am writing this
less than an hour after the U.S.A. was struck by what looks very
much like a coordinated wave of terrorist attacks. Two planes, one
said to have been hijacked, crashed into the World Trade Center,
setting both towers on fire. From my front lawn here in Long Island,
thirty miles away, I can see the smoke plume. Something similar
seems to have happened at the Pentagon, and the latest news is of
a fire on the Mall in Washington D.C. The White House is being evacuated.
It is interesting
to watch one's own emotions at such times. I was, as the news broke,
writing some editorial matter for the forthcoming issue of the print
National Review. The magazine has a section titled "The
Week", with brief, pithy paragraphs commenting on the events
of the day. We NR editors divvy up the topics, each getting
four or five paragraphs to write. My topics were small things, domestic
things: sharks, Senator Jeffords, the Little League scandals. I
had sat down to this after seeing the kids off to school at the
corner of the street, cheery in their bright clothes, lunch boxes
in their backpacks. It is a bright, clear, sunny day. Walking back
from the school bus, I commented to one of the mothers on the beauty
of the morning clear and bright.
As an event
of this horror unfolds before one's eyes, a shift of perspective
occurs. Kipling captured it in his magnificent poem on the outbreak
of WW1: "For All We Have and Are":
has passed away,
In wantonness o'erthrown.
There is nothing left today
But steel and fire and stone!
we suddenly know that the distractions of our pleasant, commonplace
lives must be set aside for a while. There is a terrible and ruthless
enemy. He hates our country, our very culture. He wishes death to
us and our children. He is, right now, crowing with glee. His friends
and supporters are assembling in their streets, grinning and laughing,
cheering and embracing. A blow has been struck at the Great Satan,
a mighty blow! Rejoice, rejoice! There are people, millions
of them, in the world right now, thinking those thoughts, saying
we hear the word
That sickened earth of old:
"No law except the sword
Unsheathed and uncontrolled."
This is not
an easy enemy to confront. This will not be a matter of great troop
movements, of trenches and bombs and massed charges. This will be
small teams of inconceivably brave men and women, working in strange
places, unknown and unacknowledged. But is the same enemy, the same
truth, of which Kipling spoke: evil, naked and proud: "a crazed
and driven foe." This is what humanity has faced before, since
our story began to be written down. This is civilization versus
The ages' slow-bought gain,
They shrivelled in a night.
Only ourselves remain
To face the naked days
In silent fortitude
Through perils and dismays
Renewed and re-renewed.
think that Americans are incapable of facing this foe and defeating
him. Let nobody think that this country is any less able to "face
the naked days" than she was in 1861, in 1917, in 1941 and
1950. We shall rise to this. We shall take our revenge. We shall
absorb these blows, and strike back a hundred times harder. Let
America's enemies crow today: Tomorrow they will tremble, and weep.