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Highest Stakes in the War on Terror By: Douglas Stone
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, October 07, 2008


As the Iranians move closer to obtaining nuclear weapons, we need to begin thinking about what this could mean for our civilization. With only approximately one percent of shipping containers entering the country being inspected; with our borders as porous as ever; and, with terrorist cells around the world waiting to be activated, the United States, itself, could be held hostage by the Iranians or even be subject to an attack from which it would be almost impossible to recover.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already proclaimed his desire to eliminate the United States as a force in the world.  And with a new era of WMD in the hands of fanatical mullahs or their terrorist allies, one thing is becoming increasingly clear in the War for the Free World: We can lose.  And losing doesn’t mean that our economy is set back by a few percentage points of growth or increased unemployment; or even suffers the death of a few thousand Americans as happened on September 11th.

The United States could be devastated even more thoroughly than Germany or Japan in World War II: our society as we know it can be destroyed, unambiguously, completely, perhaps irretrievably.

Terrorism has been a worldwide scourge for close to 40 years now, and the prospects for the future – unless there is a precipitous change – only look worse.  We cannot wall up, we cannot roof over, the United States.  Terrorism is no longer a matter of the 19th-century anarchist’s revolver or the explosive parcel left in a railroad station.

New technologies, loose nukes, broken nation states, and toxic ideologies infecting entire cultures, combined with the far flung and delicate sinews of a modern society, make us physically vulnerable in a way that is completely new, even as we have been made more psychologically vulnerable by a defeatist, appeasement-minded media and intellectual elite.

The game may be played and ended in an instant.  As an example: two nuclear explosions, one in Washington, D.C. and one in New York City, and our society as we know it ends.  The capital, with its government centers and vast bureaucracy that acts as national organizer and paymaster, gone; New York, with corporate headquarters, and the center of the communications and financial nervous system of the United States, destroyed.

With the threat of further attacks, there would be a mass exodus from our cities.  Even the mere possibility of further attacks would make city life nearly impossible and sow a terrible uncertainty that would send the economy into a tailspin and paralyze reconstruction.  Without these population centers and the civilization that has grown up around them, our society as we know it would be hard pressed to survive.

Even worse than a nuclear weapon may be the effects of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), either generated by a purpose designed weapon or given off by a nuclear weapon exploded above the United States or even off shore.  The Islamic Republic or terrorist allies could approach undetected (Reports indicate that the Iranians have tested ship-based missiles) with a weapon that would emit radio waves that extended from a height of, say, 25 miles to a distant horizon that would permanently destroy any and all electric and electronic devices – and these days that includes everything from toasters to city water systems to military equipment – in line of sight from the blast.

Effects would cascade across the country: Business investment stops with the result of massive unemployment; there is no food, clean water, fuel or electric power and perhaps worst of all, no supplies or equipment to repair or replace damaged components.  Social security checks remain unsent, ATMs go dark, transportation and communications systems are shattered.  The police would be overwhelmed, the worst elements in society ascendant.

No matter where you lived in the United States your life would change precipitously in mere hours; disaster would visit in only a few days.  No one in this day and age is truly “off the grid.”  A farm family might live twenty miles outside a village ten miles from a town five miles distant from Peoria, but that would offer no protection.  They are really just the proprietors of a modern agribusiness and are as dependent on the supermarket as any city dweller; and likewise dependent on national energy and communications systems, electronic banking, distant health services, and all the goods and services provided in town and city centers that, in a hideous irony, have made modern man so uniquely vulnerable to disaster.

It is relatively easy to destroy a society, extraordinarily difficult, ex nihilo, to construct one. In fact, the complexity of society today is such that no one can imagine all the ingredients of modern life, large and small, that allow us not only to thrive but merely to survive. Without them, it will be Hobbesian war of all against all in a struggle just to eat, stay warm and to survive another day.

As the world muddled toward war in the late 1930s, Winston Churchill was reminded of a poem he had seen in “Punch” as a child:

“Who is in charge of the clattering train?

The axles creak and the couplings strain;

And the pace is hot, and the points are near,

And sleep has deadened the driver’s ear;

And the signals flash through the night in vain,

For death is in charge of the clattering train.”

The technology is outmoded, but the words and grim inevitably remain chilling.  Eighty years and more after Hitler’s rise, civilization again faces an existential threat.  Only today, if it is possible, the threat is more acute and the stakes are even greater, and unless we completely eliminate Islamofascism and its attendant potential for devastating terrorism, we may well be heading for the ultimate smash: very simply, the end of our civilization.




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