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Commentary: America can win war on terror, just as it has defeated other evils

POSTED: September 11, 2011 12:30 a.m.
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Lt. Col. J. Kevin Jarrard

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As we approach Sept. 11, 2011, I have listened and read to the reports of “specific and credible” intelligence suggesting an attempted commemorative terrorist strike by al-Qaida with a sense of sadness, realizing that my children will come of age in a very different world from the one in which I grew up.

A decade has now passed since that quiet fall day that ushered in an era of security checkpoints, random anti-terrorism measures, threat levels and “homeland security.”

On that particular morning, I was beginning a lecture on the American Revolution with a classroom of cadets at Riverside Military Academy. I had just completed six years of active service as an infantry officer with the Marine Corps and thought I had exchanged my rifle for a piece of chalk and a room full of books and boys. My wife was very pregnant with our third child and I was looking forward to the many joys of domesticity. 

Danny Tymchuk, my fellow teacher, childhood friend from Sardis Elementary School and football teammate from North Hall High, tapped on my classroom window and asked me to step next door to view the breaking news footage of the first plane crash.

As with most Americans, we were stunned at what seemed to be simply a terrible aviation accident when the second impact occurred. A sickening realization immediately set in as the intelligent design of the operation became painfully apparent. 

The events of that morning shaped much of my life for the ensuing decade. Often in these years, I have laid aside my duties as a teacher, dusted off my “sword” and took up again the mantle of soldier (or Marine in my case), kissed my wife and squeezed our little ones and returned to battlegrounds in far-flung places.

These wars have been a family affair in many respects. As I pen this piece, my two brothers are abroad in the service of our country. We have had brief “family reunions” either in person or by tactical telephones in places that I had only previously seen in the maps in the back of my Bible. 

There is perhaps some satisfaction as we approach the 10th anniversary of this event that the man ultimately responsible for the planning and execution and the leader of the movement has been brought to justice. Celebration is the wrong word and the wrong reaction. Osama bin Laden’s death should be marked by a sober sense of a difficult and dangerous mission accomplished.

The fact that he was buried at sea and treated with honor by the crew of the ship and the other servicemen who handled his remains and the funeral ceremony only sharpens the contrast between America and al-Qaida. We do not exult over the death of our enemies, but neither do we shirk from our responsibility to bring the long arm of justice to bear on evildoers. 

Make no mistake — despite all other claims to the contrary, and despite some notable missteps along the way, America has spent the last decade attempting to raise the banner of liberty and justice in places where formerly only tyranny and terror held sway.

Time will tell whether any substantive changes will remain in place after the American tide recedes, but I suspect that those seeds once sown will reap unseen rewards in the decades to come. For all of us, the commitment of American blood and treasure to advance the cause of freedom should not come without substantive discourse and a sober-minded counting of the costs. 

In the end, why do we choose to fight? Why did my brothers and I, along with thousands of our countrymen leave hearth and home and wade into the fray?

It bears remembering that this war has been waged by an all-volunteer force, a first in our history. In the words of President Woodrow Wilson: “It is a fearful thing to lead this great, peaceful people into war. ... But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts — for democracy, the rights of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government. ... To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured.”

Lest we think that we are unique in the history of our country or in the broader scope of human history, the evil that we now face is an old evil; surely as Solomon proclaimed, there is nothing new under the sun.

The horrors of other madmen challenged our forbearers and they rose and met the assault. Other atrocities equal to that of Islamic fascism have risen and been cast down by good men who could not sit idly by while evil flourished.

We stand on the shoulders of brave Americans who did not shirk when the hour called for noble action. This anniversary brings to mind other anniversaries, like Sept. 1, 1939, when Hitler’s tanks rolled across the Polish border, or Dec. 7, 1941, that day “which shall live in infamy,” when Japanese dive bombers shook America out of her isolation and into World War II.

Just as the waves of fascism and communism broke on the rock of American leadership and determination, so shall this current evil pass into the ash heap of failed ideologies — if we will remember who we are, where we have been, and what is required of us in such times as these. 

It is my prayer that my fellow Americans will spend this Sunday giving thanks to our God for his protection, provision and preservation and that we will remember and re-dedicate ourselves to the ideals that make America exceptional in the annals of human history.

Lt. Col. J. Kevin Jarrard is the commandant of cadets at Riverside Military Academy. He has served several tours of duty as a Marine in Afghanistan.

 



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