Clausewitz defines war as “an act of force to compel the enemy to do our will.” The remarkable thing about terrorist warfare is that, once it has been carried out, even a foiled terrorist attack serves that strategic objective. The terrorist understands that what ultimately compels the will is not just the successful application of force but the fear and demoralization that results from it. Therefore fear and demoralization are the terrorist’s strategic weapons. Even when a blow is averted, and the enemy escapes immediate death and destruction, the near miss can be enough to raise his level of apprehension. It can increase the weight of his sense of vulnerability, especially when its deadly effect is forestalled purely by chance, while highlighting the futility of all his precautions. The terror strategist can certainly count on circumstances occasionally to produce such outcomes. But I would assume that the thorough practitioner of terrorism builds them into his strategic thinking, especially when he has at his disposal assets who eagerly welcome the platform and notoriety they will assuredly enjoy if they are taken alive. The Dec. 25 terrorist attack against Northwest Airlines Flight 253 should therefore be considered a successful terrorist assault. This is at least in part because, despite the limited scope of its direct physical effects, the volume of its moral and emotional effect is increased by prominent Americans who, knowingly or not, act as amplifiers, broadening the reach and impact of the act itself.
As Clausewitz also observed, “Military activity is never directed against material force alone; it is always aimed simultaneously at the moral forces which give it life, and the two cannot be separated. But moral values can only be perceived by the inner eye. … Since danger is the common element in which everything moves in war, courage, the sense of one’s own strength, is the principal factor that influences judgment.” The morale of an army or of a whole people during war cannot therefore be sustained apart from their moral perception, which necessarily involves their perception of their own moral position relative to the enemy. Sane people do not by and large sustain difficult and dangerous efforts they believe are unjustified. In large-scale conventional warfare, the clear and present threat to their survival may be sufficient. In the terror war, individual engagements directly affect only a relative few. For the rest, the threat to their survival as a whole is an abstraction. With the right kind of leadership, it can become a moral and emotional reality – but that requires an intelligent, capable and sustained articulation of the strategic vision that clarifies for the “inner eye” both the physical and moral reality of the threat.
With respect to the terror war Islamic forces have been waging against the United States, G. W. Bush proved incompetent at articulating this strategic vision, but at least he tried. Because his agenda and worldview are so consistent with those of the forces brought against us, Obama has never made any attempt to do so. On the contrary, he has consistently slandered the United States with a pose of self-flagellating (as regards the nation) and self-righteous (in regard to himself) apology for supposed American acts of domineering injustice that, he implies, naturally result in hateful acts of carefully planned violence against the American people.
Since he is a wholehearted advocate of the leftist critique of American liberty, Obama’s conscious validation of the moral position of its enemies comes as no surprise. What surprises some is the fact that a famously staunch conservative like Ron Paul blames U.S. for violence. In a recent TV appearance, we find him “blaming terrorism on the U.S. presence around the globe. ‘They’re terrorists because we’re occupiers,’ Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, said on the Larry King show.” Of the motive for the recent terror attack, he said, “We bombed Yemen two weeks ago. … He (the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab) did it because of the bombing.” Ben Stein, also a guest on the show, correctly noted that Paul’s statement has no basis in fact since “there is no U.S. occupation of Yemen or Nigeria” and Abdulmutallab “had already been mobilized and had even bought his Northwest ticket before we struck.” Moreover, as noted in the WND account of the show, “Reports confirm that there was an air strike by Yemeni jets – and possibly some from Saudi Arabia,” not U.S. forces.
Apparently Ron Paul believes that seeking cooperation from other states in striking against terrorist camps makes us “occupiers.” In a similar vein, because after repelling Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait during the first Gulf War, the U.S. did not invade and occupy Iraq, our role as occupiers somehow explains the 9/11 terror attacks. We are in the wrong because we dare to defend others. We are in the wrong because we dare to ally with others in order to do defend ourselves.
Such illogic cannot rightly be described as reasoning. If we make it the basis for dealing with terror, we end up asking ourselves, as Obama apparently does, what we can do to appease their righteous anger at our misdeeds. We end up looking for ways to do their will. Clausewitz would recognize that as a victory, for them. They could never achieve it without assistance from purblind politicians on both ends of the American political spectrum. Thus, tragically, they overcome their supposed opposition to one another, acting in concert as the mortar and pestle of defeatism, slyly grinding away the morale and safety of the nation.