This past Sunday was fifteen years since the 9/11 war crimes. What lessons can we learn for the future, and how can we react more wisely next time? What can we do to prevent future war crimes and terrorist attacks, and how can we safeguard our liberty?
First, we need to stop denying the obvious reality that has been obvious since we watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center: This is a religious war. This has always been a religious war. No, this does not mean that we are at war with all of Islam or all Muslims. However, there can be no doubt that there is a violent, extremist strain of Islam that has declared war on us to please their “god.” It does us no good to deny this obvious reality.
People who kill themselves for a chance to massacre innocent people do not do so for political ideology or generic extremist views. The Communists and the Nazis did horrific things but you did not see mass suicide bombings by either group. All of the 9/11 war criminals were convinced they would spend eternity in paradise. (They are actually suffering in horrible burning agony in Hell fire.) They committed war crimes to please their “god.” Sacrificing one’s life to save the lives of others is honorable and noble. Killing yourself in order to massacre women and children is monstrous and demonic.
We also need to be careful with the response to future war crimes and terrorist acts. Congress passed the so-called “Patriot Act” in a hurry and virtually no one read it. (Barack Obama renewed it, by the way. He could have vetoed it.) I knew this was a bad idea and opposed it from the beginning. We must be very skeptical of all efforts to expand government power, especially since fifteen years of the War on Terror and decades of the War on Crime and the War on Drugs have already set so many bad precedents for restricting our liberty. What we really need to be doing is rolling back these overreaches.
One thing I did not oppose from the beginning was the invasion of Iraq. I did not come to the conclusion that the war was a bad idea until five years later. That war provides another example of why we should not act rashly. We have made things worse and opened up an opportunity for both the Islamic State and Iran to expand their power in Iraq. It is possible that the Islamic State would not even exist had we opted to contain Saddam Hussein instead of remove him from power.
The common theme here is that we must not give into fear. We must closely guard our liberty and not over-react. We must resist the temptation to be the world’s police force. We need to think things through before we act. Above all else, we must select leaders with a calm, even temperament instead of choosing demagogues prone to flying off the handle. An even-tempered leader can be incredibly valuable at restraining the mob, instead of trying to stir it up.