It is easy to dismiss terrorism as the cowardly use of violence against innocents in a vain (impossible) hope to achieve political ends. Where in history do we find terrorists as having won a war, or achieved their agendas?
We really don't find them successful, except sometimes in the short term. But in the long term their fundamental weakness is exposed. They are too few and ill-armed, at war with a superior force in terms of numbers and tools of violence. The terrorist can't win a conventional war, and knows this. We could say that Vietnam was a terrorist insurgency, which it certain can look like from some points of view, but the truth is the North had an army, and that war was fought in their homeland with invading forces who were ultimately defeated. In Iraq we seem to wander close to that older mess, but really don't get there. Most Iraqies want to be left alone, to raise families and engage in business and other quite ordinary pursuits. The terrorism comes from other agendas, and has one main characteristic.
This characteristic is that those, who are weak and powerless against those who seek to be in control, refuse to capitulate. Forced into a corner, they fight back, using any means necessary to resist. What people would not?
If we step back a bit from the immediacy of the problems in Iraq, and look to it as an ongoing and current lesson being offered by the Genius of History, what do we see?
We see the end of any value in the application of force by an dominating world power. Here was the sitting government of the United States, convinced of the illusions of its own manipulated press, that we had now become the only super power in the world, and anything we willed could be achieved by the application of force of arms, or its threat. With a kind of infinite hubris and arrogance, a small group of intellectuals in the field of international relations, convinced the leading politicians in the Right Wing of the Republican Party that force of arms could achieve just ends (whether economic or political or social - for this point I will assume the ends pursued were just). Yet, every intellectual calculation has proved false, and the assumption that we could enforce our foreign policy desires by arms has failed.
What the terrorist has shown, is not so much that what they desire can be achieved, but rather that the human spirit, when pushed into a corner, is able to resist any raw application of power that is not willing to destroy totally that which it first desired to possess. Obviously we could wipe out huge portions of the middle-East, through the application of our own weapons of mass destruction, but the consequences for the world of such an approach is madness. Our elites wanted Iraq as a power base in the middle-East, and this is being denied them.
The fact is we are not the sole super power, which was really just an delusion. Arms and armies are everywhere, and wherever force of arms is used to achieve a political end, in the finely balanced and complex modern world, it will fail, just as it now fails. The Age of the pursuit of political ends, based upon carrying the big stick, is now over.
The tragic question is: How long will it take modern heads of State, their political sycophants, and the leading generals and arms merchants to realize that the application of force to achieve political ends is no longer viable? How far into Hell on Earth will these vain and arrogant fools drag the rest of us, before they come to their senses?