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Talk Later, by Thomas L Friedman

The day after the World Trade Center bombings an Egyptian TV show called and asked me to explain the impact on Americans. I scanned my brain for an analogy and finally said: Imagine how Egyptians would feel if three suicide bombers rammed airplanes into the Pyramids, with thousands of people inside. The World Trade towers were our Pyramids, built with glass and steel rather than stones, but Pyramids to American enterprise and free markets, and someone has destroyed them.

I'm still not sure the world fully appreciates what this has meant to Americans. We are not fighting for Kosovo, and we are not fighting for Bosnia, Somalia or Kuwait. We are fighting for our country. And Americans will fight for their country and they will die for their country.

The big question is how we fight this war to deliver to Americans what they want -- which is not revenge, but justice and security. It requires a new attitude toward the battle and new strategy on the battlefield.

What attitude? We need to be really focused, really serious, and just a little bit crazy. I don't mean we should indiscriminately kill people, especially innocent Afghans. I mean that the terrorists and their supporters need to know that from here forward we will do whatever it takes to defend our way of life -- and then some. From here forward, it's the bad guys who need to be afraid every waking moment. The more frightened our enemies are today, the fewer we will have to fight tomorrow.

As for the new strategy, if our first priority is to destroy the Osama bin Laden network in Afghanistan, then we need to understand that it takes a home-grown network to destroy a home-grown network. Let me put it another way: If Osama bin Laden were hiding in the jungles of Colombia instead of Afghanistan, whose help would we enlist to find him? U.S. Army Special Forces? The Colombian Army? I don't think so.

Actually, we would enlist the drug cartels. They have the three attributes we need: They know how to operate as a covert network and how to root out a competing network, such as Mr. bin Laden's. They can be bought and know how to buy others. And they understand that when we say we want someone "dead or alive" we mean "dead or dead."

The Cali cartel doesn't operate in Afghanistan. But the Russian mafia sure does, as do various Afghan factions, drug rings and Pakistani secret agents. They all have their local, home-grown networks, and it is through such networks that the Afghan part of this war on terrorism will be fought. "The best news I've heard all week was that Vladimir Putin is serious about joining the coalition," said Moises Naim, editor of the journal Foreign Policy. "This sort of character can really help now."

Moises is right. Something tells me Mr. Putin, the Russian president and former K.G.B. spymaster, has the phone number of the guy in the Russian mafia who knows the guy in the Afghan cartels who knows the guy who knows the guy who knows where Mr. bin Laden is hiding. It is going to be that kind of war: an above-ground army you fight with tanks and generals, an underground network you fight with moles and exterminators.

In fighting this kind of war the president and his advisers would do themselves a huge favor by not talking so much. They are already starting to contradict themselves and get tied up in knots. Be like the terrorists: Let your actions speak. It is much more unnerving to the enemy.

For everything there is a season. There will be a season later on for talking. There will be a season for dealing with other states that have supported terrorism. And there will be a season for promoting Arab-Israeli peace or economic development. But right now -- right now is the season of hunting down people who want to destroy our country. War alone may not solve this problem, but neither will social work. And one thing a focused, covert war will do is create a level of deterrence that has not existed up to now. Every state has to know that after Sept. 11, harboring anti-U.S. terrorists will be lethal.

To drive that point home, though, people have to see that we are focused, serious and ready to use whatever tactics will make the terrorists feel bad, not make us feel good. As the Lebanese militia leader Bashir Gemayel once said about the Middle East -- before he himself was assassinated -- "This is not Norway here, and it is not Denmark."

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