The imperative of staying on offense

Secretary Rumsfeld’s Washington Post column today on the war seems prescient in light of yesterday’s attack on Paul Wolfowitz’s hotel in Baghdad: “Take the fight to the terrorists.”
The column begins with a consideration of the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut: “The attack occurred when a truck loaded with explosives drove into the U.S. Marine barracks near the Beirut airport. The logical response was to put cement barricades around buildings to prevent another truck bombing. But the terrorists soon figured out how to get around those defenses: They began lobbing rocket-propelled grenades over targets that had such barricades. So the tendency was to hunker down even more. We started seeing buildings along the Corniche, the popular seaside boardwalk that runs for several miles along the sea in Beirut, covered with a metal mesh, so that when rocket-propelled grenades hit the mesh, they would bounce off, doing little damage. So what did the terrorists do next? They adapted. They watched the comings and goings of embassy personnel and began hitting soft targets — people on their way to and from work. For every defense, the terrorists moved to another avenue of attack.
“Within six months of the first attack, most of the American troops had pulled out of Lebanon. And from that experience, terrorists learned important lessons: that terrorism is relatively low-cost and deniable and can yield substantial results at low risk and often without penalty. Terrorism can be a great equalizer — a force multiplier. And terrorism works in the sense that it can terrorize, and even a single attack can influence public opinion and morale and alter the behavior of nations…
“When the Marine barracks was attacked two decades ago, the terrorist threat was largely conventional. Terrorists had weapons that could kill dozens or, in the case of the Beirut bombing, hundreds of people. On Sept. 11 the terrorists grew even bolder — bringing the war to our shores and using techniques that allowed them to kill not hundreds but thousands. Yet consider: the explosive agent used on Sept. 11 was jet fuel. The danger we face in the 21st century is the threat posed by terrorists armed not with jet fuel but with more powerful weapons. If the world does not deal with the emerging nexus between terrorist networks, terrorist states and weapons of mass murder, terrorists could one day kill not more than 240 people, as in Beirut, or more than 3,000 people, as on Sept. 11, but tens of thousands — or more.”
Stephen Hayes provides today’s lesson on the the al Qaeda connection to Saddam Hussein in a brilliant article in the new issue of the Weekly Standard. The article indirectly substantiates Rumsfeld’s point that the battle of Iraq is a critical stand in the war against Islamofascism: “Osama’s best friend.” (Courtesy of RealClearPolitics.)

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