Why The Terror War Continues
May 6, 2006
A Review of Five Years at War
Jay B. Gaskill
In a seminal and definitive analysis, first published in the September, 2004 Commentary, Norman Podhoretz (World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win), placed the 911 attacks and the Iraq War in their geo-context:
“….[W]e are only in the very early stages of what promises to be a very long war, and Iraq is only the second front to have been opened in that war: the second scene, so to speak, of the first act of a five-act play. In World War II and then in World War III, we persisted in spite of impatience, discouragement, and opposition for as long as it took to win, and this is exactly what we have been called upon to do today in World War IV.
“For today, no less than in those titanic conflicts, we are up against a truly malignant force in radical Islamism and in the states breeding, sheltering, or financing its terrorist armory. This new enemy has already attacked us on our own soil—a feat neither Nazi Germany nor Soviet Russia ever managed to pull off—and openly announces his intention to hit us again, only this time with weapons of infinitely greater and deadlier power than those used on 9/11. His objective is not merely to murder as many of us as possible and to conquer our land. Like the Nazis and Communists before him, he is dedicated to the destruction of everything good for which America stands. It is this, then, that (to paraphrase George W. Bush and a long string of his predecessors, Republican and Democratic alike) we in our turn, no less than the “greatest generation” of the 1940’s and its spiritual progeny of the 1950’s and after, have a responsibility to uphold and are privileged to defend.”
On September 11, 2001 I was in Manhattan and I promised myself that I would never forget. Here is what I wrote at the time:
Saturday, September 15.
Evil is real.
On Tuesday morning it came to this city, about a mile from the Manhattan apartment where we are staying. Evil came in the form of two airliners full of fuel, and terrified passengers. It announced itself in a succession of grotesquely unreal images: two giant aircraft intersecting two giant buildings, the impacts in grim succession; two fire storms ballooning from the glass clad skyscrapers, then moments later each tower vanishing in a cloud of dust. Thousands entombed in monumental rubble. A monumental murder.
Good is real.
The last four days here have renewed my belief in the human capacity for heroism and virtue under duress. It is an honor to be among the New Yorkers. I wouldn’t be anywhere else right now.
Any moral system that fails to recognize the existence of evil and the imperative for its defeat is like a child with a compromised immune system in a plague. Evil is a recurrent pathogen, an ineradicable feature of the human condition that every age must identify and conquer anew.
In this culture, evil has too often been excused or ignored or defined away. Yet it returns. It comes like a night flare on a battlefield, illuminating the configuration of forces. Evil clarifies everything. In its looming presence, all the differences among the good melt into insignificance.
The recognition of evil is the beginning of moral obligation. To do less than to recognize and oppose evil with passion, resourcefulness, intelligence and steadfast persistence, is to succumb to it, to participate in it, to allow it to capture the very soul.
God bless New York and God bless America.
Jay B. Gaskill
From 28th and Madison
Following those searing but sacred days in Manhattan I have seen the dismal partisan erosion of the American soul, reaching its nadir during the last presidential campaign. It was a disgraceful exercise in which my once proud and patriotic party fell into a bizarre twitching, schizophrenic break with reality. The party of Roosevelt and Truman became the party of ambivalent non-warriors, pretending to care about robust national security while fearing the very decisive and sometimes dangerous measures that the times demand of us.
I fervently wish that I could wake up my friends on the left.
We are all enemies to the Islamist extremists. What they ask of us is tantamount to suicide.
We are in a war we did not choose and that we cannot afford to lose.
On September 12, 2003, “buyer’s remorse” was beginning to surface:
The terror war against us will continue whether we choose to defend ourselves or not.
The Presidency of George Bush is at a crossroads. The mainstream media is now promoting the notion that we are in the “buyer’s remorse” phase of the struggle against terrorism. This view is fostered by the misbehavior of deeply misguided members of the Democratic Party (I write this as a long time registered democrat) who have given in to friendly fire politics during wartime. Some fevered partisans hope to profit from a foreign policy catastrophe, while avoiding responsibility for causing it. Others pretend to support our troops while failing to come to grips with the ultimate necessity of the military component of the struggle against terror. No politician of either party deserves to hold national office who fails to understand the necessity to project military power against terrorism or who refuses to vigorously support the resources to carry on that struggle effectively. The stakes are far, far too high.
Some perspective is in order. We have been targeted. The cross hairs have not moved. We face the prospect of the reincarnation of a new form of Nazism within the lifetimes of most Americans. An Islamo-fascist proto-state will arise in the Middle East unless we act with the necessary courage, intelligence, and resources to prevent it. Its proponents are animated by an atavistic, 12th century tribal mindset that poses a radical challenge to all modern, liberal societies.
We were initially targeted for destabilization by Islamo-fascism because —of all modern, liberal societies– we were perceived to be the strongest in military and economic terms, but weak in our willingness to sustain a real life-death struggle. That was a miscalculation. By directly attacking us on September 11, 2001 (I was in Manhattan that day within smelling distance of the smoke and dust), Islamo-fascist produced an unexpectedly vigorous reaction. So we now face the Islamo-fascist “Plan B”: our prospective demoralization and ultimate retreat is to come about through a protracted campaign of harassment.
More perspective. The human family has developed at a radically uneven rate, producing a situation that sometimes bizarrely resembles on one of those Star Trek episodes where the Enterprise crew sets up on a planet occupied by primitive people, centuries behind in technology and practice. Unlike Captain Kirk’s crew, we can’t just pick up and leave. But neither we are we constrained by a “Prime Directive” not to interfere with other cultures,
Our species’ ascent from primitive tribalism is far, far from complete. [The so-called religious struggles in the Middle East and elsewhere are really tribal struggles with a religious veneer.] But we humans have made a few civilized enclaves where the rule of law is applied to individuals as governing authority, not tribal decree, and where the law contains and enforces a system of rules that protect core freedoms. In these places, oases of liberal civilization have trumped the primitive brutalities of tribal rule.
We North Americans live and thrive in one such enclave. But our defense of this advanced form of civilization can no longer be accomplished without directly engaging those atavistic tribalist forces who threaten us (principally the Islamo- fascists), and by doing so on their own ground.
September 11, 2001 marked the death of isolationism and pacifism for most Americans.
The Iraq liberation is still incomplete, but that country’s transformation to a more liberal and prosperous, less tribal and brutal civilization, is at once the elimination of a threat and the creation of a counter model. In the overall defense against terrorism, Iraq is but one of several sequential necessary steps to transform the region and abort the formation of a pan Islamo-fascist state. The transformation of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Libya will be equally necessary, equally difficult. They may involve a calibrated mix of economic assistance, cultural “imperialism” (their word, not mine), and direct military intervention. The next steps are absolutely necessary if we are to defeat terrorism and success in Iraq is a necessary predicate. This is no time to lose our nerve, nor retreat to the pleasant, but deadly fantasies of pseudo pacifism.
Authentic pacifists who have made an individual choice are to be respected, but no policy of self defense can be modeled on their stance. We can deeply admire the courageous advocates of non-violent social change, while recognizing, as realists, that pacifism is contextually appropriate, never uniformly so. Sometimes a pacifist’s choice of tactics is the only practical means available. Sometimes these tactics are both morally satisfying and effective. But any study of history demonstrates that this is not consistently the case.
M. K. Gandhi and M. L. King succeeded with pacifist tactics in the last century because the oppressive policies they confronted were the work of people who still possessed conscience. More accurately, the two governments challenged by these essentially non-violent, morally-founded movements, the British Empire and the American federal government respectively, were civilized, democratic regimes with populations highly susceptible to moral suasion. That susceptibility was the product of an essential decency, the legacy of their common dominant Judeo-Christian culture. The achievements of these two non-violent movements in India and the US were remarkable precisely because of their historical rarity. Consider, by contrast, the brutal fates of dissidents in Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, and Hussein’s Iraq.
I found a part of Polanski’s 2002 film, The Piano, both terribly poignant and chillingly relevant. I recall when the condemned Warsaw Jews were listening to the radio, still hoping that the Americans would come to their rescue. I thought of the right wing isolationists like Taft who opposed US involvement against Hitler, and only supported FDR after the Pearl Harbor attack. And I imagined a similar conversation among the condemned now. “The Americans are not coming to help us because the pacifists lobby won’t let them.”
The difference between moral realism and utopian pacifism is that fracture line between the moral politics of gesture and that of moral accomplishment, as difficult and messy as the latter can sometimes be. Sometimes the price of moral engagement is support for a necessary war and all the terrible unpredictability that entails.
I know something of the evil mind set. Implacable resistance to moral suasion and an absolutely amoral ruthlessness are its hallmark characteristics. This is not an easy challenge for the modern mind, and it often results in denial. The educated elites on both sides of the Atlantic are closer in spirit to those of the Weimar Republic than most would care to admit. Cultural relativism has birthed moral relativism, a safe harbor for nihilism. And nihilism forms easy alliances with all who can be seduced by the comfort of denial. This cultural development was perceived as an opening by the Islamo-fascists who planned the attacks on us. In this cultural and military context, utopian pacifists are becoming the cadre of “useful idiots” about whom Lenin spoke.
No, military action does not solve social problems. But it is sometimes a necessary precondition for their solution.
On October 7, 2003, I made these points about a Darwinian weeding out of civilizations:
Civilizations whose leaders and members are not rooted in the sterner part of the moral order cannot summon the will to self defense when challenged by a more cohesive, more fervently motivated adversary. There is a Darwinian logic at work here that favors the triumph of the religious society over the complacently hedonist culture, the “blood sweat and tears” rally over the “make flowers not war” withdrawal, and the committed, brave heart over the timid, ambivalent soul.
This does not mean that our Euro-pacifist neighbors can quickly be taken down by a few suicide bombers. The gradual accumulation of high technology weapons by the highly developed economies in the West has allowed a sort of pacifist-warrior détente. In many wealthy, secular countries, small armies and security forces, “properly” constrained of course, are permitted to do the distasteful work of making the world safe for pleasure and comfort.
But when the scale of the challenge approaches that of general war, these societies either recover their deeper, more robust moral foundations, or they become chapters in the book, Failed Civilizations of Our Time.
We are at that place.
I am a universalist, firmly centered in Judeo-Christian tradition. As one whose views tend to bridge the secular humanist-religion divide, I have spent some years working out the bridge between secularism and that “sterner part” of the moral order I referred to above.
There are three essential parts to this bridge:
(1) the conviction, whether based in theistic faith or not, that the moral order really does exist apart from culture, whim, and preference;
(2) that it contains the basis for accountability and honor as well as love and the softer virtues;
(3) that we, as mortal individuals, whether through a fierce integrity-commitment in this life, a sense of accountability to ultimate authority post-mortem, or some combination of these elements, feel authentically bound by the moral imperative to oppose evil.
Those who are so caught up in the current secular and spiritual hedonism that the whole notion of evil is demoted to a mere “cultural construct” are disarmed from the outset. And those “fundamentalists” whose view of evil is overbroad tend to exclude needed allies.
They, too, have unilaterally disarmed.
In October 2004, I addressed the conditions that would constitute victory:
When President Bush opined during a pre convention interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer that “I don’t think you can win” the war against terrorism, he stumbled over a problem in definition. When we define terrorism as violent criminal activity done to further some ideological goal, we will never be rid of it. Criminals – with and without ideological pretensions – will always be with us.
We face an uncommon terror campaign, a jihad aimed at the national jugular. We may have difficulty identifying our moment of victory, but our defeat would not go unnoticed.
To define “victory” in the current struggle, we must understand why this is a war. The coordinated attacks on September 11th targeted our institutions of political, economic and military power, and inflicted damage on a scale comparable to Pearl Harbor. Beyond that, the scope of the malevolent purpose exceeded Japan’s objectives in WWII. The real target of the 9-11 attacks was the very infrastructure of Western, secular civilization.
Purpose always matters. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked. Islamic terrorism is a coordinated and potentially effective series of attacks designed to destabilize, neutralize, demoralize, disrupt or destroy the support systems of the target civilization. What we are now experiencing is a major scale escalation of terrorism fueled by a single ideology with the goal of destabilizing or eliminating the US as a world obstacle to the ultimate objective.
Why Are We The Target?
The current terror campaign is a clear threat to our interests because its architects plan to create a vast Islamic pan-Arab proto-state. It is this single theme that links the school massacre in Russia, the Madrid bombings, the WTC attack and several hundred other attacks on Western “targets of interest”.
We were singled out for special attention because we were correctly identified as the single most powerful opponent, and opportunistically, because of a terrorist miscalculation: They thought we would fold early. If – God forbid — the Islamists were ever successful, extraordinary resources and technologies of war and mass murder would fall into the hands of ideologues whose beliefs are chillingly like those held by the Nazis of the last century. Not only would this neo-Nazi, Islamist regime control the world’s primary oil reserves, its access to the huge oil revenue would fund a very dangerous military threat, one that would quickly escalate beyond WWII proportions.
This jihad is kept alive by passive or active state sponsorship, the infiltration of indigenous support systems within non-hostile states (including our own), and the establishment of stand-alone bases of operations within the feral regions of the world where nation states exert no effective authority at all. These terrorists have utilized and still need facilities, finance, materiel, and logistical support of a kind and scale essentially unobtainable without the overt or covert cooperation of motivated nation states. Libya, Syria, Iran and the former Iraq, covert elements within Saudi Arabia (aided by certain Saudi family princes), among other nation states, have supplied territory, funding and cover. Other nation states, notably Pakistan, China and Russia, have supported or permitted the sale of weapons to terrorists or to dealers who are part of the terrorist pipeline.
The Bush Administration quickly recognized that the very first post-9-11 priority was to create strong disincentives for non-cooperating regimes, robust enough to frighten the most hardened and otherwise secure dictator. This required an unflinching willingness to inflict and to take casualties. In turn this called for clarity of purpose, consistency and the capacity for occasional ruthlessness.
A ruler like Omar Kadaffi needed to see his own non-cooperation risk profile as higher than any other threat to his regime. A defiant ruler like Saddam needed to be driven from power.
The risk-averse stance appropriate to the Cold War, where an aggressive misstep might provoke massive nuclear retaliation no longer applies. The goal is to forestall ever again getting into another mutually assured destruction trap. Our willingness to act boldly to punish terrorist cooperation, even on insufficient intelligence (& intelligence is always insufficient) is a very effective deterrent in itself.
When Do We Win?
When can we declare victory, by what metric can we detect its arrival?
The outline of victory will emerge as several of the following stages become visible:
The shift to active cooperation in the anti-terror effort by all of the key regimes with overt or covert terror ties. Russia, Pakistan and China are partly on board. We can reasonably expect that mutual cooperation to increase as the scale and common origin of the threat become more apparent. Libya is partly neutralized. The Saudi government has begun to get aggressive within its own territory in making arrests. Syria is momentarily deterred. Iran is in flux, still a clear and present danger. Korea seems hell bent on making a deliverable nuclear arsenal but appears deterred for the moment from trying to export trouble.
The extension of responsible state or quasi-state control over the “failed state” or feral regions. This not accomplished, though our paramilitary forces are now actively present in the major trouble spots.
The return of all portable WMD’s to state control within a mutually transparent pan-state system of mutual accountability. Limited progress has been made based largely on the ability to trace weapons to their country of origin, and the implicit threat of retaliation. A “quick trigger” response policy (as in this administration’s willingness to attack a non-cooperating regime even without conclusive evidence of WMD’s) does work to discourage regime foot dragging, deception, and obfuscation. The overall task of accounting for these weapons is challenging but far from impossible. The number of the deliverable weapons in circulation is finite, while the value of keeping them is far outweighed by the penalties of being caught with them (especially given the new American ruthlessness).
The development of robust covert systems of surveillance, infiltration, detection, disruption and destruction of terrorist cells, infrastructure, and support within the U.S. and the West generally. We Americans are hindered by a paranoid mindset that links terrorist suppression with suppression of dissent. The more 9-11 recedes from our memory, the more difficulties we will have in developing and implementing a really robust domestic anti-terrorist program.
Terrorist gestation within a country of region has lead times comparable to cancers. The success metric suffers from the same uncertainty inflicted on every recovering cancer patient. Cancer “cure” rates are measured by the number of years without a recurrence.
Well suppressed terrorism should the goal, not be zero incidents. If we are winning we can expect that terrorism against us will not involve major national assets and will reduce in scale, falling into the background noise of ordinary crime within the next ten years. This process will be accelerated as we achieve effective hardening of five key assets of our civilization:
the core communication system;
the core transportation system;
key economic assets;
key democratic political assets;
key military assets,
If the Islamist extremists are discredited in the Middle East by the emergence of viable, economically healthy, more pluralistic models of governance, their terror campaign against us and the West will die a natural death. But, if the U.S. population ever becomes demoralized, the terrorists may win even if they are never able to accomplish another 9-11 scale attack on our soil.
Terrorism is an opportunistic infection in the human social condition. It emerges whenever our social immune system is sufficiently weakened. Complacency, cowardice and moral neglect are ever with us. Their darker companions – fevered minds with deadly weapons – will never be far away.
There is a sixth key asset of our civilization, one fully within our power to “harden”. It will trump all the rest. When the base-line confidence of the American people in the validity and value of our civilization is strong, we can never be defeated. If we, as a people, carry but one fraction of the fervor of a typical suicide bomber in our devotion the survival of our civilization, we will win hands down.
As the Missing WMD controversy raged, I commented about friendly fire:
The “WMD” dispute, fueled by partisan “friendly fire” from the media, many of the current presidential candidates, and other partisans, is gravely misplaced. Yes, we need to reassess our intelligence acquisition and analysis capability on several levels, but we can’t have it both ways. Our threat assessment mindset was far, far too complacent before the shocking attacks of 9-11-01. Recall the targets, the heart of US financial capability, the Pentagon, and the White House. Had these attacks fully succeeded, our enemies would have done more damage than Pearl Harbor. In light of that truly horrendous awakening, no responsible administration could have justified a relaxed wait-and-see attitude about a Middle East tyrant with known homicidal tendencies, implacable hostility to us and our interests, access to billions of dollars per year, a record of spending those resources on weapons of terror, and a history of actually using them. The retrospective attempts to demonize the good faith pre-invasion judgments that were made by the Bush Administration are intellectually dishonest. The level of acceptable risk from this ruthless dictator was a low one. The decision to move sooner rather than later was reasonable.
And that’s the assessment of a long time democrat.
And I posed a Thought Experiment:
You are traveling abroad with your child, whose sibling recently died of an aggressive, totally unexpected cancer. Your child falls ill and is taken to the nearest hospital, a place with reasonably competent care and first rate surgeons. You are presented with a diagnosis based on x rays, blood tests, and review of the symptoms, family history, and a physical examination. Your child has cancer. Based on the family history, this is very possibly an aggressive kind. You are told that a definitive biopsy is not possible without surgery that would be about as invasive as removal of the tumor—and might promote its spread. So the recommendation is for immediate surgery to remove the tumor, followed by a course of radiation and chemotherapy. Based on this assessment, you authorize immediate action. The surgery is very successful. Your child begins a recovery which takes longer and is more difficult than expected. When the tumor is sent off for a definitive biopsy, you learn that it was a pre-metastatic, early stage, cancer. But instead of being congratulated for acting swiftly and saving your child’s life, your spouse – not traveling with you – blames you for acting too quickly and sues for divorce. This is essentially the position of the Administration’s WMD critics.
But Saddam really was bent on our destruction and never gave up his WMD ambitions. In the example, the child’s cancer really was potentially lethal and aggressive. The dictator was eliminated. The cancer was excised at a very early stage. Only intellectually dishonest partisans can turn this good news into bad.
Now let me raise my real concern, the one the partisan critics of the administration aren’t talking about. The evidence suggesting that Saddam harbored bio-chemical weapons for use against his enemies was very strong.
It was so strong that we now have to ask ourselves: Were we too late?
Then I wondered whether Saddam himself had miscalculated:
Suppose it was Saddam who miscalculated. He misled the world into thinking he had WMD’s hoping it would discourage an invasion while his corrupt “food for oil” scam and bribery program eroded the sanctions. We prepared to meet chemical weapons in the invasion but the battle went swiftly in our favor because Saddam was bluffing. It may be a decade before we can absolutely confirm what he really did with the large stockpiles of deadly poisons he still had when he kicked the UN inspectors out. One thing is certain: after 9-11 No responsible president could take the risk of leaving Saddam alone, relying on sanctions; no one could trust a madman; and no one could trust those he bribed. Nor could we leave our forces engaged on his borders forever while Saddam pretended to cooperate. Saddam set himself up for a fall and fall he did. The world is better off for it. The war against the terrorists is better off for it. American is better off for it.
I wrote last year about the Ultimate Struggle:
The jihad terror game is intended to shake up conditions in the middle East until a single Pan-Islamist state can emerge; this vision contemplates a nuclear armed, oil funded Islamist world power, one fully capable of intimidating the West.
To achieve this grand vision, all non-cooperative governments within and without the region must be overturned or neutralized.
I will be calling this super-power-to-be Islamostan, and its driving purpose will be the establishment of The Islamist Imperium. [Should the Islamist extremists ever adopt this name, beware: That event will have signaled the achievement of a pan-tribal, pan-ethnic unity based on Islam. The suffix, “stan” is derived from the Persian term for nation; as the Middle East “street” knows all too well, Persians aren’t Arabs!]
The current unholy jihad was eerily presaged in a vision of William Butler Yeats, (1865-1939) who was a poet, a Celtic Mystic, and (as is now painfully apparent) also a prophet. As he wrote in his poem “The Second Coming”:
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
… somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
… what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
I am not one of those critics of the Islamists who is willing to discredit the entire corpus of Islamic religious thought and practice because some fanatics have taken up arms against the civilized world. But the embedded differences are serious. Recently, Monsignor Walter Brandmüller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, gave a speech honoring the birth of Pope St. Pius V . As Brandmüller put it: [The] “biggest difference between Christianity and Islam” stems from its view of human nature. “[T]he concept of the equality of all human beings does not exist, nor does, in consequence, the concept of the dignity of every human life.” The Islamic view holds to “a threefold inequality: between man and woman, between Muslim and non-Muslim, and between freeman and slave.” In this schema, the man “is considered a full titleholder of rights and duties only through his belonging to the Islamic community” [and] “The most irrevocable of these inequalities is that between man and woman, because the others can be overcome — the slave can be freed, the non-Muslim can convert to Islam — while woman’s inferiority is irremediable.”
World weary Europeans seem all too complacent at the prospect. Even to some Americans the possibility of a large Islamist state might once have seemed less than apocalyptic. But the following six factors changed everything:
September 11th, 2001.
The virulently anti-Western, anti-Israeli, anti-Christian and anti-Jewish Islamist ideology is strongly entrenched in Saudi Arabia where it is held in check only by the corrupt royal family, and deeply embedded in Pakistan where the moderate leanings of the current government rest on a single pro-Western figure against whom there have been failed assassination attempts.
Iran’s ruling mullahs (the country’s proto-democracy having been hijacked by these extremist clerics) enjoy access to nuclear bomb-making technology and the funds to buy more.
Millions of disaffected, rootless, humiliated Islamic males are available as willing foot soldiers in a jihad against the West and its putative puppets in the region. For them, this will be “jihad-as-therapy”, a potential vindication for failed lives, a failed economic system and an otherwise discredited ideology masquerading as a major world religion.
A disclaimer: I am not one of those critics of the Islamists who is willing to discredit the entire corpus of Islamic religious thought and practice because some fanatics have taken up arms against the civilized world. But the embedded differences are serious. Recently, Monsignor Walter Brandmüller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, gave a speech honoring the birth of Pope St. Pius V. As Brandmüller put it: [The] “biggest difference between Christianity and Islam” stems from its view of human nature. “[T]he concept of the equality of all human beings does not exist, nor does, in consequence, the concept of the dignity of every human life.” The Islamic view holds to “a threefold inequality: between man and woman, between Muslim and non-Muslim, and between freeman and slave.” In this schema, the man “is considered a full titleholder of rights and duties only through his belonging to the Islamic community” [and] “The most irrevocable of these inequalities is that between man and woman, because the others can be overcome — the slave can be freed, the non-Muslim can convert to Islam — while woman’s inferiority is irremediable.”
With the recent exception of the new governments of Afghanistan and Iraq, the moderate and/or pro-Western rulers in the region are perceived as illegitimate.
The Western European countries who are in the direct line of fire are disabled by a combination of circumstances both political and psychological; they include the massive infiltration of large Islamist sub-populations that refuse assimilation, and a set of current governments infected by a multi-culturist mindset, seemingly impotent to decisively address the threat.
Then NATAN SHARANSKY wrote in the Wall Street Journal on April 24th 2006 that George W. Bush is “A Dissident President”.
Mr. Sharansky spent nine years as a political prisoner in the Soviet Gulag. He is a former deputy prime minister of Israel and currently a member of the Knesset.
“There are two distinct marks of a dissident. First, dissidents are fired by ideas and stay true to them no matter the consequences. Second, they generally believe that betraying those ideas would constitute the greatest of moral failures. Give up, they say to themselves, and evil will triumph. Stand firm, and they can give hope to others and help change the world.
“Political leaders make the rarest of dissidents. In a democracy, a leader’s lifeline is the electorate’s pulse. Failure to be in tune with public sentiment can cripple any administration and undermine any political agenda. Moreover, democratic leaders, for whom compromise is critical to effective governance, hardly ever see any issue in Manichaean terms. In their world, nearly everything is colored in shades of gray.
That is why President George W. Bush is such an exception. He is a man fired by a deep belief in the universal appeal of freedom, its transformative power, and its critical connection to international peace and stability.”
“I myself have not been uncritical of Mr. Bush. Like my teacher, Andrei Sakharov, I agree with the president that promoting democracy is critical for international security. But I believe that too much focus has been placed on holding quick elections, while too little attention has been paid to help build free societies by protecting those freedoms–of conscience, speech, press, religion, etc.–that lie at democracy’s core.”
“Today, we are in the midst of a great struggle between the forces of terror and the forces of freedom. The greatest weapon that the free world possesses in this struggle is the awesome power of its ideas.
“The Bush Doctrine, based on a recognition of the dangers posed by non-democratic regimes and on committing the United States to support the advance of democracy, offers hope to many dissident voices struggling to bring democracy to their own countries. The democratic earthquake it has helped unleash, even with all the dangers its tremors entail, offers the promise of a more peaceful world.
“Yet with each passing day, new voices are added to the chorus of that doctrine’s opponents, and the circle of its supporters grows ever smaller. Critics rail against every step on the new and difficult road on which the United States has embarked. Yet in pointing out the many pitfalls which have not been avoided and those which still can be, those critics would be wise to remember that the alternative road leads to the continued oppression of hundreds of millions of people and the continued festering of the pathologies that led to 9/11.
“Now that President Bush is increasingly alone in pushing for freedom, I can only hope that his dissident spirit will continue to persevere. For should that spirit break, evil will indeed triumph, and the consequences for our world would be disastrous.”
May 6, 2006:
It matters less whether Iraq becomes a classic liberal democracy – or even one country instead of two or three – than whether we remain in play in the region with sufficient forces on the ground to ensure the emergence of a stable, legitimate government (or governments) there. Any emergent Iraqi government may take one of several forms, but at the end of the day two sets of criteria will determine whether our armed intervention was worth the price:
(1) Adherence to three fundamental proto-democratic norms: This means a government whose legitimacy derives from periodic, reasonably free elections, whose authority is governed by a working legal system, one that is able at least most of the time to protect basic economic, religious and civil freedoms (not necessarily to American standards);
(2) Iraq out of the terror game: This requires an Iraq that no longer operates as a source of terrorist support in the region.
By these modest measures, the American led Iraq invasion is on the verge of producing a miracle of governance at a far, far smaller cost in American blood and treasure than World War II, Korea, or Vietnam.
There is every prospect that a reasonably stable Iraq meeting these criteria will emerge from this struggle before the end of the current administration. Only malevolent neglect on the part of a successor administration could undo that progress.
And the larger struggle?
We Americans are so used to watching Hollywood movies that we now expect the real world of events to follow the narrative arc of a thriller. But this is not a drill, not an action flick, and the threat will not go away with a dramatic flourish. So don’t wait for the music to surge and the credits to roll. This is struggle more like the Cold War than our prior armed conflicts.
Do we have the endurance for another long shadow war? Do we need a Churchill? Would we elect one in any event? Can we avoid retreating into an isolationist fetal position?
Democratic governance is the genie that George W, our “dissident president”, has released from the bottle. This may well be this President’s lasting legacy.
Ultimately we must defend the ethos of democracy, and all that implies, or we may well lose it – first abroad, then here at home.
Stay tuned, and pray….