Thursday, September 11, 2008


WE in the United States have suffered a great loss. But the incineration of innocent civilians in our cities was not due to our intrinsic weaknesses but rather, like the Greeks in the weeks before Thermopylae, attributable to our naivety and unpreparedness.

Like everybody who scoffs at the perceived laxity of Western democracies, these murderers have woken an enormous power from its slumber, and retribution will shortly be both decisive and terrible.

The bloody wages of this ignorance of the power of a free people aroused are age-old and unmistakable - Xerxes's 60,000 washed ashore at Salamis, 80,000 of the Sultan's best floating in the waters off Lepanto, 100,000 lost in the streets of Tokyo.

Western nations at war, from the Greeks to the present, are not weak but enormously lethal - far out of proportion to their relatively small population and territories.

This power is not an accident of geography, much less attributable to natural resources or genes, but rather found in its very ideas and values. The foundations of Western culture - freedom, civic militarism, capitalism, individualism, constitutional government and secular rationalism - when applied to the battlefield have always resulted in carnage for their adversaries

Such ideals were apparent almost immediately this time aroung - with the decision of doomed airline passengers to storm their hijackers; with Congress freely voting vast sums of capital for military operations; individual rescue workers, aided by sophisticated and huge machines, on their own initiative devising ad hoc methods of saving victims and restoring calm to a devastated city.

Neither the genius of Hannibal nor the diseases of Africa nor the fanaticism of the Mahdists have stopped Western armies. Occasional lapses such as last week's have prompted not capitulation, but responses far more deadly than their enemies' temporary victories.

In the months to come, American ground and air forces, with better weapons, better supplies, better discipline and more imaginative commanders - audited constantly by an elected Congress and President, criticised by a free press - will shatter the very foundations of Islamic fundamentalism.

The Taliban and other hosts of murderers at bases in Pakistan, Iraq and Syria may find reprieve from Western clergy and academics, but they shall not from the American military.

America is not only the inheritor of the European military tradition, but in many ways also its most powerful incarnation. Our multiracial and radically egalitarian society has taken the concepts of freedom and market capitalism to their theoretical limits.

While our critics often ridicule the crassness of our culture and the collective amnesia of our masses, they often underestimate the lethal power that accrues from such an energetic and restless citizenry, where past background means little in comparison with present ambition, drive and ingenuity.

Our creed is not class, breeding or propriety, but machines, brutal competition and unchecked audacity. These are intimidating assets when we turn, as we shall shortly, from the arts of production to those of destruction.

The world, much less the blinkered fundamentalists, has not seen a United States unleashed for a long time and so has forgotten all this. Americans are kind, and they are a generous people. But when wronged, held in contempt and attacked in peace, they define victory as the absolute annihilation of their adversaries.

So we are a schizophrenic people of sorts, a nation of amateurs that can almost magically transform itself into a culture of professional killers.

vDh on 21 Sept 2001


Nikki said...

Thanks and a great and much needed reminder as it obviously is slipping the minds of many americans! :0N

Lord Nazh said...

Great post court!

Never Forget!

Skunkfeathers said...

As always, accurately and poignantly said, Courtney.

Lord Nazh said...

I put up my post from last year if you want to re-read it court

Findalis said...

Well said, well said.

Khaki Elephant said...

This power is not an accident of geography, much less attributable to natural resources or genes, but rather found in its very ideas and values.

Great line. So true and misunderstood by our enemies.