As I am writing this, a terrible drama is being played out in a remote part of the Sahara Desert of Algeria. A large natural gas field was raided by Islamic terrorists, fashioning themselves, “The Battalion of Blood.
They are apparently allied with the al-Qaida terrorists who have seized a huge part of Mali, just south and east of Algeria, and are themselves being fought by a small force of French soldiers.
The Battalion of Blood seized roughly 40 foreign workers at the natural gas field and has taken them as hostages. The terrorists are demanding that the French stop their operations in Mali and withdraw, leaving this large nation, apparently not defensible by its own forces, to the mercy of al-Qaida.
A rescue effort by the Algerian armed forces did not go well. Apparently, many of the hostages were killed.
There are several aspects of this story that are vitally important for us as Americans to think about.
First, our politicians, especially the left-wing politicians, hammer the energy companies and the people who work for them mercilessly and incessantly. They are called profiteers and exploiters and monopolists, as if it were still the days of the Rockefeller monopoly.
Our government taxes them every way it can, belittles them every way it can, and regulates them to the point where new oil and gas production is drastically curtailed. Just recently, the government halted the pipeline that was going to take oil from Canada to the United States.
These attacks on the energy industry are a disgrace. We all need energy to live. It powers our homes, transportation, medical facilities, universities. We could not live without it. Getting that energy is a difficult, risky job. Working in an oil field in Alaska or west Texas or the panhandle of Oklahoma is extremely hard, treacherous work.
As we are seeing, extracting oil and gas in the more volatile parts of the world risks death and injury from vicious, sick men.
Let’s think about the people who bring us our energy and spare a thought or two for them, spare a prayer for them, and spare them from the present government’s withering attacks. We need energy. Extracting it is a legal business. So is transporting it. Let’s stop for a moment and ask whether we really want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Second, and even more frightening, the security situation in the less-developed world is extremely dicey. France, the second most populous nation in Western Europe, is fighting the advance guard of the terrorists, and, so far as we know, doing a fine job at it.
Contrary to the impression that many have of France because of her swift defeat by the Nazis in 1940, the French are extremely tough fighters when they want to be. Their record in World War I was superb and their long, losing fight to keep Indochina and Algeria, while morally questionable, involved some very brave soldiering.
But France is able to send only 1,400 troops on short notice and a small number of armored vehicles. The other nations of Europe are virtually disarmed. The vast armies that we imagine from the 20th century are only a memory.
The terrorists are well armed throughout North and East Africa. They are startlingly well motivated (whether by Islamic fever or money is hard to tell). Their organizational skills are top notch. They have the capacity to create astonishing havoc in all of northern and eastern Africa and thus all over the world.
There is only one country that is armed well enough, trained well enough, staffed well enough, to take them on. That’s the United States. We have an armed force far bigger than that of all of Western Europe combined and incomparably better equipped.
As we contemplate budget cuts and spending caps and taxes, let’s remember that we live in a dangerous world. We disarm at great peril. As Ronald Reagan said (in paraphrase), he never saw a war against us that was started because we were too strong. Al-Qaida’s ambitions are limitless. Their goals — blood and death.
We have to be strong enough to defend ourselves. If taxes need to be raised to defend ourselves, let’s recall what Adam Smith wrote: “Defense is greater than opulence.” Higher taxes are a small price to pay to keep ourselves free and the world secure.
It is later than any dare think.
Ben Stein is a writer, actor, and lawyer, who served as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration as the Watergate scandal unfolded. He began his unlikely road to stardom when director John Hughes cast him as the numbingly dull economics teacher in the urban comedy, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Read more reports from Ben Stein — Click Here Now.
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