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The Terrorists' Turn at Bat

Patrick J. Buchanan

May 19 2003

With the triple suicide-bombings at the Western compounds in Saudi Arabia, the War on Terror enters a new phase.

Sept. 11, 2001, was the Pearl Harbor of the War on Terror. But, as Adm. Yamamoto said of the first Pearl Harbor, it served only to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.

Within months, President Bush had assembled a worldwide coalition and overthrown a friendless Taliban regime that had given sanctuary to Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaida was everywhere on the run.

His victory easily achieved, Bush was persuaded to escalate. He elected to expand the war to the "Axis of Evil" – Iraq, Iran, North Korea. These nations had nothing to do with 9-11, but all had been cited as "state sponsors" of terror, ambitious to acquire arsenals of weapons that might one day threaten us or our allies.

Members of our global posse quickly peeled off here. Yet, the president pressed on. Exploiting our superiority in technology and air, ground and naval power, he smashed Iraq in three weeks.

It was a spectacular victory, featuring "shock and awe" air strikes on Saddam's palaces, Abrams tanks racing across the desert like Custer's 7th Cavalry, and statues of the dictator being toppled and dragged through the streets of Baghdad.

But the television war that riveted the nation and sent ratings soaring at the cable networks is over. And with the carriers and their crews coming home to heroes' welcomes, and the threats to Syria and Iran muted, the second phase of the War on Terror is over.

Now, with the American Empire at high tide, with U.S. forces installed in Afghanistan, Iraq, the old Soviet republics of Central Asia, Jordan, the Gulf States, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, we enter Phase III of the War on Terror.

Now, we must defend what we have occupied, while building "democracies" on the inhospitable terrain of Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, as we saw in Riyadh, the initiative passes over to the enemy. It is he, not we, who chooses the time and place of the next attack.

What is about to be tested now is not American technology or weaponry, or the intrepidity of our Special Forces, but the patience, perseverance and endurance of our people.

Are we willing to suffer continuing casualties in an endless war to stay on in the Middle East and "democratize" a region where tens of millions do not want us and thousands hate us enough to kill us until we get out and go home? Consider:

In 1982, Ariel Sharon sent the Israeli army into Lebanon to drive out the PLO, secure the northern border and end the threat of shelling of the towns in Galilee. But, after 18 years of being bled by Hezbollah, the Israelis gave up and went home.

Since 1967, Israel has occupied the West Bank. To hundreds of thousands of Israelis, this is covenant land. To secularists in the government and military, it is vital to Israel's security.

Yet, many Israelis would give up the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza, and live alongside a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, if only it would mean an end to the terror.

Thus, this question: If Islamic terrorism could force Israel to surrender land vital to its security, will not Islamic terrorism eventually convince us to get out of countries that have never been vital to our security?

Two weeks ago, Donald Rumsfeld announced that U.S. forces would leave Saudi Arabia. After the Riyadh attacks, non-essential U.S. diplomatic personnel were ordered out. Western civilians are fleeing. Confronted with terrorism and hostility to our being in Saudi Arabia, we have begun to draw down our imperial presence.

And what was the reason Osama gave his Islamic warriors for declaring jihad on America in his fatwa of the 1990s? Was it not to drive the Americans off the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia, then to drive them and their Israeli vassals entirely out of the Middle East.

If what is at issue in the War on Terror, declared by Osama bin Laden on the United States, is whether Americans will be expelled from Saudi Arabia, who is actually winning the War on Terror?

America's innings – victory over the Taliban, the triumph in Iraq – are over. The glory days are behind us. Now, we must take the field, and the innings of the terrorists begin. They will bleed us in Afghanistan, bleed us in Iraq, bleed us in Arabia, bleed us all over the Middle East.

Will we persevere? Can we outlast them in the Middle East where they live, but we do not? Or will we, like the Brits in Palestine, the French in Algeria, the Israelis in Lebanon and the Americans in Beirut and Somalia, one day pack it in and go home?

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