But there is something else. It's the looming threat behind the headlines: London terrorist bombers arrested. Terrorist plot to bomb trains in Germany. Iran is developing nuclear weapons, while its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel. Hugo Chavez at the United Nations railing at the United States. North Korea is developing nuclear weapons to go with the missiles it already has. All these remind us that there are people out there who want to destroy our bounteous and tolerant civilization. And we know, since Sept. 11, 2001, that they will inflict any damage they can. North Korea is a proven weapons proliferator. Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. It's not hard to imagine them equipping terrorists with nuclear weapons -- or with the biological weapons (anthrax, plague) North Korea is said to be developing. Remember the anthrax attacks of September 2001? It turns out we still have no idea where the anthrax came from.
"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake," the novelist James Joyce once wrote. From the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union up until the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, we were on a holiday from history. We were happy to pay little attention to the Islamofascist terrorist threat that should have been apparent from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. We left that to government officials, who took it seriously and did some things to address it -- but in hindsight not enough. Since then, we took the offensive and have had some successes in stopping terrorists. But we seem to be growing tired of the fight.
Now it appears that voters are willing to turn over Congress to a party most of whose representatives voted against allowing the National Security Agency to surveil without a court order al-Qaida suspects when they place calls to persons in the United States and against allowing terrorist interrogations under rules supported by John McCain. We are weary, it seems, and ready to go back on holiday. Some things -- a nuclear attack on the United States, the successful release of a disease pathogen that could kill millions -- are just too horrifying to think about. But maybe we should think more about them. As Leon Trotsky is supposed to have said, "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you."