- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2012

On the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, some Americans may ask whether the day means anything anymore. The day is still an occasion of reflection and mourning for the lives cut short by the violent acts of Islamic extremists. Beyond that, however, its significance has either faded or become captive to a liberal political agenda.

Some of what the day has become is not worth acknowledging. In 2009, President Obama declared Sept. 11 a National Day of Service and Remembrance. This was an attempt to subvert the connotation of the anniversary to the liberal ideal of citizens in service to the state. The government promotes the day under the rubric “United We Serve” at the ironically named website “serve.gov.” Most Americans would agree that between high taxes, irksome fees and the incessant demands of bureaucracy, there is enough individual service to government already.

Sept. 11, 2001, is no longer an emotional touchstone for most members of the military. The newest recruits were 7 years old when the twin towers fell. Veterans who are leaving the force today after a few hitches might not even have been teenagers when the attacks happened. The grueling reality of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq is more compelling. Fewer of them are greeted on the streets or thanked while passing through airports. Many Americans have tuned out our service members even as casualties in Afghanistan climb to record highs.

There is no talk of victory in the war on terrorism any more, or even an official definition of what it would look like. Americans used to know what it meant to win a war. Eleven years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Capt. Mitsuo Fuchido, who personally led the 1941 raid, was on a good will tour of the United States. He was the only Japanese officer who had participated in that attack who had survived World War II. Four years after Pearl Harbor, his country was in ruins, its empire destroyed, most of its major cities burned to the ground. By 1952, Fuchido had converted to Christianity and apologized for his role in the 1941 attack. That’s what victory looks like.

Now, not only is this country no longer at war with terrorism, the Obama administration doesn’t even know why there is a fight. The White House characterizes the conflict as a “struggle against violent extremism” but is happy to accommodate Muslim extremists who take power by other means. Obama administration officials crowed that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt discredited al Qaeda’s model of violent change. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri quickly corrected them, saying his group was happy for the downfall of the old regime in Egypt.

Al Qaeda doesn’t care how Shariah law is imposed so long as it triumphs. Earlier this year, a State Department official declared that the political rise of radical groups after the Arab Spring was beneficial because “people who once might have gone into al Qaeda see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.” For the leaders of the free world to describe Islamism as “legitimate” betrays a weak intellectual understanding of what this struggle is all about.

The most important thing to remember on Sept. 11 is that the world is still a dangerous place. Evil exists, and the United States must recognize that fact and take the necessary steps to defeat it. Freedom’s adversaries are watching as American capabilities decline, as the defense budget is slashed, and as the White House stubbornly refuses to admit there is a problem. The anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks should remind Americans of the tragic consequences of disregarding threats until they grow too great to be ignored.

The Washington Times