THOMAS PAINE writes at one point in The Rights of Man, "Lay then the axe to the root, and teach governments humanity." His prescription resounds on this 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and in the wake of September 11.
When Japanese pilots murdered over 2400 Americans on December 7, 1941, Americans did not construe the attack as autonomous aggression. America rightly targeted Japan’s imperial regime for its state-sponsored butchery.
September 11 also stemmed from state sponsorship — the "scaffolding of international terrorism," as Benjamin Netanyahu noted before the House Government Reform Committee on September 20. Targeting the Taliban reflects President’s Bush’s appreciation of regimes’ foundational relationship to terrorism.
However, the abolition of the Taliban is insufficient, as would be the abolition of every regime on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist sponsors. The axe must be laid to the root, and the root is totalitarianism.
If Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria—all slave regimes –liberalized tomorrow, several despotisms would remain to furnish terrorists with territorial and material support. Slave pens such as Equatorial Guinea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Myanmar would soon be the new members of the State Department list.
Terrorism will bedevil America so long as totalitarianism enslaves and systematically terrorizes an appalling percentage of humanity. The slave masters know their captive populations yearn for liberty and prosperity, and they will export their savagery against the paragon of liberty and prosperity. The presence of freedom anywhere is a provocation to tyrants.
America can ignore the slave masters or confront them. A few short years of hollow peace, to borrow Byron’s phrase, will be followed by sanguinary reminders that peaceful co-existence with totalitarianism is not an option.
Specifically America should first foster peace in its own hemisphere by confronting the closest slave regime and terrorist sponsor: Cuba. Consider it belated justice for Fidel Castro’s murder of American citizens Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña, and American resident Pablo Morales in international airspace on February 24, 1996—a date that will also live in infamy. (Castro said in a 1996 interview with Time magazine, "We [Castro and his brother, Raul] gave the order to the head of the air force.") Cuba is one of the last Soviet colonies, and Cubans have been denied self-determination—both individually and nationally—for far too long.
Pearl Harbor was not avenged until the imperial regime’s capitulation, and September 11 will not be avenged until totalitarianism’s capitulation. Lay the axe to the root.