This editorial by Prof. Bowen was published in the News Leader (Staunton VA: September 11, 2009): A11.
by Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
(Professor, Depts. of Political Science and of International Relations, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
Since it sometimes is difficult to read every word of a scanned article (as above), here is a clear copy of the original version of this editorial for readers' reference:
Eight years now separate us from the largest act of mass casualty terrorism in modern history, the 9/11 attack on America. Designed by Muslim extremists to both kill civilians and to induce fear, the search for appropriate recognition of its anniversary each year challenges each of us. Flag flying and praying alone are clearly inadequate, yet they suffice for most of us. But from our leaders more is properly to be expected. How adequately has the Obama Administration shouldered the burden of guiding us through not just this day, but through the human minefield we confront on all days, the one planted by Al Qaeda and its supporters?
Matters foreign and difficult hardly seem to be among the first concerns of the President just now. It has been, after all, quite a tough summer for the Obama team. They’ve been shown to be unable to influence even close allies such as Britain to follow U.S. guidance about not releasing a Libyan terrorist from jail. American casualties in the Afghanistan War have hit new monthly highs. Even the tactical successes achieved by the U.S. in the broader South Asian war theater –such as the successful targeting of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban—have done little to reverse a growing sense that the Afghan War effort has stalled. The White House clearly prefers focus to fall most on their efforts toward economic recovery, health insurance reform, and other domestic reform initiatives. But, after having faced town halls brimming with American democracy at its surliest, discomforted Democratic elected officials return to Washington little disposed to be Obama’s rubber stamp on these issues.
The summer season started so differently. In June, it was Obama in Cairo, reaching out yet again to the Muslim world. The Administration that began its term reaching out to Iran’s mullahs, and by visiting Turkey, did so much to show Muslims it truly differed from impressions they had gained under George Bush. Soothing words Obama expressed, joined with difficult words he no longer would employ, conveyed overall a new message that America could be trusted. Officials from the President on down stopped all mention of a “global war on terrorism,” and in Cairo, even the word “terrorism” was carefully omitted. By mid-Summer, Obama rushed to have U.S. troops exit Iraq’s cities, another sign of the New America, the America Muslims could trust. In Cairo, Muslims were reminded that Iraq was Bush’s war, a “war of choice” far different from the “war of necessity” Obama quietly was escalating in Afghanistan.
A worldopinion.org poll released in early 2009, showed more than three in four Egyptians to favor those who attack our soldiers, and not just in Iraq (83%: see page 9) but in Afghanistan (83%: see page 10) and around the Persian Gulf (78%: see page 9) as well. No subsequent evidence suggests Obama’s words in Cairo altered any of this broad support for our enemies. Arab volunteers continue to travel to become suicide terrorists in Iraq, and in Afghanistan, they now join other internationalists who hail from Uzbekistan to Nigeria. The common denominator among these enemies is that they are radicalized, armed Islamists who have come to fight the infidels, as our opponents refer to our armed forces, diplomats, and civilians alike. From whatever cave, shack, or palace in which he now is hiding, Osama bin Laden continues to mock a United States that is as unable to bring him to justice now as in 2001.
Against this backdrop, it cannot be stirring words that set right the wrong of eight years ago. It must be deeds. As with all other policy areas, the Obama Administration deserves substantial opportunity to implement its counter- terrorism agenda: that is what democratic elections empower. The continued absence of further outrages against this people by Al Qaeda is a measure of the continued vigilance of our law enforcement, intelligence, and military personnel. But by this time next year, Americans must expect to be able to measure more tangible dividends from the new Obama approach to these “violent extremists,” as the Obama team would prefer us to call the Islamist terrorists. Ending the threat posed by Osama bin Laden, his cronies, and his millions of quiet sympathizers, cannot become a hollow policy of mere word play. September 11th can safely be reduced to a ritual only after justice is done for our 3000 martyrs.
Written: September 8, 2009
Gordon L. Bowen
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