Do Not Go Back to Sleep, America

Like everyone else, I celebrated Osama’s demise. Ten years late, but may all the enemies of America die this way.

Yesterday, I woke up to troubling reflections. Not just because our president is likely to take credit for another man’s work, though of course he is. In a way it is the prerogative of a leader in a time of war to take credit for a victory on his watch, no matter how much of it he owes to his predecessor. (And if you’re in doubt of that, bin Laden’s location was found by interrogating a prisoner in Guantanamo.) But what troubles me is far bigger than the ego that swallowed the universe.

I don’t know how many of you live in what I would call soft-left circles. As a fiction writer, by definition I live there most of the time, though there are any number of harder left people embedded in it.

A characteristic of the soft left since before the fall of communism (trust me, I remember) is this fluffy-headed belief that all nations and peoples are alike in the essential: that all rulers want the best for their people, that no nation wants war, that cultural differences are mostly a matter of colorful scarves and spicier food.

Part of the issue with this is that such believers never understood either the import of 9/11 nor the greater picture it was all part of. Other factors went into this, including their hatred of George Bush, their spite that the recounts couldn’t go on ad infinitum in Florida until they got the result they wished, and, oh yeah, the fact that France and the hallowed UN were against our liberating Iraq.

But the other part of it is their inability to confront their fluffy-headed (and cozy) ideas about the world. They refuse to admit that other countries aren’t exactly like us, under the scarves and the spices. This was perfectly in evidence when they assumed that Iraq couldn’t have WMDs because “they can’t even provide clean drinking water to their people.” That Saddam’s priorities might have nothing to do with drinking water never entered their heads.

So they’ve assumed all along that what was wrong with our relations with the Middle East was ... Osama bin Laden. It had nothing to do, in their minds, with things like the Lockerbie flight bombing, which happened before bin Laden was an adult. No, it was all bin Laden.

For the last ten-plus years I’ve heard over and over that the only thing we should have done is capture bin Laden. There was no call to go to war against terror-supporting regimes.