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J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

Defining and Identifying the Enemy
The enemy has a face...
[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 9/16/04

Novelist Mark Helprin, writing in The Wall Street Journal on the third anniversary of 9/11, contends that out of fear and confusion, we have hesitated to name the enemy in the war on terrorism. We are, he said, “too timid to admit to a clash of civilizations even as it occurs.”

We have not formally declared war on any nation in this war against terrorism (although I’m sure Iraq got the general idea). The problem with all this, says Helprin, is that it denies us a certain clarity of intent and the unambiguous consent of the American people, so vital to winning a war. It is a sure way, he feels, to divide the country, as did the Vietnam War (also undeclared) and prolong the conflict. This lack of clarity was, I believe, evident in President Bush’s much criticized and misunderstood remark to the effect that we may never achieve victory. He meant, of course, victory in the traditional sense, marked by surrender ceremonies, celebrations and anniversaries.

How do you declare war on a method? The war on terrorism is a stirring metaphorical symbol, as were the wars on drugs and poverty, but what exactly do they entail? The vagueness and ambiguity in these titles ensure a lack of consensus on how to prosecute these conflicts and how to clearly define the enemy to the citizenry whose support is crucial

In old fashioned, declared wars, this was not an issue. In World War II, for instance, we declared war on Germany, Italy and Japan and we didn’t have much difficulty in speaking of fighting the Germans, Italians and Japanese, even though we knew the real enemies were their Nazi, fascist and imperialist governments. The current struggle against terrorism, arguably a greater threat by far than other “isms” of the past such as Communism and fascism, presents a unique problem because it involves religion.

One of the founding principles of our country is freedom of religion. Congress may make no law that infringes on the right of Americans to practice any religion they choose. We Americans are conditioned from birth to respect our neighbors’ religions, however different from our own.

While it is right to be against terrorism of any kind, whether practiced by a religious fanatic, political extremist or street gang member, success in what we are calling the war on terrorism requires that we define the enemy with greater clarity and candor. The common force behind the major terror attacks against America and other western interests dating back at least to the 1983 terrorist attack against our marine barracks in Lebanon, is Islamic Fundamentalism, directed mostly against Christians and Jews. It should go without saying that this does not mean that all Muslims hate Christians, Jews and western democracies, but it needs to be openly acknowledged that very large numbers of them do.

Devoutly religious people will generally put devotion to God ahead of anything. When Muslim terrorists are socialized, taught and conditioned to believe that Allah supports their murderous atrocities against helpless victims, including women and children, we have a real problem. It is one that, like other religious dogma, is not amenable to rational debate employing logic, and we need to be clear about how to defend against it. We first need to put a face on the enemy. It is almost exclusively an Arab or Muslim face. We need to profile this enemy, with apologies to the majorities of these peoples who are not terrorists or terrorist sympathizers and who, indeed, have themselves been targets of terrorism. The danger to western democracies and their people is too great to permit political correctness or sensitivity training to obfuscate the need to identify and stop the enemy before he claims more innocent victims. Unless we are clear about who the enemy is, we will remain locked in endless debate over what to do next about it.

No rational person believes that Allah directed or supported the slaughter of innocents in the Twin Towers of New York or the school in Beslan, Russia. Those who believe that Allah will reward those who perpetrated these unspeakable evils and those who support and cheer them on are the enemy and it is absolutely right to profile them by religion, ethnicity, nationality and any other characteristic that might be helpful in identifying them so that they can be eliminated as a threat to innocent people.

The forces of Islamic Fundamentalism, proving no match to our armies, will continue to target the defenseless. These innocents are found in schools, hospitals, church services, transportation facilities and large public gatherings. Since it is impossible to adequately secure all of these against attack, we must find ways to preempt the terrorists. Our leaders, whatever their political party, must be willing to take whatever steps are necessary to preempt those who would slaughter innocents in the name of their God. Reasoning with them is not an option if they believe that God is on their side. CRO

copyright 2004 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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