Coming into this as late as I am, I’m sure you all already know that another episode in the continuing saga of civilization versus barbarism has ended, and I think we can chalk this one up as a solid victory. Not a bloodless victory, to be sure. Something close to seventy innocent Russian civilians died, people whose only crime was that they were in the path of a sick, twisted tornado of political-religious fanaticism. From the information available, it seems that those dead innocents were unavoidable. The terrorists were set upon executing them, and as soon as that was clear, the Russian special forces did all that they could to eliminate the threat as quickly as possible, and they succeeded in stopping the hostage takers from destroying the building and killing everyone inside, even though they had prepared extensively so as to be able to do this and kill everyone inside.

Seventy dead, seven hundred or so saved. In this situation, a good tradeoff.

Of course, the very fact that you ever have to apply such a calculus of life and death, trading certain people’s lives for others, always strikes a chord of revulsion somewhere deep inside. The idea of reducing human beings to certain values obtained by their groupings into numbers seems to conjure the specter of the worst killers in history, who likewise reduced individuals to interchangeable capital. A few thousand executed here, a few million starved there, all ultimately worth it, of course, in the grand scheme of the success of the Five-Year Plan, or the racially pure society, or the creation of the new Socialist Man.

However, these examples are so repugnant precisely because they so grossly undervalue human life, and furthermore, they do so for the sake of a disgusting ideology, one that The specific valuation of individuals’ lives is not in and of itself a vile thing. For some people it can never really be an easy thing to stomach, no matter even if you’re talking about losing one life to save several hundred, and this is perfectly understandable. But refusing to assign some kind of actual real value of lives measured against each other is equally repugnant when doing so could help you save more people. I would like to think that, presented with the choice, I would be able to do the right thing . In this case, “the right thing” was to act swiftly and send in the troops when it became obvious that the terrorists were determined to kill, and to die.

So as I see it, today there’s reason to mourn for those seventy people that died, but at the the same time there is even more reason to celebrate that the vast majority of people in that theater came out alive. Don’t mistake it: this was an important victory in the overall war.

In what has become known as the War on Terrorism, we took the initial hit. Cowed by ignorance (some of it willful), we suffered another Pearl Harbor. Sixty years ago, after that opening salvo, we knew many more defeats before the war turned around, however, after the turning point when we were freed to go on the offensive, we enjoyed only victories.

This war cannot and will not play out the same way. The track record thus far has already demonstrated that. An initially devastating blow revealed our enemies to be moral roaches. But our almost immediate offensive rejoinder in Afghanistan showed them to be roaches in a much more direct sense as well, as we watched daisy cutters and special forces soldiers, like the light that floods the kitchen after the switch is thrown, scatter them to the corners and sundry dark crevices, the appropriate hiding places of vermin. In truth, I have to admit that this metaphor really isn’t a very apt one, for a kitchen light doesn’t actually follow the roaches into their hiding places and eradicate them there and wherever else they run to, as we did.

And there is no doubt that there were many more successes after Afghanistan that virtually no one outside of the intelligence community and the circle of government officials with classified clearance to information ever heard about, instances in which terrorist plots were stopped, their aspiring perpetrators captured or killed before they were able to release another atrocity upon the world.

No one thought the war was won at this point, though. And they were proved right when a bomb shattered that nightclub in Bali and killed 180 (mostly Australian) people . But it would be wise to remember that this blow was not a result of incompetence on the part of our anti-terrorist soldiers, who had repeatedly warned Indonesian officials that radical Islamists were operating inside their country and who got called racists and anti-Muslim by the Indonesian government for their trouble. Bali, for all its sheer horror, nonetheless may hopefully have at least one redeeming aspect to it: it will drive home to the rest of the world, especially those that do not feel particularly inclined to join us in this mortal fight, that Bush was right when he said “You are either with us or against us.”

When those words were spoken, the president was roundly denounced from the more sophisticated corners of the world for issuing bellicose threats and being hopelessly simplisitic, when (could the cowboy not see this?) there were so many shades of gray. Well Bali should have made it clear to those very critics that, whatever hues existed before, the world now had found itself in a world of black and white. This is not to deny that the world is a fundamentally simple place. However, at least in regards to the fight that was started against us, there really are only two sides. Those willfully blind government officials in Indonesia surely had no love for Al Qeada or what they did on September 11, but at the same time they wanted desperately to stay out of the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, and Bali revealed that doing so led to results not much more preferable than the actions of those governments who directly aided and abetted Al Qeada, as Afghanistan and Pakistan did. There can be no Switzerlands in this war. Refusing to fight is a de facto alliance with the terrorists.

One would hope that this message contained within the explosion that rocked Bali would not be lost on governments around the world, but one cannot necessarily expect that.

So even though Bali shows that we can, and most likely will, take more hits in this war, what happened in Moscow shows that we are not completely helpless even when the enemy holds the initiative at the outset of a particular engagement. Thankfully, they didn’t simply decide to set bombs and blow the theater up and then make their demands, threatening more attacks if Russia didn’t do their bidding.

The Moscow theater episode shows the terrorists that we can and will fight them in every situation possible, and won’t wither at the sight of blood, even that of our own; that we are willing and able to swiftly make the difficult decisions when those murdering scum force them on us; and that, short of those most easily carried out and difficult to stop suicide operations, they will never succeed. Moscow showed them that their scope of action is ridiculously narrow, that in the future, should they hope for any measure of success, they must be confined to driving trucks full explosives into buildings and walking into public squares laden with nails and explosives .

That’s all they’ve got. That’s all they can do. And now they know it. And they also know that particularly sinister form of their precious Jihad, the only weapon left to them, has a definite lifespan of effectiveness, and that it’s running out.

last update : 26-5-2018

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