- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Long ago, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the need for a new birth of freedom. Today the need is for a new birth of wisdom.
What wisdom now?
In the abstract, that's easy to answer. Wisdom consists of understanding and accepting the nature of the world; of one's own proper responses; and in cultivating the virtues to deal with both. Easy to say. As for doing it that's hard.
At the outset, we must be totally clear about this country's objectives in regard to Jihadism. There are three. The United States must destroy enough of the international networks to gain a 5- to 10-year remission in attacks beyond the most primitive. This means especially taking out terrorist "middle management" the people who know how to mount the operations and make the structures work.
The United States must also announce that we will take whatever action we deem necessary in order to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and to liquidate those already in the hands of irresponsible nations and groups. Then the United States must succeed in these efforts sufficiently to empower non-Jihadist Islamic forces in the redemption of their own nations and peoples. Other forms of support will also be vital.
But Jihadism is only one portion of a larger threat. The Age of the Wars of Ideology is over. The Age of the Wars of the Ways has begun. The Wars of Ideology were about the proper forms of political and economic organization. The Wars of the Ways will pit those who cannot abide the 21st century against those who seek to do its productive and transforming work. Whether it's Jihadists or violent anti-globalization anarchists or eco-terrorists, the basic impetus is the same.
And there will be those who, through the violence and poverty of their own national pasts, cannot make it in, or even into, the 21st century. Expect terror from that quarter, also.
Now, what of us? Perhaps we'd best begin by assigning the last interwar period its proper historical name: "The Wasted Nineties." How much of the economic boom has proven to be transient; how bitter now the neglect of our intelligence and military capabilities. How bitter it may yet become. Still, prosperity can be renewed, forces rebuilt. What matters most is the character of the American people.
The Greeks understood the hero to be the person who, in moment of need, was suddenly and somehow mystically "there". These days have shown no lack of such. More, many more will emerge. But the Greeks also understood virtue to be a matter of training, and character a matter of habit. It is not enough for a person or a nation to rise to one moment. There must be cultivation of what Plato called "endurance of the soul."
It has become a cliche to say that, on Sept. 11, everything changed. And not just the military and political realities. Politically Correct culture, as that complex phenomenon is too often simplified, already seems an "ancien regime," literally, a former time. How trivial it was. How unworthy of us. I write in the first-person now, but only because I believe my reactions to be commonplace.
When I listen to the bleatings of the "Blame America First" crowd, I have but one response. Is that the best you can do?
When I hear the wailings of those with nothing to discuss but their feelings sorry, children. Group therapy's over.
When I channel-surf for news and see the soap operas, the gansta rap videos, the Jerry Springers coming back, I feel myself somehow dirtied by contact with them.
When I listen to all the dire warnings from the libertarian absolutists, I recall the words of a wise Supreme Court justice. "The Constitution is not a suicide pact."
When I realize that for the first time in decades, the professional victims and victim-mongers, the perpetually offended and aggrieved, the diversity racketeers and tolerance police, the radical feminista, the eco-totalitarians are silent perhaps we can use that silence to address our many problems in more rational and less confrontational ways.
And whatever happened to all that "estrangement" between the American people and the military? We know in our hearts that we're about to get very, very unestranged.
So what is wisdom here? To fight when and where necessary. To face anew our own shortcomings and injustices, without the shrill sterility of that world on the far side of 9/11. And to create a culture capable of both, and worthy of those who make the attempt.
Or, as one of my favorite philosophers, Epictetus, put it: "I will show you that you have resources and endowment for a noble and courageous disposition. Show me, if you can, what endowments you have for complaining and reproach."

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