Stamping out terrorism

Posted: Oct 25, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Last week in Palo Alto, Calif., the Hoover Institution gathered scholars -- mainly economists -- to discuss the California electricity crisis, with the lights burning brightly in that think tank's auditorium and the air condition system humming. The scholarly discussions have a bearing on the present gloom over terrorism and anthrax. As you might recall, California was anticipating rolling blackouts this past summer and ongoing electricity shortages for years to come. The blackouts never came. The shortage has been overcome. Sufficient moves have been made in policy and infrastructure to increase the supply of electricity. California's electricity needs are being attended to. There may be problems next year, but no crisis. By 2004, there will be electricity in abundance (albeit at a high price). Peter Cartwright of Calpine Corporation, the energy producer, actually went so far as to say that he is "bullish on California." Once again, civilization triumphs. Today in our national discussion of the war against terrorism and against anthrax, a note of grievous apprehension can be heard. In some quarters, we might even detect defeatism, as worried commentators question how America will ever return to normality. The dark humors are unwarranted. Our government, its military, and its allies will put these snakes to route. All over the world the terrorists of Al Qaeda are on the run, under heavy surveillance, or in jail. International police and secret service agents using technologies far superior to those of the rube terrorists are on the move with the full support of most of the countries of the modern world. We have reason to be vigilant but not dispirited. The world has been through such rough spots before. I well recall the first months of our campaign against Saddam Hussein and his vaunted Republican Guard. The talking heads were actually prophesying a protracted engagement similar to the Vietnam War. When I was onstage with such gloomy sages, I offered but one question to wit: If Iraq is so formidable, why is it that the Israelis had not been swept into the sea years before? The answer was that no matter how ruthless Iraq had been against the defenseless Kuwaitis, Iraq was no match for the superior intelligence and force unwaveringly employed by Israel. Our military was mustering just that kind of response and would smash Saddam, as we did. Our only failure against him was -- dare I say it ? -- the consequence of hubris. We felt that our display of military might would convince the Iraqis to overthrow Saddam. Our intelligence community had underestimated the deep roots Saddam and his family had established in his country. This time, we will not take our enemies so lightly. We shall eliminate the Taliban, ensure that a peaceful regime follows and, I would hope, go after all the other terrorists who threaten the civilized world. Terrorism should never have been tolerated after the end of the Cold War. During the Cold War, terrorists had the support of Middle Eastern states who themselves were supported by a superpower. The Syrians, the Libyans, the Iranians, and the Iraqis had the Soviet bloc behind them and, at least to some degree, the Communist Chinese. Pursuing terrorists during the Cold War might have ignited a world war much as the unruly politics of the Balkans ignited the first World War. Once the Cold War was over, the civilized nations of the world should have stamped out the terrorists supported by Middle Eastern tyrants. Tolerating them only meant that the terrorists' excesses would get worse. With the assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we now see how the terrorists have progressed in their wrath against humanity. The anthrax assaults merely increase the need for action against them, notwithstanding the rationales dreamed up for them by woolly-headed appeasers and other more malign defenders of terror. All are a threat to the civilized world. Intelligence sources tell us that Al Qaeda and similar organizations have targeted European cities. Anthrax has been sent even to countries in the Third World. The madness is apparent. The whole world is appalled by it. It will be smashed. The terrorists of Al Qaeda remind me of nothing so much as the Khmer Rouge of bygone days. The grisly way that the Taliban deals with its countrymen and the nihilism of the Al Qaeda were seen in Cambodia in the 1970s. Like the Khmer Rouge, many of the young killers in the Taliban army are orphans raised in communal settings by hate-filled ideologues. The Khmer Rouge are but a blood-stained chapter filed away in the pages of world history, and the Taliban will be too. Civilization has faced "the evil ones" before. Intelligent, resolute action against them has always triumphed.