I am at Stanford Hospital and Medical School. ( I am not deader than most old guys but thank you for asking.) Everyone there is kind and helpful, all with differently accented English. Outside, I watch with awe a new building coming out of the ground. Alert workers in hard hats guide into place steel beams that must weigh tons. The huge crane over us lowers the beams to within a few inches. Three passenger planes in the blue sky are converging toward San Jose International Airport. This is a scene of power and of quiet self- confidence. It’s not easy to remember that fourteen years ago, eighteen hateful and deluded young men destroyed two large, tall towers in the middle of New York City. It’s nearly impossible to remember that the whole very well-planned, impeccably executed terror operation cost so little that I could have financed it completely with a second mortgage.
Today, we are worse off I think, at least on a world scale. Fanatics are slaughtering civilians far away, in the Middle East, in Nigeria, in Afghanistan, schoolchildren in Pakistan. We are so pathetic, our properly elected, legitimate government does not dare utter the word “Islamist,” or “jihadist” when the killers themselves identify as jihadists. Our public mouth speaks as if it might just as well be Lutherans, or Jews, who are shedding torrents of blood and burning civilians alive. We just stand there like a pitiful giant, for all to see, inviting attack through our weakness and our public irresolution. We are packing up in Afghanistan, leaving behind the lost war we had won with ease. We have already forgotten that we started that war because the savages who were then ruling the country refused to turn over the mass master-murderer Osama Bin Laden. (They also used to shoot “adulterous women” in the head during soccer game intermissions.)
The Charlie Hebdo massacre and the mass murder the next day in a Jewish grocery store cry out that terrorists who declare that they are inspired by Islam are even more dangerous than before. They will probably not observe the unilateral truce we declared through inaction and through overly limited action. They know what they are doing in their perverse way. They did not attack the French military which is killing jihadists in Africa right now. Instead, intelligently, they attacked the central right to speak one’s mind, the right to offend, without which no democracy can last long.
The democratic countries – beginning with us – are just not doing enough to protect us now or our children’s democratic, civilized future. The first problem is that we are speaking too politely. Terrorists who say they are Muslims murder people, civilians. Muslim organizations respond quickly. They condemn the act and then, immediately, they ask for greater protection against persecution, also against the vilification of Islam. I don’t hear any of them say loudly: Not only isn’t this real Islam but we are going to clean house and we will cooperate with our local police. (Correct me here if I am wrong; if I have not heard this though it was spoken.) Pres. Obama is still to talk tough to Turkey, our NATO ally.
The second problem is so obvious, it’s embarrassing to mention: I would guess that president Obama has fewer than 5% of our warplanes engaged against ISIS. I am no military strategist but it seems to me that 50% would be more realistic. The military issue overlaps with the politeness issue. The US now has a few hundred troops on the ground fighting ISIS in Iraq. Someone should ask if Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, all located within a few hundred miles of the terror zone, have any, even one. No one in the press will. And I have only heard platitudes on the radio for a week.
The French just announced that they had sent an aircraft carrier to the Middle East. That’s a good response to the slaughter in Paris. I am glad they did not bow. They only have one aircraft carrier though. (They used to have two.) They have been understandably reluctant to put in jeopardy. This is not a good time to disarm.
PS I was not at Stanford Hospital because I was sick. I am only sick at heart.