It may have been politically incorrect to
publish the thoughts on the sixth anniversary of 9-11, but what Colin Powell
had to say to GQ magazine needs to be heard.
Terrorism, said Powell, is not a mortal threat to America.
"What is the greatest threat facing us now?" Powell asked. "People will
say it's terrorism. But are there any terrorists in the world who can change
the American way of life or our political system? No. Can they knock down a
building? Yes. Can they kill somebody? Yes. But can they change us? No. Only
we can change ourselves. So what is the great threat we are facing?"
History and common sense teach that Powell speaks truth.
Since 9/11, 100,000 Americans have been murdered – as many as we lost in
Vietnam, Korea and Iraq combined. Yet, not one of these murders was the work
of an Islamic terrorist, and all of them, terrible as they are, did not imperil
the survival of our republic.
Terrorists can blow up our buildings, assassinate our leaders, and bomb
our malls and stadiums. They cannot destroy us. Assume the worst. Terrorists
smuggle an atom bomb into New York harbor or into Washington, D.C., and detonate
Horrible and horrifying as that would be – perhaps 100,000 dead and wounded
– it would not mean the end of the United States. It would more likely mean
the end of Iran, or whatever nation at which the United States chose to direct
its rage and retribution.
Consider. Between 1942 and 1945, Germany and Japan, nations not one-tenth
the size of the United States, saw their cities firebombed, and their soldiers
and civilians slaughtered in the millions. Japan lost an empire. Germany lost
a third of its territory. Both were put under military occupation. Yet, 15 years
later, Germany and Japan were the second and third most prosperous nations on
Earth, the dynamos of their respective continents, Europe and Asia.
Powell's point is not that terrorism is not a threat. It is that the terror
threat must be seen in perspective, that we ought not frighten ourselves to
death with our own propaganda, that we cannot allow fear of terror to monopolize
our every waking hour or cause us to give up our freedom.
For all the blather of a restored caliphate, the "Islamofascists," as the
neocons call them, cannot create or run a modern state, or pose a mortal threat
to America. The GNP of the entire Arab world is not equal to Spain's. Oil aside,
its exports are equal to Finland's.
Afghanistan and Sudan, under Islamist regimes, were basket cases. Despite
the comparisons with Nazi Germany, Iran is unable to build modern fighters or
warships and has an economy one-twentieth that of the United States, at best.
While we lack the troops to invade Iran, three times the size of Iraq, the U.S.
Air Force and Navy could, in weeks, smash Iran's capacity to make war, blockade
it and reduce its population to destitution. Should Iran develop a nuclear weapon
and use it on us or on Israel, it would invite annihilation.
As a threat, Iran is not remotely in the same league with the Soviet Union
of Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, or Mao's China, or Nazi Germany, or Imperial
Japan, or even Mussolini's Italy.
And why would Tehran, which has not launched a war since the revolution
in 1979, start a war with an America with 10,000 nuclear weapons? If the Iranians
are so suicidal, why have they not committed suicide in 30 years by attacking
us or Israel?
What makes war with Iran folly is that an all-out war could lead to a break-up
of that country, with Persians, Azeris, Kurds, Arabs and Baluchis going their
separate ways, creating fertile enclaves for al-Qaeda recruitment and training.
In our time, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Czechoslovakia have split apart. The
Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have broken up into two dozen nations. Terrorism
had nothing to do with it. Tribalism had everything to do with it.
Race, ethnicity and religion are the fault lines along which nations like
Iraq are coming apart. If America ends, it will not be the work of an Osama
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