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Who is the more dangerous enemy?
By Edwin A. Locke
America, it is said, is faced with a new kind of war -- a type of war that we have never faced in our history -- a war of terror in which the enemy is hidden and faceless. This is true -- but not in the way that the media and our leaders have indicated.
Consider these facts. We have chosen to fight only one country, Afghanistan, despite the fact that many different countries, including Iran and Iraq, have supported terrorism, and Bin Laden, for years. We have declared that we will not deliberately hit civilian targets, thus openly inviting the Taliban to hide its soldiers and weapons in civilian locations.
We constantly apologize for civilian injuries. We drop food that undoubtedly is consumed by Taliban soldiers. We constantly re-assure the Muslim world that we have no wish to harm them, even though most of these countries wish nothing more than to destroy us totally. We even ask these countries to be part of our coalition against terrorism. (Are we hoping that they will declare war on themselves?) We announce that we want the Taliban "moderates" (who presumably are slightly less bloodthirsty than the "extremists") to be part of any future Afghan government.
What kind of a war is this? Would any Western leader during World War II have dreamed of avoiding all civilian targets, dropping food to the Nazis, and offering them a share in the future government of Germany?
Yes, this is a new kind of war -- not a total war, but a war combining bombs with compassion -- sort of like combining imprisonment with a health spa. We are afraid to declare an actual, full-scale war, because the real hidden and faceless enemy we are confronted with is: moral self-doubt. We are afraid of people not liking us; we are afraid of hurting too many people; we are afraid of the prospect of destroying the Taliban totally. We are afraid, because we are not certain we are right.
What happened in the 60 years since World War II? Our leading citizens went to college. Before that war most leading intellectuals were Communists, but that "ideal" eventually faded, as its disastrous consequences became evident. Left-wing idealism was gradually supplanted in the last half of the past century by skepticism. The new assault was not specifically directed against capitalism and freedom but against the foundations on which they rested: reason and moral certainty. Above all, the skeptics hated reason -- reason that made possible the triumph of the Enlightenment and the West's emergence from the religiously dominated Dark Ages. The skeptics did not seek to supplant reason with religious dogma; rather they argued that reason was "limited," that it could not really know truth. They asserted that reason had nothing to say about moral values, that moral judgments were just a reflection of the society one happens to come from and were only an expression of a subjective, personal preference.
Read the comments of the leading "post-modernist," University of Illinois professor Stanley Fish. He asserts, in reference to the World Trade Center bombing, that: "there can be no independent standard for determining which of many rival interpretations of an event is the true one." Universal absolutes, he says, are "empty rhetoric." We cannot, he says, call the terrorists, either "evil" or "irrational." We can only say, in effect: I see that you want to kill us all but, speaking from my own point of view, I would really prefer that you didn't! Professors like Dr. Fish have infected several generations with a bacterium far more virulent than anthrax: the plague of moral relativism. According to these post-modernists, the United States, the first country founded on the principle of individual rights, the country of reason, freedom and the pursuit of happiness, is objectively no better than any primitive dictatorship; we just happen to like our system better.
Could any man or any nation fight a successful war if they accepted such a premise? In this respect the terrorists have an advantage over us. Although they are evil and irrational, they feel no doubts at all about the rightness of their cause -- the cause of spreading death and destruction. Our superior weapons will do us no good if we do not possess the moral certainty that we, as Americans, stand objectively for the good -- good because we are pro-life on this earth, pro-man and pro-happiness. A hand-wringing, self-doubting super-power is no match for dedicated primitives anxious to die for their cause. We have an absolute right to defend ourselves using every weapon at our disposal until the enemy is totally defeated. The struggle is not between opponents who happen to have different personal preferences; the struggle is between the morality of life and the morality of death.
Our most worrisome enemy is not Osama bin Laden and his cohorts -- rather, it is the corrupt little college professors who have striven relentlessly to destroy their students' confidence in their power to think and to make moral judgments. If we reject the mind-killing professors, we will have no trouble defeating the man-killing terrorists.
Edwin A. Locke, Dean's Professor of Leadership and Motivation at the RH Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, at College Park, is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Marina del Rey, Calif. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.For more information on terrorism against America go to http://www.aynrand.org/medialink/actofwar.html.
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