THE CONGRESS and people of the United States have given President Bush an unambiguous mandate both to punish the authors of the crimes of September 11 and to root out and destroy organized terrorism throughout the world. While the risk involved in fulfilling that mandate is great, the opportunity thus created is even greater. Ever since 1941, when Franklin D. Roosevelt pledged that America would avoid appeasement (in January), and when he promised that "this form of treachery will never again endanger us" (after Pearl Harbor), no country has dared to attack the United States overtly. Many applaud, more or less audibly, when the United States suffers any setback, but no state chooses to confront the United States directly. Indeed, all now unctuously proclaim their innocence of the events of September 11.
This constitutes immense progress since 1941. Japan and Germany were powerful and fearless nations, even though criminally misgoverned. The great efforts of a Grand Alliance were required to subdue them. The current terrorist enemy is typified by a platitudinous ne'er-do-well scion of a wealthy Saudi family, supported by the world's most contemptible regimes, promoting the massacre of innocents from an Afghan cave. These enemies are not nations, possessed of the sinews of war and commanding the adherence of millions of dedicated citizens. They present the combination, rarely encountered heretofore, of evil, education and fanaticism. Yet they are neither brave nor numerous. There cannot be an unlimited number of voluntary and relatively sophisticated suicide candidates. Security measures can close off most of the opportunities for such programmed robots to do real damage to the West, and these groups cannot function without the assistance of states. Elusive though they are, they command no real loyalty and, ultimately, the universal aversion to confrontation with the United States makes them very vulnerable.