To say the United States faces an uncertain future in 2001 would be a serious understatement.
We're embarked on a war against terrorism that will be unlike any other war the U.S. has ever fought. We're militarily strong but untested in our resolve to conduct what could be a long and bloody war. Our economy is showing signs of faltering with an airline industry unlikely to stay afloat without a massive government bail-out.
In the two weeks since the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- a tragedy that extracted an expected death toll of more than 6,000 -- American citizens have demonstrated remarkable spirit and generosity.
Billions of dollars have been donated to relief efforts. Citizens have shown support for rescue workers and the president by flying flags and staging patriotic rallies. Even the entertainment industry stepped forward on Friday with a star-studded tribute to the American heroes of this sad tragedy.
President George W. Bush received almost unanimous praise from members of Congress as he outlined the government's plan to answer the terrorists' attacks with a sustained and massive effort.
The uncertainty comes when we try to predict how America will react to a war that is unlikely to have any single "big strike" to rally the public's mood. When U.S. casualties start to mount and our struggle with the terrorists drags on to months and years, will Americans continue to wave flags and support the defense and foreign policies outlined by President Bush in his address to Congress?
If Americans tire of the long struggle we are just beginning to undertake and abandon it before the guilty parties are eradicated, our avowed enemies will rightfully be scornful of the U.S. They will correctly conclude that we lack the will to fight even after thousands of innocent civilians are slaughtered in our own land. Then the cycle of terrorism will continue and we will live in day-to-day fear of when and where the next attack will come.
Americans must remember Sept. 11, 2001, and see to it that terrorists are never again able to inflict such a deadly death toll on the civilized world. It may prove to be the most important test of American will since World War II. For the sake of our future we had better hope we're up to the test.
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