But Jenkins is wrong to insist that terrorism will always be with us. “The murderous terrorism that has become a fact of modern life is part of the death throes of an ancient way of life,” journalist Mark Bowden (the author of “Black Hawk Down”) writes in his excellent book “Guests of the Ayatollah.”
By fighting back -- in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere -- we can overcome terrorism and eventually end our misery. After all, “Extremism, religious or otherwise, is by definition the province of a small minority,” as Bowden puts it.
Of course, in order to win we have to keep fighting. Whether we’re willing to or not is an open question.
Consider the July 4 political cartoon in The Times of London. It showed two panels, each with a giant poppy plant surrounded by dead British soldiers. One was labeled “The Somme,” the other “Afghanistan.”
At the battle of the Somme in 1916, 20,000 British soldiers were killed in one day. Another 40,000 were wounded. War isn’t like that anymore, thankfully.
Overall in Afghanistan last month, five British soldiers (out of an entire force of 3,300) were killed. That’s fewer than the eight people who died on British roads the first weekend of July. If we really want to save lives, maybe we need to find a way for British drivers to withdraw from their cars before the country withdraws its soldiers from Afghanistan.
Today’s Western militaries are the best equipped and most efficient fighting forces in history. One skirmish in Afghanistan on June 27 highlights that. Taliban fighters ambushed a British patrol, which fought its way out without losing a soldier. “The Taliban are quite ingenious, but they’ve probably got 25 dead blokes and we’ve got none,” Captain Alex McKenzie later told a newspaper reporter, “and that speaks volumes.”
Indeed. It says that our enemies can’t stand against us as long as we are willing to fight. But we also must remember the lessons of World War I. If we give back the victory we’re winning today, we’ll live to regret it, much as the allied leaders of the 1930s did.