of hatred and violence against the United States that permeates some of the countries of the Middle East and which inspires, motivates and comforts terrorists worldwide.

Let’s take a history lesson from the last major war we actually won decisively.  When the Nazis were terrorizing the world, we bombed the daylights out of Germany and no one bothered to ask if only Nazis were being killed.  After we used the atomic bomb on Japan a high ranking US military official was asked if he was concerned about the death of innocent civilians.   In response, it was pointed out that the Japanese society condoned suicide attacks and had vowed to fight to the last man, woman and child thus there are no innocent civilians and everyone should be considered a combatant.  Even if we didn’t need to use nuclear weapons in the war on terrorism, we did need to understand that terrorism will not be defeated without the use of overwhelming and unrestrained force.

The terrorists have outlined their new strategy of conducting a war of attrition and wear us down through a relentless series of small but painful attacks.  They want to destroy us by further destroying our economy.  Instead of now endlessly playing their game of hide and seek, perhaps, we should have ended this once and for all by unleashing, at the start of the war, our own reign of terror on the countries that support terrorism that was so destructive and so devastating that we out terrorized the terrorists.  By doing so, we may have not only won the war on terrorism, we also may have had fewer American casualties and less damage to our economy.

Oh well, just a thought as I was being frisked at the airport.