- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

"They were swifter than eagles. They were stronger than lions… . How the mighty have fallen." (II Samuel 1:19-27)
But we were not swifter than eagles. We only thought we were. And we were not stronger than lions. Instead, we chose to assume that our strength was unquestionable, our homeland inviolable, our peace an eternal God-given right. And now we too are fallen, fallen amid the trash and trivia of a culture and a governance that figured reality — the reality of evil — could be kept away indefinitely, provided we only issued enough studies and opinions saying that it could be or that it wasn't really that bad. Provided that we only entertained and diverted ourselves to stupefaction, provided we only …
Some of us knew differently. Some of us predicted that something of this magnitude would happen. We take no pleasure in being right. Nor do we find any comfort in "better now than five years from now," when the weapons available to our enemies (get used to the word, America) might be far more horrific. Perhaps in five years, they will be. But that's up to us.
There will be, no doubt, the usual surfeit of rhetoric and proposals and recriminations, of analyses and punditries, of calls for "justice" and pleas for "dialogue" and "beware of racism" and all the rest of the apparatus of evasion. But no words matter, save insofar as they acknowledge one simple fact. We are now a nation at war, a homeland under siege.
At war with whom? With a nation you won't find on any map. Jihadistan: violent fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. Or perhaps you do find it on a map. It's the force that created the "arc of terror" that runs eastward from North Africa through the Middle East, up into central Asia, through the Indian subcontinent, thence to the Philippines and Indonesia. And westward now, to us.
What must be done? First, the United States must join with the other immediately affected nations — Israel and Russia especially. Then, the United States must make it clear to the nations which arm and harbor and abet our enemies that there will be consequences unless they desist. Then, the United States must establish a domestic security apparatus beyond the present patchwork. Then Jihadistan must be destroyed.
But most of all, the United States must understand what this new war is about. It is not about the endless slaughters of Israelis or Palestinians or Chechens or — today we must say it — the greater slaughters of Americans. Only history, history writ large, can define it.
For more than two hundred years, from Lexington and Concord to the fall of the Soviet empire, the world endured the Age of the Wars of Ideology. The great issues were collective. What are the proper forms of government and economic organization? What systems best nurture and liberate the individual, whose freedom and welfare are the ultimate purposes of all this? Ten years ago, we were told that "history" had ended, that liberal democracy and capitalism were now triumphant, and what remained was extending the benefits to those who had not yet partaken.
It has not turned out to be so. Today, a new force that despises all the accomplishments of those centuries has arisen; a force that despises all notions save its own, and is prepared to kill and destroy for the sake of killing and destroying. In this sense, Jihadistan has far less to do with Islam than with nihilism. And there are other forces out there that, for reasons of their own, feel the same. They call themselves opponents of "globalization," but they have less to do with ecology, human rights or economic justice than with nihilism. They're far, far weaker than Jihadistan. But first blood has already been shed. And other forms of darkness are gathering.
The Age of the Wars of Ideology is over. I suggest that the Age of the Wars of the Ways has begun. The victories of the Wars of Ideology are now endangered by those who find the fruits of those triumphs intolerable. By those who find the truths of those victories intolerable. By those who would rather reign in hells of their own creation than participate in the 21st century as it is, and may become.
David mourned for Saul and Jonathan when they fell on Mount Gilboa. Then he went about the business of doing what a king has to do at such moments. He united the nation. He looked to its defenses. And the nation responded and triumphed and endured.
Will we?

Philip Gold is a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute.

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