The War That Matters

Scripps-Howard News Service 3.26.02
Balint Vazsonyi

Reportedly, Rudyard Kipling was of the opinion that you can never purchase an Afghan - at best you might be able to rent one. Kipling understood that entire region like few others. As fans of Jungle Book know, he even understood the animals who live there.

By contrast, we in America tend to see the rest of the world as if populated by other Americans in various stages of development. In other words, we swallow wholesale the verbiage the rest of the world has learned to recite in front of our television cameras.

With regard to Afghanistan, we celebrate Hamid Karzai in his cape as a fashion triumph, and celebrate the return of Afghan girls to school. At the same time, we chastise ourselves for having lent support to al Qaeda when the issue at hand was the defeat of the Soviet Union.

Is it conceivable that we attribute excessive significance to persons and events of short-term import? Might it be that we no longer distinguish between politics and policy, between the tactical and the strategic, between utility and principle?

To be sure, we must pursue the terrorists, we must prosecute the war in Afghanistan, Iraq - wherever. But to believe that we can change the nature of the inhabitants, whether in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo or Afghanistan, that we can secure the blessings of liberty for their future, is unrealistic. For all we know, for all our might is able to accomplish, the schools for Afghan girls may be shut again the week after the last American troops leave the region.

By the same token, we ought not to blame ourselves for utilizing persons or organizations in one situation who turn out to be our enemies in another. To expect consistency in regions renowned for just the opposite - and that applies to any number of areas - is equally unrealistic.

But, as Hirohito, Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, Kim Il-song and, by now, even Osama bin Laden can attest, challenging a strong and healthy United States is a losing proposition. The Vietnam experience attests what happens when the United States is at war with itself.

Consequently, the war that counts - because its outcome determines the outcome of all other wars - is the one right in our midst. Consequently, the growing sense of some that President Bush prefers not to have domestic issues divert his attention from the war against terrorism deserves our attention.

In other words, it is of little long-term importance to save America from those who would destroy it from the outside if we stand by idly while others are hard at work to alter it beyond recognition from the inside.

We may not think of that as war. They certainly do.

Who are we, and who are they?

We are the ones who believe that the law of the land is the Constitution of the United States, as properly amended, and the laws pursuant thereof. They hold that the law must be subservient to social justice, and social justice is whatever they decide over the breakfast cereal.

We think of rights as pertaining to individual citizens - every one of them - as affirmed by the Framers of the Constitution, who carefully avoided the notion that rights were granted by mortals to mortals. They confuse the power of legislators to propose and enact laws with the authority to grant rights to groups of their momentary preference.

We hold that a person's possessions are owned absolutely, because a government that can take your property can also suspend your rights. We note that absolute ownership is the sole proven incentive for the betterment of the human condition. They think that certain people are especially suited to determine what everyone else should have.

We have learned through experience that a nation must believe in itself as a nation in order to make the sacrifices necessary for survival. They encourage an unending roster of separate identities.

No previous president was served a comparable declaration of war. It was war before his inauguration and, for the first time in history, it continued to be war thereafter. Yes, September 11 produced a lull, but no more enduring than oil being poured upon the raging sea.

Yes, George W. Bush certainly knows where the war that matters is being fought.

He must know that the education compromise will drive additional nails into the coffins of our dying schools. Presumably, he has a plan to avert disaster.

He must know that the so-called Campaign Finance Bill flies in the face of morality, as well as of the law. Presumably, he has calculated the steps leading to its demise.

He must know that further encouragement of an enormous Hispanic block as a separate and distinct entity is incompatible with the survival of the United States of America as a nation. Presumably, he has figured out a way to square the circle.

Finally, he must know that clearing caves half-way around the world is useless if the former inhabitants can stay in the homes of their fellow-jihadists while they apply for driver's licences in Virginia, Tennessee, or other hospitable states of the Union. There are reasons to believe that he is fully aware of that reality.

In fact, there are reasons to believe that he is fully aware of all the rest as well.

But it doesn't hurt to let him know how much we count on him for fighting our war.

Every day.