How To Define The War?

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The National Review's Rich Lowry, commenting on the recently foiled air terror plot in Great Britain, repeats the conventional wisdom (even among many so—called hawks) concerning the War on Terror.  In particular, he writes that we are facing "a shadowy enemy" and that it will take "decades" to achieve victory, which he defines as winning "the hearts and minds of Muslims."

I completely disagree with Lowry's perspective, which strikes me as too much the product of post—Vietnam thinking.  In my view, defining the enemy and the conflict in these terms all but guarantees that we will not win this war.  Instead, either we will resign ourselves to repeated rounds of devastating violence, or we will surrender to the Islamic Caliphate so as to avoid further violence.  Neither option will preserve our way of life, because unlike the Vietnam War, this conflict doesn't stop at waters edge.

It should be obvious by now that there is no realistic possibility that the United States will "win the hearts and minds of Muslims" in the manner that Lowry suggests.  How does he think this is going to happen, except through appeasement and accommodation, which is the path that Europe is following?  I have yet to read any "hearts and minds" strategies from the Right or the Left that sound remotely plausible.  Opportunities for "cross—cultural understanding" only flow in one direction, west.

The Muslim world certainly isn't going to embrace religious freedom, sexual equality, individual expression, and free enterprise anytime soon.  On the contrary, the Muslim world is becoming increasingly radical, anti—western, and committed to violence.  And it grows more emboldened with each successful (or even unsuccessful) attack on America and her allies.  Our measured military and law enforcement responses only inflame the Muslim world further, without severely degrading its ability to harm us or intimidating Muslims into seeking real peace.

Second, the notion that we are facing a "shadowy enemy" is patently false, and avoids confronting the ugly reality that the Islamic enemy is found in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other Middle Eastern and Asian countries, and also is found in France, Britain, throughout Europe, and right here in the United States.  This conflict is about much more than terrorism.

Terrorism is merely the current weapon of choice wielded by the Muslim world in its assault on the West.  As President Bush recognized right after 9/11, defending ourselves against this assault involves more than just hunting down terrorist groups —— it requires confronting the nations and communities that harbor and support these terrorists.  There is nothing "shadowy" about who these nations and communities are.  Just look around.  Our Muslim enemy is quite open about its beliefs and intentions.

Third, saying that this war will last for "decades" is simply another way of saying that we lack the will to crush the enemy, despite having the military and economic superiority that would allow us to do so.  It is disconcerting to see pro—war conservatives conceive of the conflict in these terms.

During World War Two, FDR and Churchill weren't resigned to taking decades to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, which were much more powerful and deadly than our Islamic enemy is today (but maybe not in 5 or 10 years time).  On the contrary, they were resolved to build up our power as rapidly as possible and then turn the full force of that power on the enemy. 

It worked.  In four years time, we (and our Soviet ally) completely defeated and pacified both Germany and Japan.  How?  By inflicting massive human and material destruction on them.  Now we enjoy peaceful, prosperous relations with both countries.  Only after the bloodletting was over did we indulge our aspirations to spread freedom and democracy to those countries.

There is a lesson to be learned from the way the Greatest Generation responded to the existential challenge posed by Germany and Japan during World War Two.

Steven M. Warshawsky  8 12 06 


The National Review's Rich Lowry, commenting on the recently foiled air terror plot in Great Britain, repeats the conventional wisdom (even among many so—called hawks) concerning the War on Terror.  In particular, he writes that we are facing "a shadowy enemy" and that it will take "decades" to achieve victory, which he defines as winning "the hearts and minds of Muslims."

I completely disagree with Lowry's perspective, which strikes me as too much the product of post—Vietnam thinking.  In my view, defining the enemy and the conflict in these terms all but guarantees that we will not win this war.  Instead, either we will resign ourselves to repeated rounds of devastating violence, or we will surrender to the Islamic Caliphate so as to avoid further violence.  Neither option will preserve our way of life, because unlike the Vietnam War, this conflict doesn't stop at waters edge.

It should be obvious by now that there is no realistic possibility that the United States will "win the hearts and minds of Muslims" in the manner that Lowry suggests.  How does he think this is going to happen, except through appeasement and accommodation, which is the path that Europe is following?  I have yet to read any "hearts and minds" strategies from the Right or the Left that sound remotely plausible.  Opportunities for "cross—cultural understanding" only flow in one direction, west.

The Muslim world certainly isn't going to embrace religious freedom, sexual equality, individual expression, and free enterprise anytime soon.  On the contrary, the Muslim world is becoming increasingly radical, anti—western, and committed to violence.  And it grows more emboldened with each successful (or even unsuccessful) attack on America and her allies.  Our measured military and law enforcement responses only inflame the Muslim world further, without severely degrading its ability to harm us or intimidating Muslims into seeking real peace.

Second, the notion that we are facing a "shadowy enemy" is patently false, and avoids confronting the ugly reality that the Islamic enemy is found in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other Middle Eastern and Asian countries, and also is found in France, Britain, throughout Europe, and right here in the United States.  This conflict is about much more than terrorism.

Terrorism is merely the current weapon of choice wielded by the Muslim world in its assault on the West.  As President Bush recognized right after 9/11, defending ourselves against this assault involves more than just hunting down terrorist groups —— it requires confronting the nations and communities that harbor and support these terrorists.  There is nothing "shadowy" about who these nations and communities are.  Just look around.  Our Muslim enemy is quite open about its beliefs and intentions.

Third, saying that this war will last for "decades" is simply another way of saying that we lack the will to crush the enemy, despite having the military and economic superiority that would allow us to do so.  It is disconcerting to see pro—war conservatives conceive of the conflict in these terms.

During World War Two, FDR and Churchill weren't resigned to taking decades to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, which were much more powerful and deadly than our Islamic enemy is today (but maybe not in 5 or 10 years time).  On the contrary, they were resolved to build up our power as rapidly as possible and then turn the full force of that power on the enemy. 

It worked.  In four years time, we (and our Soviet ally) completely defeated and pacified both Germany and Japan.  How?  By inflicting massive human and material destruction on them.  Now we enjoy peaceful, prosperous relations with both countries.  Only after the bloodletting was over did we indulge our aspirations to spread freedom and democracy to those countries.

There is a lesson to be learned from the way the Greatest Generation responded to the existential challenge posed by Germany and Japan during World War Two.

Steven M. Warshawsky  8 12 06