Twelve years ago today, on October 12, 2000, al Qaeda terrorists on a suicide mission drove a small boat filled with explosives into the hull of the USS Cole while the Navy destroyer was docked at the port of Aden in Yemen. The attack killed 17 American sailors and wounded 39 others. The attack came nearly a year before al Qaeda would murder nearly 3,000 Americans in the attacks on September 11, 2001.
In the October 30, 2000, issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote about the need for a "serious anti-terrorism policy." Here's an excerpt:
One can only hope that a Gore or Bush II administration will not repeat past mistakes. Yet the reluctance to use military force in the Middle East is clearly a bipartisan American reflex. The fear that serious military responses to terrorist attacks can lead to an endless series of attacks and reprisals is an understandable foreboding. But what ought to be clear is that whoever perpetrated the attack on the USS Cole isn't going to desist voluntarily. Two men vaporized themselves to express their hatred of the United States. By any true-believing standard, their act was a glorious success, quite sufficient to inspire others to follow. We cannot counter such determination and passion in a courtroom. We cannot counter it without demonstrating, as ancient Rome knew well, that there must be a frightful price for provoking a giant. Our enemies, and the friends of our enemies, must know that an easygoing, corpulent, wealthy Western nation is, when it wants to be, an indomitable, bloody-minded force that will seek awful vengeance upon its foes.
And in the same issue, Tom Donnelly explained what the Cole bombing meant: America was at war, whether it recognized it or not. Here's an excerpt:
Failing to see that we are at war, we also fail to see our enemies. President Clinton described those who attacked the Cole as "cowardly." In fact, their operation was clever and well planned, and it culminated in an extraordinary act of self-sacrifice and courage: According to news reports, the two commandos in the rubber boat stood to attention and saluted each other just before they detonated their explosives. If these had been Americans laying down their lives, their story would be fit for a John Wayne movie. Likewise, in the 1993 battle of Mogadishu that killed 18 Army Rangers and ultimately drove Americans out of Somalia, hundreds, if not thousands, of Somalis were killed and wounded.
Not only are these anti-American warriors brave, they are increasingly well organized, well armed, and well trained. "Globalism," it turns out, favors not only international businessmen, but also international drug lords and guerrillas. These may be "non-state actors," but they benefit from state sponsorship, and they can form alliances of convenience with governments hostile to the United States or simply take advantage of weak or failing states. New information technologies, along with old-fashioned weapons proliferation, make the resort to violence both tempting and effective.