So, by our own government's reckoning, we've won in Afghanistan. But where's Osama?
A two-part answer:
1. As with all bad pennies, this one will turn up sooner or later.
2. It doesn't, for the short run, matter where he has gone to ground.
What mattered in the encounter between America and some of the foulest forms of
life ever to cock an AK47 trigger (may all 70 virgins earn their celestial keep as Sumo wrestlers!) -- what mattered, I say, has been largely accomplished. Our nation has redeemed its reputation for courage.
It is a reputation that has to be redeemed at intervals. The Bearded One and his moral morons, after several tests of our mettle (bombing the U.S.S. Cole, etc.) concluded that the once-mighty United States had become, in Richard Nixon's long-ago words, a pitiful, helpless giant; a Gulliver restrained by Lilliputians. He could hit us at will. We wouldn't fight back.
Today, terrorists and their sympathizers know better. The measure of bin Laden's essential stupidity was his failure to recognize how the Sept. 11 bombings would be regarded by Americans. He had thought to terrify. Instead he enraged.
A certain amount of sympathy might be accorded him for failure to read us rightly. In the days and hours before Sept. 11, while we obsessed on Gary Condit reports and bewailed the dot.com collapses, we hardly looked like a people capable of rising to smite homicidal aggressors. Nor, perhaps, did the genial (or, depending on your political persuasion, the dim-bulb) George Bush look like the kind of president capable of leading an old-time smiting. Appearances can be deceiving.
A good guess right now would be that the Afghan war has purchased us, for some little while, exemption from a major act of aggression. Some lower-level aggression, perhaps, but nothing like Sept. 11. Potential aggressors know at least the consequences of aggression -- as in Israel, thanks to a non-intimidated Ariel Sharon.
This is as it has to be. Nature affords no natural protections to those wandering woozy and one-eyed through the unlighted alleys of the world. A potential victim warns off assailants by convincing them, directly or subtly, to keep their $!#@!!@ hands to themselves if they want to walk away with hands still attached to wrists. This is according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which altereth not.
The threat of force isn't uniformly appealing to Americans: less so now than before the feminist culture, 30 years ago, began extolling vulnerability and conciliation as superior to male "violence." What the feminists and their media claque normally ignored, and still do, was the essential compatibility of conciliation and force -- in civilized nations, that is. You need both these differing spirits available at different times for service. Mainly in the '90s we talked of just one: the dewy-eyed embrace of forgiveness and forgetfulness.
It was a great time, the '90s, for turning cheeks and "moving on." In the months before Sept. 11, public support for capital punishment was starting to wane. The idea was, no matter how evil a crime, punishing it by death was moral idiocy. Just the slightest suspicion stirs: A vast majority of Americans believe death too mild a punishment for those who promote the flying of airplanes into buildings.
Courage, I believe Dr. Samuel Johnson said, is the most essential of the virtues, making possible the performance of all the rest. Pacifists like Gandhi are not without courage, however deplorable sometimes their politics. But too much lollygagging about "reconciliation" and "root causes" can cause others to write you off as a threat to their designs. The point we have made in Afghanistan -- that we constitute a major threat to evil people's designs -- is the most urgent point we could have made in this awful and bracing time.