America’s will key to winning war on terror

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2002

How committed are we Americans and for how long? Tony Kern uses those kinds of questions to punch and jab at the consciousness of his readers.

Through a friend with a military background, Kern’s words came this way. Many of his thoughts are worth passing along. A former military advisor and teacher at the Air Force Academy, Kern pushes a central theme: The war on terrorism will be won or lost by American citizens – not by the soldiers, not by the diplomats, not by the politicians.

A second overriding theme is that Americans must not dismiss the terrorists simply as fanatics. That, he said, would be the gravest of mistakes. “This attack was committed by a ferocious, intelligent and dedicated adversary,” he said. Not that he admires the enemy; on the contrary, he finds them loathesome. But their capabilities to disrupt and terrorize may be without parallel.

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News coming from Afghanistan continues to encourage the American people that the terrorist organization, at least in that part of the world, is on the run and perhaps on its last leg. Don’t bet on it.

Kern said it is likely we will “… be pulling our new adversaries out of caves 30 years after we think this war is over.” They are an elusive enemy. And their hate runs deeper than Americans can fathom.

Our biggest mistake would be to underestimate their moral conviction to destroy America and western civilization. “Our enemies are willing – better said anxious – to give their lives for their cause. How committed are we, America? And for how long?”

Time, it is true, may be on the side of the enemy. “They plan to fight a battle of attrition, hoping to drag the battle out until the American public loses its will to fight,” Kern said. “This might be difficult to believe in this euphoric time of flag-waving and patriotism, but it is generally acknowledged that America lacks the stomach for a long fight.”

Clearly, the United States and its allies have manpower and firepower far superior to the enemy. That superiority has changed the landscape in Afghanistan. Does that end the war? In no way.

Kern points out that the long war will be quite different. “Our vast technological edge will certainly be helpful, but it will not be decisive,” he said. “This will be a knife fight, and it will be won or lost by the ingenuity and will of citizens and soldiers, not by software or smart bombs. We must also be patient with our military leaders.”

Patience, in fact, is what we will need the most. While we want to put the awful attacks behind us and try not to think of any future atrocities against our homeland, our adversaries have patience aplenty.

The will of Americans is the bull’s eye of the enemy’s target. Victory or defeat will turn on citizens’ support. When people say they wish they could do something to help America win the war, Kern tells them they can.

“Just keep faith in America, and continue to support your president and military, and the outcome is certain,” he said.

If we win this war, it will be because of that faith and perseverance. The enemy believes America to be “soft, impatient and self-centered.” Is the enemy right? Maybe so. But we love freedom. And we love our country. We love. They hate. And maybe that will be the difference.

Joan Gandy is special projects director of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at (601) 445-3549 or by e-mail at