Why? This is October 2009, not 2001. Also, most of the dumb or careless jihadists are dead, and the smart ones want to stay alive.
From time to time, America has found itself at war with opponents who underestimated our will to fight. Many of Japan’s leaders assumed that America would quit soon after Pearl Harbor. In 1990, Saddam Hussein misread American diplomats and concluded that Bush 41 wouldn’t fight to free Kuwait. More recently, Osama Bin Laden saw US troops withdraw from Mogadishu after “Black Hawk Down,” and concluded that America was a paper tiger. We proved all of those foolish fellows wrong…at a terrible cost.
So, I reacted initally to the word of President Obama’s Nobel Peace Price with an “Oh no, here we go again” feeling. Would America’s enemies take this, ahem, puzzling decision by the Nobel committee as evidence that the West—which the US leads, at least in security efforts—was softening its spine? That it was quitting? Flinching from the security challenges of a 21-st century world?
On second thought, though, I don’t think it’s all that bad.
Eight years ago this month, al Qaeda and the Taliban were starting to realize just how badly they’d misread Bush 43, the American people and its military. On September 12th 2001, they’d never heard of “daisy cutters.” By Thanksgiving, they’d never be able to forget them. (The ones that were still living, that is).
Eighteen months later, America and its coalition allies ejected Saddam Hussein from power in a campaign lasting less than a month. What followed was a years-long, often error-filled US presence in Iraq. But, the American military adapted, changed its strategy, redoubled its efforts and turned things around in Iraq. In WWII, Rommel complemented his American foes by remarking that he’d never seen soldiers so poorly prepared initially, but who adapted and learned so quickly. Thankfully, things haven’t changed.
That American military, which remade itself on-the-fly from a force ill-prepared for counterinsurgency into one that excels at it, is still around. Weary and overextended, yes, but still around—and much better prepared for this kind of fight the next time. Moreover, the world has now been reminded of the risks you run when despots and terrorists think you’re a pushover.
This doesn’t mean the jihadhists won’t keep trying. But I suspect that, the next time they see a few Western elites—like, say, the Nobel nominating committee— act like idiots, they’ll think twice before concluding that all Westerners are that craven or that dumb.
I’ll bet that, once you hear the sound of a daisy cutter doing its thing, you really don’t want to hear it again.