the last several hours the Taliban in Afghanistan have been variously
reported as in hiding, preparing their forces for a border war,
denying bin Laden was in their custody, offering to let a "neutral"
Islamic "court" adjudicate his future, calling for a jihad
against the United States, and threatening Muslim neighbors who
ally themselves with the United States. It would be a grave mistake
to listen seriously to any of this prattle, worse still to think
their apparently contradictory and inexplicable behavior represents
real power or danger.
In fact, their
passive-aggressive bluster is typical of the usual last howls of
all cornered thugs and dictators. Goebbels continued to broadcast
doom to the allies hours before he blew his brains out. As American
armies raced through the carcass of Germany, Admiral Dönitz
in the last minutes of Nazism still issued threats and demands to
the Allies concerning the conditions of German capitulation. Japanese
fanatics under General Anami promised to overthrow the brokered
surrender and lead Japan to eternal victory amid the ashes of Hiroshima
shortly before committing suicide as the American fleet made
ready to sail into Tokyo Bay.
In the past,
we scoffed at all these desperate attempts of murderous and illegitimate
governments to salvage their eroding power. So too we must with
the Taliban, who possess neither the skill nor terror of those whom
we obliterated in World War II. The only difference is that they
have panicked even before we have fired a shot.
The empty rhetoric
of the Taliban offers even greater lessons still. In the months
to come we must not delude ourselves that the "new" enemy
of Islamic fundamentalism has suddenly arisen to change entirely
the rules of war. Their terrorism, fanaticism, and even suicide
bombers are not novel. They find parallels throughout history from
the conquest of Mexico to the siege of Cyprus in 1571 to the Kamikaze
attacks on the American fleet off Okinawa.
must remember in this present crisis that military precedent and
behavior, based as they are on the unchanging nature of man, always
endure. In this case they teach us that all illegitimate and murderous
regimes, when they are last stripped of their terror and the illusion
of power, threaten even as they broker to save their own skins.
The Taliban will do the same until the last bullet finally puts
an end to their evil.
neighbors untrustworthy states like Iran and Pakistan, who
until days ago harbored terrorists but now are themselves in deadly
fear of U.S. bombs seal their borders, the threats of the
cornered Taliban will become even more surreal as they are empty.
This is a good sign that they recognize, as we do, that their end
We are witnessing
a great change in the balance of the power in the world. Formidable
states like India and Russia, both secular democracies with historical
ties to Europe, will gravitate to us even as the Arab world
with ruined economies and without a single elected government
finds itself weakening by the day. The United States has awoken
from its moral slumber and found itself not feeble, but fearsome
beyond its wildest imagination.
We have suffered
a grave defeat more dead than on Iwo Jima not because
we were intrinsically weak, but rather because we, like the Greeks
on the eve of Thermopylae, were naïve and unprepared. Western
republics and democracies anger slowly, but the wages of their wrath
60,000 dead at Salamis, 80,000 at Lepanto, 100,000 in the
streets of Tokyo are often catastrophic for any who wrongly
dismissed them as soft and decadent. The Taliban sound ferocious,
but that is because the most dangerous place in the world in the
next few weeks will be Kabul not Manhattan.