Western civilization has dominated the world largely based on its commitment to democracy and capitalism, and understanding that evil ideologies can be stopped through the threat -- and occasionally the use -- of force.
But we have reached a new juncture in history.
Since the end of World War II, we have believed that the best way to combat evil is with goodness. So we have established laws and even a sort of morality for modern warfare. We call those who violate these laws "war criminals."
Until recently, we had good reason to believe that the stigma of "war crimes" would be enough to deter the forces of evil from crossing the line.
But on 9/11/01 we discovered that there is an evil in our world that has been gathering strength for nearly a decade. It is an evil force that not only doesn't pay heed to the laws of warfare -- it revels in violating them.
Yet the West continues to operate on the assumption that no battle is worth fighting unless it can be fought according to the rules.
We are facing an enemy that operates in the shadows. We are facing an enemy that makes death and destruction an end in itself. We are facing an enemy that is happy to violate our laws of war and sees our unwillingness to do the same as our Achilles' heel.
We in the U.S. have lulled ourselves to sleep. We did away with the draft. We developed the most advanced defense technology, and convinced ourselves that a lean, all-volunteer military force equipped with technology would be enough to win any future battle. We have convinced ourselves that we can fight wars with surgical precision.
In a nutshell, we have fooled ourselves into believing that profound evil is extraordinarily rare and from here on out the bad guys can be contained through what looks more like a police action than the battle of Stalingrad.
The terrorist attacks of the last few days are a wake up call. While the US Congress has been debating whether to give President Bush authorization to use military force against Iraq only, Islamist terrorists have struck in Finland, Israel, Chechnya, Indonesia, off the coast of Yemen, and very probably in the Washington, DC area.
Our initial reaction, more often than not, is to not "rush to judgement." We don't want to believe that the DC area sniper is a terrorist. We don't want to believe that the anthrax attacks were a well-planned "second punch" following the WTC massacre. We didn't want to believe that a subsequent plane crash in New York was the work of terrorists. We didn't want to believe that a French ship off the coast of Yemen was blown up by terrorists, even though the captain of the ship reported immediately that his ship had been attacked by a small, explosive-laden boat.
Our government insisted that the deadly assault on the El Al counter at LAX by an Egyptian national was a "personal" matter and not an act of terrorism.
At some point, we must come to grips with reality. The 21st century equivalent of Nazism has emerged, and it has declared war on the West. Pretending it doesn't exist, refusing to identify who is behind it, and failing to muster the will to fight it in earnest will only result in more terror.
Hopefully, Western civilization will come to understand what it's going to take to defeat this evil before the death toll climbs much higher.
Islamist terrorists are bent on killing as many people as possible. 9/11/01 was just, in their sick minds, the warmup.
Can anyone doubt that these monsters would shy away from killing millions of "infidels" if they could find a way to pull it off?
The West is going to have to form an army of millions to crush every nation that harbors or otherwise supports terrorism. It's not clear that this can be done one country at a time. It's not clear that most such countries will reform themselves merely in response to threats and one or two isolated "examples." The enemy is not rational.
And we will need to go further: we must put irresistible pressure on every country on earth to adopt and implement a policy of zero tolerance for terrorism and terrorists.
In the U.S., we have drawn a line between Islamists who are resident aliens and Muslim citizens of the U.S. But what if the enemy refuses to observe our hopeful ideas about who is or is not likely to be a terrorist?
We must immediately suspend all Islamic "charities" that send funds overseas. This is the only way we can be sure these funds are not channeled to terrorists.
We must tell our Islamic community to either get serious about fighting Islamist terrorism or endure wartime suspension of rights.
We must tell our Islamic "allies" overseas to either get serious about fighting Islamist terrorism or be known not as allies, but as enemies.
Defeating fascist and genocidal Islamists is not going to be easy. It cannot be done with one hand tied behind our backs. It is going to require fierce determination, a willingness to answer their jihad with a "jihad" of our own, and most importantly the understanding that they are not going to be stopped by attempts to reason, implore, or shame them.
Only brute force can put these brutes out of business.