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War Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card November 12, 2001

What Can Go Wrong

The first thing -- the worst thing -- that could go wrong with this war is for the American people to lose heart.

We like to be the good guys.

Also, we don't like to sustain American casualties. Those are our boys. We don't want any of them to die.

Our enemies know this about us. That's why they're taking every opportunity to put out the report that they have been killing American soldiers, and that our bombs have been killing innocent civilians.

It's good to care about the civilian casualties. But we also have to trust that the people making our military decisions are just as good Americans as we are. They, too, are the good guys. They are doing all that it is possible to do to avoid civilian casualties.

Most of the enemy reports are lies. And the occasional ones that are true need to be kept in context.

When they kill civilians, it's because they're aiming at civilians. They rejoice over every American or Israeli civilian they kill, and when they happen to kill non-targeted civilians -- like the hundreds of innocent Africans murdered in the embassy bombings a few years ago -- they couldn't care less.

We are fighting this war specifically to eliminate an enemy who kills civilians, here and in other countries, as a matter of policy.

In the process, we also will kill some civilians, but only as an unavoidable accident. We do not target civilians. We do not rejoice when they die.

In the long run, pursuing this war to victory will save many, many civilians lives -- on both sides.

And if we give up the war, it won't save any American lives, either. We weren't bombing them when they came to our country and killed six thousand people going about their daily lives. They are not waging war in response to our aggression, we are waging war in response to theirs.

Wouldn't it be nice if we had a pro-American media that did not take every enemy report seriously, while casting doubt on every report from the American military? Wouldn't it be nice if we could hear a press conference in which American reporters were not deftly trying to cast aspersions on our own military?

But except for Fox News, America does not have a pro-American media news source.

We have to be tough enough, as citizens, to keep our resolve through this very limited Afghani campaign and through the much harder and more dangerous campaigns in Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, and, eventually, Iran. This war will take many years. We have to have staying power. And we have to keep that national resolve no matter how much our own media try to serve as the propaganda arm of the Taliban.

Even if we keep our resolve, however, there are other things that can and almost certainly will go very, very wrong. Things that are out of our control and which will make this war far more costly and dangerous than anybody is talking about right now.

First, the government of Saudi Arabia is extremely fragile. King Faud could die at any time, and his probable successor is far more hostile to Israel and far less likely to be cooperative with us than the coterie of Saudis who are cooperating with us -- sort of -- right now.

But it is worth remembering that the Saudi regime is widely known to be corrupt, and dominated by corrupt men who aren't very righteous Muslims. They have been buying a degree of security from revolt and terrorism by paying substantial sums to organizations like Bin Laden's and the Taliban. Bin Laden has no intention of going down with Afghanistan. He has had his eye on Saudi Arabia for a long time. He would love to lead an Islamic revolt there, seize the government and then see what happens when he uses Saudi oil to manipulate Europe while using control of the holiest sites of Islam to manipulate the rest of the Muslim world.

Even if Bin Laden does not mount a revolt or coup against the Saudi government, it would be painfully easy for his organization -- or any of several others -- to cut off the flow of Saudi and Kuwaiti oil to the U.S. Some well-placed bombs in ports or on pipelines, or an anthrax attack against oil workers, and the flow of oil to the U.S. and Europe would be blocked.

In other words, any of the changes that are likely to happen in Saudi Arabia will have drastic effects on American and European oil supplies.

It is vital, for the short term, that we open up the last known U.S. oil reserves.

But for the long term, we have no choice, if we value national independence, to wean ourselves from heavy oil consumption. There is a finite amount of oil in the world. It is time to replace it with a different energy source -- now.

A first step would be to give huge incentives to automobile companies to expand the numbers -- and lower the prices -- of the new generation of hybrid engines that get incredible mileage without loss of power.

A second step is to beef up our research on direct solar conversion, and to get shale-oil production going even though at the moment it is not economically viable.

A third step is to use public money to get our rail system back up to minimal standards of safety and efficiency. Too much of our track is in shocking disrepair. When oil rationing hits we will need trains to keep food and manufactured goods flowing into our cities.

Did I say oil rationing? Get used to the idea. That is the easiest thing our enemies could do to disrupt our economy and make us suffer. And since they think that Americans are big babies who cry whenever we're deprived of our comforts and conveniences, they believe we would give up our war if we didn't have our oil.

I think they're wrong. I think we'd fight all the harder.

But we have to have alternate energy sources if our economy is to have any hope of having the strength to fight a long war. And the time to get that energy infrastructure in place is now. Today. Without delay.

While Congress is busy making ineffectual gestures toward air safety, why isn't anybody recognizing our greatest vulnerability and doing something about it?

Let's see some of that famous "bipartisanship" on a bill to get more oil online as quickly as possible, taking reasonable precautions to protect important aspects of the environment but bipassing the dangerous delays that the Church of Environmentalism is able to impose on every project, regardless of how much it is needed and how slight the environmental risks might be, in order to satisfy their anti-human religious beliefs.

(The Taliban isn't the only fanatical religious group that imposes its irrational, anti-human extremist vision on a whole nation, using the schools and the media to pound out its propaganda campaign.)

Meanwhile, let's also have a bill that recognizes that oil will give out sooner or later no matter what our enemies do. It's far past time to get serious about subsidizing production of non-oil-derived energy. And guess what? The Church of Environmentalism will be very happy with the results of that program. Link those two bills together, and maybe we can get this thing through our "bipartisan" Congress.

Copyright © 2001 by Orson Scott Card.

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