October 22, 2001

By C. Bradley Thompson
Ayn Rand Institute

On September 11, 2001, the forces of barbarism declared war on civilization. The targets of this act of war-the World Trade Center and the Pentagon-were carefully chosen. They represent the central values of American civilization: reason, individual rights, capitalism, science, technology, wealth, and the right of a free people to defend itself. Black Tuesday was the culmination of a twenty-five-year war against the United States and everything that it stands for. Since 1983, a Marine barracks in Beirut, two commercial passenger jets, a military base in Saudi Arabia, two embassies in Africa, and the USS Cole have been bombed. The total loss of life will exceed seven thousand American civilians and military personnel.

And how has the United States responded to this 25-year Reign of Terror? It has done almost nothing; it has responded with shameless appeasement. They bomb, we investigate; they bomb, we call for "restraint"; they bomb, we negotiate. America has done nothing significant to defend itself over the years because, despite having the most powerful military force in the world, it is unarmed. It has disarmed itself philosophically and morally.

For almost 100 years, America's intellectuals have waged a war of attrition against the core values of American civilization. College professors regularly teach that reality is unknowable, that truth and intellectual certainty are a mirage, that there are no moral absolutes, and that all cultures are of equal worth.

So entrenched in our culture is this view that even a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Fred M. Vinson, could assure the American people that "Nothing is more certain in modern society than the principle that there are no absolutes. . . . To those who would paralyze our Government in the face of impending threat by encasing it in a semantic straightjacket we must reply that all concepts are relative (Dennis v. United States, 1951)."

We should not be surprised that many of today's young people-the very people that we will call upon to defend this nation in war-sit confused and intellectually paralyzed when their professors tell them that in morality there is no black and white and that one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. At Yale, historian Paul Kennedy invited students to empathize with the feelings of Palestinians and to ask, "How do we appear to them, and what would it be like were our places in the world reversed?" From Harvard to Berkeley, the professoriate preaches that America has only itself to blame for the events of September 11, that America's economic prosperity and military power provoke justified hatred. Consider, for instance, the views of professor William Blum of the University of North Carolina, who proclaimed to an enthusiastic audience of over 700 students, "If I were the President, I would first apologize to all the widows and orphans, the tortured and the impoverished, and all the millions of other victims of American imperialism."

Osama bin Laden has waged this war against America, in large part, because he thinks he can win, and he thinks he can win because he's counting on America's intellectuals to indirectly aid and abet his cause. This nation was founded on the truth that all men are created with equal rights, "that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." As a consequence of putting these principles into practice, America has become the freest, most just, most prosperous and most powerful nation in the history of the world.

But Americans are now confronted with an ominous question: Do we still believe these principles to be true, and will we fight to defend them? Just as those who signed the Declaration of Independence unilaterally declared to a candid world the causes which impelled them to embark on a deadly war for their survival as a free nation, we too must confidently declare that America has a moral right to defend itself. This means that America's defenders must fight a two-front war: a military war against Islamic terrorists (and their sponsor states) and an intellectual war against the cackling clerics of our universities.

In the weeks and months ahead, many young men and women will enlist and go to war to defend America and its principles. Some may not come home. Before they go, it would be good for them to hear from their professors why their cause is just and good. In the long term, what America most needs is a new generation of intellectuals-an intellectual army that can defend the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Then, and only then, will America be armed to defend itself.

C. Bradley Thompson is the author of John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty, Chairman of the Department of History and Political Science at Ashland University in Ohio, and a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Marina del Rey, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

Daniel B. Jeffs, founder
The Direct Democracy Center