The Right Coast

July 07, 2004
Works for me
By Tom Smith

Victor Hanson is right again. Here's the nub (NRO via SA):

Thus on 9/12 we saw Middle East governments like the Saudis (whose 15 citizens spearheaded the murder), the Baathist Iraqis, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Taliban, and the Lebanese all sort of publicly disassociate themselves from the murder — even as many of their populations polled silent approval and their own smirking intelligence services shrugged that some such attack was always inevitable — and perhaps salutary after all given our support for Israel and our intrinsically satanic nature.

What to do? The key for the United States — in very quiet and deferential tones, in private, and to the albeit illegitimate leaders of these relevant countries — is to convey the message that if there should be a repeat of 9/11, the United States will hold any countries responsible who are proved to have aided or sheltered any of the guilty. Now what does that overused and near-meaningless phrase "hold responsible" really mean? A repeat of Afghanistan and Iraq in places like Iran or Syria?

We should be clear about a proper response now and inform the appropriate parties exactly of the real damage that they should expect — and it won't be moral fuzziness about guilt over endemic poverty, ancient support for the shah, past Aramco antics, the misery of the Arab Street, and all the other bottled causes and complaints that the Middle East counts on for its accustomed pass from a supposedly neurotic, decadent, and self-loathing West.

Perhaps it would be best to inform hostile countries right now of a (big) list of their assets — military bases, power plants, communications, and assorted infrastructure — that will be taken out in the aftermath of another attack, a detailed sequence of targets that will be activated when the culpable terrorists' bases and support networks are identified and confirmed. We would have to draft a formal declaration of war — as we should have against the Taliban, bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein — against those countries that harbored or even aided the next 9/11-like cell. Both sides should anticipate the consequences should another 3,000 Americans be incinerated at work.

I hope we have done some of this. I hope, for example, that we have let Iran and North Korea know that if a nuclear device goes off that his their signature on it, they can expect retaliation in kind. North Korea's saying, we didn't drop it, we just sold it, should not count as an excuse. The fact is, as I have harped here before, if we were to lose a city, our politics would be utterly transformed anyway, and any president who did not retaliate would be ex-president in a hurry. By warning about retaliation, we would be doing no more than telling the truth.