The issues surrounding global terrorism are extremely complex, and call for thoughtful, balanced decisions.
But America's "fast-food" mentality and venomous politics preclude careful development of plans, alternatives and actions. An insatiable 24/7 media demands immediate solutions to the unprecedented horrors of an unconscionable enemy.
It would be helpful if our elected leaders could somehow miraculously transform the vitriolic nature of the current discussion about terrorism into productive dialogue and unity of purpose. But with our political process hijacked by partisans and special interest groups, solidarity is highly unlikely.
Instead of unity, the loudest and most divisive voices create the daily sound bites, and frame the debate on terrorism.
Thoughtful commentaries receive zero press. Any politician who suggests patience is condemned as indecisive. As new facts emerge, any leader who alters a prior position is labeled a waffler, or worse yet, a liar.
Actually admitting a prior mistake is political suicide.
The average citizen is confused about the facts, frustrated with the war, and disgusted with the politicians. This environment is extremely unhealthy — and dangerous.
It has yielded a deeply divided and inwardly focused nation, headed toward self-destruction.
Historically, Americans united when viable external enemies threatened our freedoms.
Selflessly, we banded together and sacrificed much in defeating totalitarianism and fascism in World War I and World War II, preserving freedoms at home, while securing freedoms elsewhere. Then, for 45 years, united with the exception of the Vietnam era, Americans stood firm against the evils of Communism, precipitating the Soviet Union's collapse.
Today, largely due to America's united resolve, Nazi Germany, imperial Japan and the U.S.S.R. have yielded to free societies.
But today, a third world war is under way — against Islamic fundamentalism and al-Qaida.
Hitler, Hirohito and Stalin have been replaced by bin Laden, Zawahiri and Zarqawi.
This dangerous enemy operates secretly, without national borders. They hide in caves, teach Muslims worldwide to hate infidels, and plot death and destruction from obscure cells, in Europe, Asia and the U.S.A.
They view democracies as godless societies that must be eliminated. They are obsessed, committed and patient in their evil mission.
Immediately after 9/11, Americans united against these terrorists. The rest of the world was poised to join us, in what promised to be a long struggle.
How quickly that union dissolved! How quickly America's focus turned inwardly and negatively — on personalities, motives and blame for every atrocity of war.
Quickly forgotten were the terrorists and their ambitions.
The result: a deep chasm of cynicism and divisiveness, founded in political spin, inflamed by a total focus on bad news, exacerbated by bogus accusations and investigations, and second-guessing.
Unfortunately, today we are not united against nor even focused on our real enemy.
Voices like Chamberlain's pre-World War II are denying the threat of global terrorism. Appeasement, sanctions, diplomacy, isolation or waiting it out are offered as answers to the gathering threat from bloodthirsty maniacs and their fanatical beliefs.
Oblivious to the passions of these mass murderers to secure weapons of mass destruction, partisans assert the more dangerous imminent threat is the opposing political party. Democrats call the Iraq war not only a tragic mistake, but a deliberate criminal conspiracy; Republicans counter by attacking the patriotism of their opponents.
Both delight when their opponents stumble, tongue-slip or drop in the polls. Both distort facts, accuse, name-call and criticize. Lusting to indict, censure or impeach their political opponents, they spend zero time damning, denouncing or trying to understand the jihadists. They search endlessly for political gain, oblivious that their internal bickering and reckless assertions embolden the enemy and promote al-Qaida recruiting.
Today we are at war with ourselves. We have met a new enemy, "and he is us."
Historically, when the enemy-within dominates, great societies have imploded and self-destructed. We must somehow take action to avoid this fate.
We will never defeat al-Qaida by attacking the character, motives, integrity and patriotism of our public officials.
Victory requires unity of purpose, honest dialogue, consensus, patience and resolve.
We need to replace the internal wrangling and specious accusations with a balanced, forward-looking, hopeful public discourse. We need to focus outside on the enemy — on the threat posed to future generations.
We need to unite as a nation behind a long-term common goal of ending terrorism and its root causes.
Only then, united at home, can we hope to unite the rest of the free world in this battle.
Only united can we be credible in encouraging and supporting moderate Muslim leaders worldwide — leaders who can offer a better, more tolerant, more productive life to the hundreds of millions who today hear only voices of hate.
As president/international, Jack Tymann led business development for Westinghouse around the world, including most Muslim nations. He lived in Iran and the Middle East. In the 1990s, he served on and chaired the Clinton-Mubarak Presidents' Council. Today he serves on the board of AMIDEAST, a consulting firm promoting mutual understanding between Americans and Arabs via educational exchange.