The White House announcements after the ambush of a group of citizens in Orlando, Florida have led me to conclude that neither the old or new Commander-in-Chief is going to be informing you of your status change, you are now a foot soldier, a grunt. With the civilian dead in Syria approaching a half million from various causes, including poison gas and cluster bombs, new weapons and strategies are redefining the nature of war. The terrorist war has come to the concerts halls of Paris, the night clubs of Orlando, and shortly to Main Street, USA. Begin erasing the image of the M-4 toting Marine in camouflage from your mind. The likeness looking back at you from the mirror in your car is the new Centurion.
The lives lost in 9-11 were not civilian casualties; they were unsung heroes of an escalating armed conflict that continues today. As the Internet provides ever-increasing communication, connections, and knowledge, the nature of terrorist warfare has unfortunately begun to evolve. The database of available and buildable weaponry has begun to burgeon at a geometric rate. Take your eyes off the posted troop losses in Afghanistan and the Middle East and think about the tens of thousands of lives that will be lost in New York or Chicago when a terrorist attack takes down an office building filled to capacity. We were lucky on September 11.
Completely protecting the target rich environment that is the United States is probably impossible. Our wealth and achievements provide all the information a terrorist needs to pinpoint the most valuable objectives. Perhaps only the fact that the Orlando attack was a lone wolf operating apart from a terrorist organization precluded this horrendous incident from taking place at Disney World. I suspect that individuals who use the Internet as a public forum to decapitate their victims will have no compunctions about slaying children and their parents in the Magic Kingdom. Ask the people of Syria about the protections offered by world opinion or the Geneva Conventions.
We are going to have to take things into our own hands. Successful warfare depends on a number of factors, all of which we can control to our advantage. The terrorists cannot out-think, out-plan, or out-fight us, unless we choose to ignore the evolving nature of the war and make the wrong choices. Ask the Vietnamese; with inferior weapons, without wealth, and with almost no international support they brought this super power to its knees and the truce table. The terrorists will do worse to us, if we do not make our goals, strategies, and objectives the ones that win wars. Weapons do not decide the outcome of wars, people do.
We must do exactly what our forefathers and predecessors did, define exactly what it is we are fighting for: what is the war on terror? Only then will we be able to defend a country whose open borders define hope and freedom for the rest of the world. We cannot win this without first an important asset; a population that thinks, observes, and acts on its feet, both quickly and forcefully. Secondly, an international network of populations (not just world leaders) who define and feel about freedom the same way Americans do. We cannot be the world's police officer, but we can be the world's role model. Charity that begins at home pulls the teeth of terrorism recruiting on the Internet or anywhere else.
The reason the Viet Cong were able to whip our butts was that they simply fought their definition of the good fight (for independence, for freedom, and most importantly, against the oppressors--us). Those that enter the fray with their hearts and minds aligned will usually prevail whether they have punji stakes or muskets. History says that victory belongs to those who stay the course, not those with the biggest wallets, ask King George or General Westmoreland.
If everyone at the Boston Marathon had been watching, observing, and asking, "Is that knapsack yours?", the bombs might have been detected. Yes, difficult, demanding, and detail oriented; remember freedom requires "eternal vigilance", now that you recognize you are a soldier, start practicing it.
When the next office building topples to the ground or a weapon at a sporting event (imagine a Michigan-Ohio game with 20,000 dead and 30,000 wounded) kills and injures thousands, we should rescue the casualties, repair the damage, and ask what we missed, what did we not prepare for, and then fix it. If your elected leaders and local preparedness officials cannot give you a strategy seems sound and workable, replace them; tempus fugits.
This country and the philosophical principles it represents are ideas too good to allow anyone to destroy them. Start thinking of yourself as a soldier enlisted in the war for freedom, because you are… we all are.
Whit Young, former Marine, retired hospital pharmacist, and real estate broker, savors life on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The pacifist author of "Lynching at the Legion" and "Penny For Your Thinking," he is working on a sci-fi novel that provides an unusual answer to the question, "Are we alone in the Universe?"