How fast things change
11/30/2001 12:00:00 AM - Charles Krauthammer
WASHINGTON--Hundreds of holy warriors lie dead in a prison near Mazar-e Sharif. Ramadan is violated by the hail of American bombs. Infidel Americans land in force on Muslim soil near Kandahar. ``We now own a piece of Afghanistan,'' says Brig. Gen. James Mattis.
Just weeks ago the Middle East experts were warning that such violations of Islamic sensibilities would cause an explosion of anti-Americanism. Where then is the vaunted ``Arab street,'' the pro-Osama demonstrations, the anti-American riots? Where are the seething masses rising up against America and its nominal allies from Egypt to Pakistan?
Nowhere to be seen. Bin Laden T-shirts are going begging in Peshawar. The street is silent.
The Middle East experts, who a decade ago made identical warnings that war on Iraq would cause the Arab world to rise against us, don't get it. They never do. Indeed, with the war on terrorism poised to expand beyond Afghanistan, the experts are already repeating these dire--and false--predictions.
In a prescient lecture Oct. 20, Middle East Quarterly editor Martin Kramer (who has just published ``Ivory Towers on Sand,'' a devastating study of the illusions and biases advanced by the Middle East studies programs throughout American academia) explained why: The way to tame the Arab street is not with appeasement and sweet sensitivity, but with raw power and victory.
Kramer's indisputable point was that there has always been and always will be poverty and oppression, anger and resentment in the Arab world. And much of it will be directed against America. That is a constant. The variable factor is whether America commands respect or contempt.
The Arab street has fallen silent not because the president hosted Muslim envoys for a White House Iftar dinner. Nor because American children persuaded their Muslim pen pals of our good will toward Islam. But because the United States astonished the street with one of history's great shows of arms: destroying a regime 7,000 miles away, landlocked and isolated, solely with air power and a few soldiers on the ground--(BEG ITAL)and but a single combat death (thus far).(END ITAL)
The Taliban's collapse shattered two myths: Islamic invincibility and American weakness--myths amplified over eight years by the Clinton administration's empty gestures and demonstrable impotence in the face of Islamic terror.
The street exploded after Sept. 11, not because of rage--the rage is there always--but because of triumphalism. The war that began with the 1983 bombings in Beirut had finally been taken to the American homeland. America lay bleeding, ``filled with horror and fear from north to south and east to west,'' bin Laden boasted. This was their day and they were going to seize it.
Turns out, it is not their day. Osama was wrong. America is no paper tiger. The street now knows it. The world knows it. Which is why it is time for us to seize the moment.
Our astonishing display of power has demonstrated the deadly seriousness of the Bush Doctrine. We will no longer fecklessly go after low-level terrorist operatives in a New York court, or even more ridiculously in The Hague. We are, instead, at war with their leaders and, even more important, with the regimes that harbor them. It is now a capital offense to harbor terrorists. Literally. Harbor them and your
We not only have enunciated a new doctrine. We have demonstrated both the will and the power to carry it out. The fruits are already visible. What regime, after all, is going to provide bin Laden safe harbor?
The elementary truth that seems to elude the experts again and again--Gulf War, Afghan war, next war--is that power is its own reward. Victory changes everything, psychology above all. The psychology in the region is now one of fear and deep respect for American power. Now is the time to use it to deter, defeat or destroy the other regimes in the area that are host to radical Islamic terrorism.
Hence Stage Two. No, not Iraq yet. It surely is the worst terrorist threat, but because it is the worst and the most difficult, it will require more planning, and more political and military preparation. Now is the time to go for the low hanging fruit: giving the Philippines assistance in crushing their own al Qaeda guerrillas. Telling the thugs running Sudan, Syria, Libya and Yemen to cease and desist, to shut down the training camps, to cough up the terrorists--``or else,'' as the president so delicately puts it.
And then on to Iraq. The experts are already warning us that we dare not, lest the Arab street rise against us. They never learn.