They can because they did; and we could too... if we dared. Either we continue sending conventionally armed cruise missiles to blow up mud huts -- which makes about as much sense as taking Microsoft's yearly output, piling it up near Kabul, and napalming it. Either we do that, declare defeat and run, or we take up the available means of persuasion: the nukes, the chems, the bios, the jammers -- the works.
We have things you healthy people have never dreamed of. I didn't waste my time down in the basement reading those war mags! The things I learned, while your kind was out on dates! We have things that make my kind drool. You don't like killing people? We have non-lethal weapons you can't imagine. Take the worst drug experience you ever had and multiply it by a thousand; we have gases which can give every inhabitant of Kabul that unforgettable experience. We have bacteria which will keep everyone in Afghanistan wiping their asses with their prophet-decreed left hand from now til we give them the antidote. We have any mental state you choose, in endless supply: terror, rage, sleep, despair.... We can make the entire country itch uncontrollably, until they beg to deliver Bin Laden on a plate to the nearest KFC deep fryer. If that smacks of violence (oh, we can't have that!), then we can do the sort of passive-aggressive torture squeamish folk prefer: for example, we can make it impossible for anyone in Afghanistan to use a telephone or radio or television every again -- without having to kill a single one of the pesky primates. We are God, if we will dare to be.
But would God -- you know, Allah-is-my-copilot, that God -- would He be so squeamish? Only an Episcopalian God would be, and if nothing else, the last few weeks should have convinced us that God Is Not An Episcopalian. Christ? Even Falwell admitted that Christ is out of it, gone to live in Aspen and make goat cheese or something. God, let's face it, is either a Jew of Gush Emunim leanings or a classic Muslim stabber, a desert dervish with a dagger in his teeth. So let's ask the un-askable: What Would Yahweh do? What would Allah do?
He would cleanse the world. As we could, and still can. The world is our garden, and we are too cowardly to prune it. Blake would understand this, if only he were not in the possession of mere academics. Blake would tell us, as Yahweh and Allah would tell us: act! Cleanse the world!
We stand at the first moment of history, not the last. (Fuk yu, Fukuyama!)
We have a choice of two scenarios:
1. We can let the world demographic trend continue. In a century the population will be 14 billion devout imbeciles (a nice volatile mix of Hindu and Muslim -- what fun Saturday nights will be!). These headless mobs will sooner or later (bet on "sooner") extirpate whatever remains of the techno cultures that created them, then die back from plague and war -- but only after exterminating the truly valuable beings of this planet: the big cats, the birds of prey, the cetaceans, the canids, the mustelidae.
2. We can prune now, using the weapons we possess: nuclear, biological, and/or chemical; and make of the world what we wish. So thorough has been the taboo on this subject that most people still possess childish misconceptions about these weapons. "What about fallout?" Fallout is a choice. It could be used to depopulate areas downwind of the target; but it is also possible to extirpate whole populations with little or no fallout. All that is required is an increase in production of neutron warheads, which could be done in less than a year.
Imagine the changes in the world, a week after we grasp the thistle and work our will on the world! Think of the menus, the choice of landscapes, we could make:
7" heel: lethal weapon
(A) Kill Jesus, Yahweh, and Allah in one stroke, by nuking the entire Middle East (except Turkey; Turks are cool). Jerusalem, the most fecund source of vicious delusions in human geography, will be transformed into a lake of glass that can never again infect a soul -- as will Mecca, Medina, and Bethlehem. After a few decades of cooling, this vast cleansed landscape becomes a wildlife sanctuary. The Asian lion, now all but extinct, and the Tiger, a zoo curiosity, roam free for thousands of miles. (Bikini Atoll is now the finest wildlife refuge in the Pacific.)