Al-Qaeda is not the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. Stalin and Hitler controlled enormous military forces located within or adjacent to the heartland of Europe, and Hitler was the master of one of the most productive economies and one of the most technically advanced nations in the world. (The USSR was no slouch either).
By contrast, all Muslim nations are economically weak. None of them has an industrial base or significant scientific or technical capacities. None of them has a genuinely fearsome military.
Furthermore, Islam is not united.The Shia / Sunni division is the most prominent, but there are many internal divisions within these large groupings too. There are twenty or more Muslim nations, and they are often intensely hostile to one another. Muslims speak more than ten major languages.
All Islam has is oil money and popular support. The popular support is broad but not necessarily deep; most Muslims are not militants and give nothing more than lipservice to the cause. Only the Islamists’ ability to recruit suicide bombers makes them a threat at all.
Doesn’t this tell us that we’re going to be able to handle this? Doesn’t it tell us that the hysteria about the collapse of Western civilization is unnecessary?
The 9/11 attack was unprecedented for America, but other nations have suffered much worse attacks (either absolutely or in proportion to their populations) without going insane. One example is El Salvador, which lost about 1% of its population to terrorism over about a decade.
Some of the hysteria (at the popular level) comes from people who have personal emotional problems and need to vent — go to “Little Green Footballs” or “The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler” if you don’t believe me. But at the elite level, it comes mostly from politicians and policymakers whose agendas can’t be fulfilled unless the American people are petrified with fear and obsessed with rage.
We should figure out what we have to do, and do it — but without the hysteria, please. The United States has the most powerful military in the history of mankind. More than anything, we need a calm hand on the controls: the head cases should butt out.