In the aftermath of September 11, you have done a reasonably good job managing the crisis, symbolizing the nation’s unity, restraining the laptop bombardiers, and preparing a military response that was neither hasty nor disproportionate. Now that two months have passed, you have more time to reflect on the long-term significance of that event and to draw relevant conclusions for the global strategy our country should follow over not only the coming weeks and months, but years and decades. Having earned your spurs as a trustworthy leader during the most traumatic moment for America in at least six decades, you are uniquely positioned to make radical changes in our foreign policy that are necessary if we are to avoid similar tragedies in the years to come.
While political considerations may temporarily oblige you to say that “Islam is a religion of peace,” you must understand that Islam as such—not some allegedly aberrant form of it—is the main identifiable threat to America’s global security in the coming century, and, in the longer term, to the survival of our civilization. Islam has been synonymous with violence and intolerance since its earliest days. Like communism or Nazism, Islam is part religion and part ideology, and it seeks to impose mind-numbing uniformity of thought and feeling upon its adherents, to subjugate and ultimately destroy all nonbelievers. It accepts no “peaceful coexistence” and never will.
It is, therefore, necessary to deny Islam (the adjective “militant” is redundant) a foothold inside America. Like its red ideological sibling of yore, Islam relies on a domestic fifth column to get its work done. Not one in a hundred communists was a Soviet spy, just as not one in a hundred Muslims is a bin Laden asset—but reducing the risk back then demanded denying visas (let alone green cards or passports) to all self-avowed communists. Doing likewise now with Osama’s coreligionists is the prerequisite of any meaningful antiterrorist strategy, in conjunction with frank and fair ethno-cultural profiling. Since the first World Trade Center attack in 1993, the FBI has known that belligerent Islam had already established a firm foothold within the Muslim diaspora in America, but the demographic deluge has continued unabated. The irrational and manifestly false claim that each newcomer to America is equally assimilable has cost lives. By acknowledging that certain ethnic, religious, and cultural traits make some groups more assimilable than others, you will do a favor for all of us (and for your party into the bargain). Halting Islamic immigration will deny cover to terrorists who wish to remain anonymous and untraceable.
While denying potential and actual Islamic fifth columnists access to America, there is no reason to continue alienating over one billion Muslims in Asia and Africa. We should make it clear that we have no immediate quarrel with them, as long as they do not threaten us—and that we are most certainly not “in the same boat” with any third party against which they may have a grudge. U.S. foreign policy must avoid creating conditions for specifically anti-American Islamic hostility. (The general anti-Western, anti-Christian, and anti-European bias will always be there.) If we wish to reduce hatred of the United States in the Islamic world, we must avoid the perception of a permanent bias in Middle Eastern affairs that breeds the specifically anti-American variety of Islam. The United States needs a stable peace in the Middle East based on a scrupulously evenhanded treatment of the conflicting parties’ claims, including Israeli security and Palestinian statehood. There are problems that simply may not have solutions (such as the issue of the just, permanent, and legally valid title to the Holy Land), but even if they did, it would not be America’s business to look for them.
You have said that the terrorists envy us our freedom, our democracy, our way of life, our affluence. Had their actions arisen simply from envy, spite, and greed, they would have also hit Helsinki, Copenhagen, Ottawa, Geneva, or some other place as free and as affluent as America. Our country was a target, and others were not, because of what it does around the world (most notably in the Middle East), whether we believe that to be good or bad. To deal with the threat, we need to discard the pernicious notion of our “exceptionalism,” of the view that—in Madeleine Albright’s memorable phrase—”the United States stands taller than other nations, and therefore sees further,” that America is not only wise but objective, and that her foreign policy is influenced by values and not prejudices. This hollow rhetoric infuriates literally billions of people. It also grates on the ears of many real Americans who do not share the generic jingoism of people like Madeleine Albright, who might just as well have settled elsewhere, except that the United States offered more money, more prestige, and more power. Tell a Serb that the Clinton administration was “standing tall” in Bosnia and Kosovo. Tell an Arab that the United States “sees further” in the Middle East. Not only does exceptionalism create flawed policies, it makes us incapable of understanding the ire of others.
Scrap all plans for NATO expansion, and strive to create a genuine “Northern Alliance” (which would include North America, Western Europe, and—some day—Russia) against our common enemies. Those who advise you to carry on as before—relying on “our proven friends and allies” in Islamabad, Riyadh, and Cairo, taking NATO to the suburbs of St. Petersburg-are deluded and dangerous. They wish Russia was bad, and they resent the Russians’ clever ploy of siding with us against Osama bin Laden. If you push NATO eastward, unnecessarily and dangerously, Russia will remain an adversary at a time when her economic and demographic weakness may result in a violent Asiatic scramble for her natural resources and increasingly depopulated territories along her southern rim and east of the Urals. By extending NATO’s cordon sanitaire around Russia, the United States would indirectly encourage the belief that the bear may soon be up for grabs.
Quietly scrap the missile-defense initiative. Death has come to ordinary Americans by a more prosaic route, and the real and present threat that remains with us all does not include a rogue missile. The next attack may well be biological or chemical rather than nuclear; even if it is nuclear, the method of delivery will more likely be a smuggled suitcase than a ballistic missile. Even a megaton device could be activated on a freighter sailing under the Verazzano or the Golden Gate Bridge. Missile defense will cost trillions of dollars that could be more usefully deployed in making America’s frontiers, coasts and ports of entry impenetrable to all illegal entrants, regardless of race, creed, or national origin.
Reform the “intelligence community.” It has failed miserably, because it is simply not designed to counter terrorist threats, but the long-dead communist threat. There is no substitute for human assessments and undercover reporting based on a thorough understanding of the social, cultural, and historical milieu. Inconspicuous agents on the ground—not more electronic gadgetry—can identify, target, and destroy the people and organizations who can, and will, strike again. The large and loyal Arab Christian community in the United States has the resources and the will to help get the job done.
Isolate the hysterical and irresponsible neoconservative cabal that still hopes to control you. They have forfeited any right to your ear by attempting to exploit the tragedy of September 11 to enhance our “passionate attachment” in the Middle East, which helped create the problem in the first place. They also wanted this country to initiate an all-out war with all of the enemies—whether real, potential, or imagined—of our supposedly “only reliable ally in the region.” What they demand of you, Mr. President, is exactly what deductive reasoning indicates to be bin Laden’s real objective: a cataclysmic war of civilizations that can only benefit those who desire the destruction of the remnants of our culture.
At the fundamental level, Mr. President, the events of September 11 show that the danger to ordinary Americans will remain with us as long as the United States remains committed to the unrestrained projection of her power everywhere in the world. The paramount lesson of this horror is that the threat to America exists because of our policy of global hegemony. From now on, the designating of “threats to national security” must follow the clear determination of America’s national interests. If those interests are assumed to include the ability to project power everywhere and all the time, then the threat is unlimited and permanent. Can we permanently guarantee Israel’s security (regardless of what she does to her neighbors), bring Arafat back to the table, bribe Egypt, keep Iraq embargoed and starved and occasionally bombed, police the border between the two Koreas, guarantee the “security” of Taiwan against the most populous country in the world, woo Iran, prop up Turkey, bully Libya, bomb Afghanistan, secure Pakistan against the backlash, keep Bosnia safe for the local Muslims to play hosts to terrorists, occupy Kosovo for the benefit of Albanian dope-smuggling pimps, build a space shield to ward off rogue missiles, surround Russia with an ever-expanding NATO, keep India and Pakistan from a nuclear shootout, destroy Colombian drug lords, protect the porous Rio Grande border, control internet messages and guns and phone calls at home, and stop the nosedive of the economy? The question answers itself. We cannot pay the price of the new empire, even if it were worth paying.
The shock of September 11 may help us rediscover a world in which America will be secure and free and will not threaten the security and freedom of others. These goals are inseparable from the preservation of our identity and our liberty at home. I urge you to found your foreign-policy strategies upon the notion that America is a real nation, a state with definable national interests that determine its diplomacy. Uphold and defend the security and freedom of the United States, and resist both the neo-Wilsonian one-world globalism and the neoconservative hegemonist interventionism that have contributed to this recent tragedy. Uphold “enlightened nationalism” based upon the Golden Rule, in line with our Constitution and in accordance with the wishes of most Americans, and ordinary people of good will will follow you into a new Golden Age of republican virtue and self-sufficiency