POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Ten Thousand Reasons Why We’ll Beat bin Laden

by David Trumbull

November 5, 2004

The ‘sixties retro craze that gave us the Austin Powers movies a few years ago has gone global. That bin Laden as Bond-film-baddie tape before our presidential election gives new meaning to the phrase al-Qaida “camp.”  It showed that, in the war on terrorism, as in so many other ways, American pop culture dominates the thinking of even its most violent critics.

I’ve never doubted that we’ll win the war on terrorism. The West will always triumph because only the West has a self-sustaining culture. Hatred of the West may motivate men to fly airplanes into buildings, but it will never sustain itself. They hate us because we have freedom. They hate Israel because Israel is an outpost of Western freedom.

The history of the West reads like a novel. It has a plot; it has development. The history of most non-western civilizations is like reading the telephone directory. In a battle between a dynamic western civilization and a stagnant civilization, we win.

In 401 B.C. an expeditionary force of ten thousand Greeks marched into the heart of Persia, then the greatest empire the world had known. There, in what is now Iraq, the ten thousand defeated a vastly larger Persia force. Xenophon, an Athenian, was one of the ten thousand. In his first-hand account you see the vast servile Persian host. You’ll also meet the Greeks, a band of brothers, obedient and disciplined, but also each a free man thinking for himself.

After the battle, when the Greeks and Persians meet, under the assurances of truce, to discuss terms for an armistice, the Persians break their word and murder the Greek commanders. The ten thousand are now stranded, a thousand miles from home, surrounded by the enemy, with no one to lead them. Or so the Persians think. But the ten thousand are not Persians, they are Greeks –Westerners. They simply hold a New England-style town meeting and elect new leaders. The Persians are dumb-founded. They cannot grasp the idea of free men electing leaders.

And as for the Greeks? Well, they never really wanted to conquer Persia anyway. They marched to Babylon just to put on the Persian throne someone who would be less a pain-in-the-neck to the Greeks. Having taught the Persians a lesson about Western power to effect a regime change, they simply, and quietly, marched back home. But that’s another story. Xenophon tells it in his Anabasis.

And as for bin Laden and his nightshirt-wearing followers? All I have to say is, "who's your daddy?"


David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee; he may be contacted at (617) 742-6881 or Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.