Jewish World Review Sept. 14, 2001/ 25 Elul 5761

Wesley Pruden

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First the prayer,
and then to work

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Cold fury is not as much fun as white-hot passion, but it's a lot more effective. Cold fury must be the recipe for the day.

George W. Bush, no Ronald Reagan before the television cameras (nor even a Bill Clinton), seems nevertheless to understand that this is the occasion when man and the hour must meet. We can be grateful that this time we've got a president willing to inflict pain, not merely to make a show of feeling the pain of others.

The stalking of the killers proceeds with efficiency and dispatch, and we can assume that behind the scenes the appropriate response is being put together, a response that will be measured, precise and severe. The message board at a barbecue cathedral on an Arkansas back road puts it plainly: "Let us pray. And then kick some butt."

Mr. Bush assures us that retaliation is coming, just as soon as he gets the right butts in the right gunsights. The Arab radicals appear to believe him -- the bearded old men of the Taliban suddenly look terrified at what they in the name of Allah hath wrought.

The pundits, for once, are correct: Everything has changed. The world, if not exactly turned upside down, is about to stand still to be turned aright. This time events have not exacted the loss of innocence, but in some important quarters the loss of guilt. Even the Europeans, always eager to lie down and whine when the going gets tough, appear to have realized what the world might be like if the United States should disappear from the face of the earth. The prospect frightens. George W. has an unlimited account on which to write checks, but he must hurry before the important one is returned as "overdrawn."

Robert Harris, a friendly Englishman writing in London's Daily Telegraph, understands the opportunity -- and the limitations -- of the hour. He likens the pre-eminence of America in the third millennium to the mastery of the first by the Romans, and describes George W.'s situation with deadly accuracy:

"Unlike the Romans," he writes, "America -- being a far more civilised society -- is reluctant to take casualties. Thus we live in an age in which an American pilot who gets lost over his target -- as one did in Bosnia, when NATO finally took action -- who ditches his plane and has to be rescued at great risk to his comrades, is regarded not as an embarrassing fool to be quietly cashiered, but as a national hero to be greeted by the president.

"How is such a military mindset going to cope with an enemy who is not only ready and willing but eager to die?" he asks. "America has famously met and overcome such fanatics before. But the Japanese kamikaze pilots in 1945 were tools of a conventional military machine, controlled by a state: eventually, when ordered to do so, Japanese soldiers surrendered.

"The nightmare that the West now faces is far more insidious and multi-headed. Every ton of bombs dropped on the fundamentalists' bases, and on the people of the states that harbor them, is likely to create only more martyrs, more fanatics, more terrorist atrocities.

"In the end, it is the vast global success of the American imperium -- its all-pervasiveness -- that, like its Roman predecessor, renders it so vulnerable. Can it really hope to be everywhere at once?

"Can it really prop up Israel, contain Iraq, appease Iran, intimidate Libya, bomb the Taliban back into the Stone Age (admittedly, by the look of them, not too great a distance), police the Balkans, deter the Chinese from invading Taiwan, build a space shield to ward off rogue Russian missiles, meet its obligations to South Korea, keep India and Pakistan from brawling with atomic bombs, cut off the drug traffic from Latin America, create fortress-like borders to prevent a repeat of Tuesday's horrors -- can it do all this, and at the same time ward off recession and remain the motor of the world economy?"

The answer that Mr. Harris and like-minded friends of America abroad devoutly wish for but are skeptical of is an answer that no one in America -- well, hardly anyone -- doubts: You're darn right we can. Get out of the way and we'll show you.

This is the Pearl Harbor spirit, the cold fury, that the evil men of September 11 revived and made available to George W. Bush, and he has only to harness it, carefully, swiftly, and decisively. Few presidents have been so well served.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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