Saturday, July 30, 2005


The Big Picture and Scrambled Eggs

There are weeks, when there is so much written of importance, before I can gather my thoughts for commentary, there’s much more to read. If I did this for a living, I’d get really stressed out. Given that my day job is now serving in a Guard unit in Iraq, I think I can let myself off the hook. (But that still doesn’t make it any less frustrating!) (Sigh.)

The two most powerful writers on the war on terror were both directly on point this past week. Michael Ledeen incisively describes the Coalition of Evil, up at National Review Online, while previously, Victor Davis Hanson warns about the too often misunderstood ideological basis for the hate arrayed against us in And Then They Came After Us, also in National Review Online. Hanson also had a commentary appearing in the Washington Times.

But there’s more. I came across Fouad Ajami’s fine essay in the May/June Foreign Policy, The Autumn of the Autocrats, which followed close on the heels of a very revealing piece from The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Fighting Terrorism: Recommendations of Arab Reformists, by A. Dankowitz, with excerpts from Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, (London), July 25, 2005.

Man, oh man. Information (and Intelligence) is highly perishable, and the stuff’s been in the fridge for over a week. With all the eggshells breaking open back here at Blog Central, I thought it was time for some scrambled eggs, so here goes. (You’ll have to judge for yourself how edible it ends up.)

Who the Enemy Is

Michael Ledeen has been tracking the enemy at the gates for some time now, and I think he’s entitled to say that he was there pretty much at the inception (Cold War illusions intended). It’s too bad our Department of State couldn’t let his foot ride on the diplomatic accelerator pedal, then maybe we might start moving fast enough. (“Faster, Please” has been his signature line since 9/11.)

Ledeen knows who the enemy is, and is a steady voice reminding us the realities that remain unspoken in the diplo-speak that rules Foreign Policy and beguiles a reluctant press:
The centrality of Iran in the terror network is the dirty secret that most everyone knows, but will not pronounce. Our military people in both Iraq and Afghanistan have copious evidence of the Iranian role in the terror war against us and our allies. Every now and then Rumsfeld makes a passing reference to it. But we have known about Iranian assassination teams in Afghanistan ever since the fall of the Taliban, and we know that Iranians continue to fund, arm, and guide the forces of such terrorists as Gulbadin Hekmatyar. We know that Zarqawi operated out of Tehran for several years, and that one of his early successes — the creation of Ansar al Islam in northern Iraq, well before the arrival of Coalition forces — had Iranian approval and support. We also know that Zarqawi created a European terror network, again while in Tehran, and therefore the “news” that he has been recycled into the European theater is not news at all. It is testimony to his, and the Iranians, central role in the terrorist enterprise. And we know — from documents and photographs captured in Iraq during military operations against the terrorists — that the jihad in Iraq is powerfully supported by Damascus, Tehran, and Riyadh. (Ledeen)
Opponents of the current American administration wield the “who will we attack next” stick like there’s no reason to get out there swinging. In a more perfect world – and in one more self aware -- it might be more surprising that the U.S. shows such impressive restraint against those who have so clearly demonstrated they mean us harm.

And as Ledeen points out, it’s not just Iran, but Syria and Saudi Arabia, too. These are governments arrayed against us. Certainly there is a non-state component within our most dangerous enemies. But the non-state actors would be starved of capital, human resources, safe havens, and political legitimacy were we to hold their state sponsors accountable for their intrigues.

The Character of the Enemy

Too often, otherwise intelligent, insightful observers misread the true character of this enemy, we fail to properly press the fight, and we run the risk of losing. While there is a great cost to the war we fight, there is a far greater opportunity cost of failure.

Victor Davis Hanson brings the eye of the historian to bear on the threats we face. Our political leaders – and our opposition in the media – need to be strapped down Clockwork Orange style and force-fed a dose of the history Hanson has to share. How can anyone fail to see the connections running from the earliest evidence of Islamic Fundamentalism, through the evolution of the terror and cults of death its adherents have adopted? There is a willful ignorance in trying to cry “Hold!” to our efforts in response to not just threat but acts of savage violence. How can anyone view our responses as aggressive, yet those of our foes as self-defensive and worthy of pardon?

For those who can view things so contrary to what we can suppose is self- and nation-interest, we in the U.S. caused 9/11 and everything that has happened since. It's the OJ Trial scenario transposed onto the International Court of elitist opinion. “If they don’t fit, you must acquit.” All manner of evidence of guilt, of offense, of outright evil must be swept off the evidence table because the otherwise guilty parties have valid grievances. And if not in any one specific actual case of murder and mayhem, certainly we in the West have been guilty enough in the distant past of something or other – though those that follow this line of “thinking” are usually too undereducated in history to make much of a go at when and how exactly -- we were guilty of some transgression or other that justifies us giving the actual perpetrators of terror a pass now.

Hanson makes it clear for those whose glasses are too rose-colored (or fogged-up with moral drivel):
"The killers always allege particular gripes -- Australian troops in Iraq, Christian proselytizing, Hindu intolerance, occupation of the West Bank, theft of Arab petroleum, the Jews, attacks on the Taliban, the 15th-century reconquest of Spain, and, of course, the Crusades. But in most cases -- from Mohamed Atta, who crashed into the World Trade Center, to Ahmed Sheik, the former London School of Economics student who planned the beheading of Daniel Pearl, to Magdy Mahmoud Mustafa el-Nashar, the suspected American-educated bomb-maker in London -- the common bond is not poverty, a lack of education or legitimate grievance. Instead it is blind hatred instilled by militant Islam.” (Hanson)
Hatred. Of the West. Of America. Of Freedom not safely encased in the cocoons of burka or Sharia law. Yet even loosely defining our enemy as an Ideology or a set of beliefs carries hidden dangers. Some argue that al Qaeda is more of an idea or movement with little or no centralized control. Terrorism becomes individual (criminal) acts, not instruments of committed policy of hidden actors and governments. Hence the default to law enforcement as the solution. The problem with that approach reveals itself most apparently in its ineffectiveness, according to Ledeen:
The insistence that “al Qaeda” — defined as the main enemy — is highly decentralized has a lethal effect on designing an effective antiterrorist policy, for it reinforces the strategic paralysis that currently afflicts this administration. If we conceive the war against the terrorists as a long series of discrete engagements against separate groups in many countries, we will likely fail, beginning with Iraq. (Ledeen)
And if we allow those who cannot properly perceive the real threat against us, we shall surely fail, utterly and outright. Just this week, U.S. Senator and one-time Presidential Candidate John Kerry made a public statement that, to him, the “war” on Terror was not really a war at all, but first and foremost an issue of law enforcement. (“That’s right John, you go arrest those al Qaeda terrorists right now!”) On reflection, we can be thankful for so many things ...

Hanson points out that many other targets of Islamic terrorism had little understandable connection to alleged “grievances”:
So it is was becoming clear that butchery by radical Muslims in Bali, Darfur, Iraq, the Philippines Thailand, Turkey, Tunisia, and Iraq was not so tied to particular and “understandable” Islamic grievances.
The article by from MEMRI offers very useful advice on better understanding the threat, those individuals and forces that are part of the threat, and those individuals and perspectives that are harmful to effectively taking on the threat:
[Mamoun] Fandy also discussed the West's naiveté towards those it perceives as 'moderate Islamists': "I have met with and talked to a large number of Muslims, especially in the West, who denounce violence in public but say in private conversations that 'the West deserves [to suffer from terrorism].' In addition, they say in public that this is vengeance for what is happening in Palestine and Iraq. In their private conversations, all I have heard is blind hatred spurred by a sense of nihilistic destruction, which is a virus that has begun to take over many Muslims, particularly those living in the West.

"Many condemn bin Laden, but unfortunately many others have not condemned him in any way. Most of [the latter] live in Europe and the U.S. They are not sleeper cells, as the naïve in the West call them; they are cells that are wide awake, ready to strike at any moment. (Fandy via MEMRI)
Recent events in London underscore this assessment. (Note: For more thoughts on Britain and their current National Debate over the dangers of unfettered Multiculturalism, look for an upcoming post here at Dadmanly.)

Wrong Roads Wrongly Taken

There have been real -- and regrettable – consequences for wrongful response to the emergence of terrorism.

Hanson recounts some 40 years of terrorist violence against Israel. Efforts to understand the sources of violence, to justify and appease them, led to repetitive efforts to meliorate or compensate these “aggrieved victims” to a negotiated peace. Annually, billions of dollars of U.S. aid were shoveled by the boatful upon the Arab states at war with Israel. Terror continued apace, and failing to alter Israeli or U.S. Foreign Policy, began to target the United States. From Hanson:
Then the Islamists declared war on the United States. A quarter century of mass murdering of Americans followed in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, East Africa, the first effort to topple the World Trade Center, and the attack on the USS Cole. (Hanson)
And how did the U.S. respond?
We gave billions to Jordan, the Palestinians, and the Egyptians. Afghanistan was saved from the Soviets through U.S. aid. Kuwait was restored after Saddam’s annexation, and the holocaust of Bosnians and Kosovars halted by the American Air Force. Americans welcomed thousands of Arabs to our shores and allowed hundreds of madrassas and mosques to preach zealotry, anti-Semitism, and jihad without much scrutiny. (Hanson)
“Jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war, war,” is not only the motto of the appeasers, but naïve and nonsensical when dealing with religious fanatics.

“Can’t we talk over our differences?”

“Yes of course. You are the children of Satan and we are chosen of God. You must submit, or all will be killed, thus purifying the world for the beautiful rule to come.”

Any effort to understand the root causes of threats against us may seem the path towards peaceful resolutions, but the stated reasons and causes for violence bear little resemblance to reality. Again, Hanson:
Perhaps the jihadist killing was not over the West Bank or U.S. hegemony after all, but rather symptoms of a global pathology of young male Islamic radicals blaming all others for their own self-inflicted miseries, convinced that attacks on the infidel would win political concessions, restore pride, and prove to Israelis, Europeans, Americans — and about everybody else on the globe — that Middle Eastern warriors were full of confidence and pride after all. (Hanson)
The Weapons We Have
(And How We Can Win)

How it must start is correct appreciation and assessment of the enemy. No illusions, no modifications based on political correctness. It is as essential for policy makers to speak frankly to the public, as it is for commanders in the field to give plain, unambiguous, and decisive instructions in the battle space. Fandy declares:
"Only two things can stop terrorism:...issuing fatwa s removing bin Laden and his supporters from the fold of Islam, and the West ceasing to be naïve about 'moderate Islamists.' There is no such thing as 'moderate Islamists.' There are ordinary Muslims who lead ordinary lives, and there are terrorists and people who are likely to become terrorists in the future." (Fandy via MEMRI)
These disputes over the character of our enemy yet rage within another set of camps at war. How can we not see what so much of the rest of the world sees, at times so much more clearly than our educated western elites? Properly and broadly understood, Afghanistan and Iraq were merely initial steps to confront an enemy long known but equally long underestimated. And as great as our military prowess, and the excellence of our armed forces, military might is not the most powerful weapon in our arsenal. Ledeen gravely reflects:
We have killed thousands of terrorists there, and arrested many more, and yet we clearly have not dominated them. I quite believe that we are gaining support and cooperation from the Iraqi people, and I am in awe of the bravery and skills of our military men and women. But we are fighting a sucker’s war in Iraq, because the terrorists get a great deal of their support from the Syrians, Saudis, and Iranians, all of whom are rolling in oil money, all of whom are maneuvering desperately for survival, because they fear our most potent weapon: the democratic revolution that is simmering throughout the region, most recently in a series of street battles in Iranian cities. (Ledeen)
Fouad Ajami makes an impressive case for the power and appeal of the revolutionary character of the Arab Spring:
But suddenly it seems like the autumn of the dictators. Something different has been injected into this fight. The United States -- a great foreign power that once upheld the Arab autocrats, fearing what mass politics would bring -- now braves the storm. It has signaled its willingness to gamble on the young, the new, and the unknown. Autocracy was once deemed tolerable, but terrorists, nurtured in the shadow of such rule, attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. Now the Arabs, grasping for a new world, and the Americans, who have helped usher in this unprecedented moment, together ride this storm wave of freedom. (Ajami)
We can only hope that the intellectual and emotional strength that the concepts –and lived realities – of Democracy and Freedom will carry the day. They certainly energized our Nation and its society, and created out of this Great Experiment a “light” unto all the peoples of the earth, and yet draw the oppressed and the vanquished (in circumstance if not in spirit).

Ledeen is on a mission. And it isn’t just America he wants to rouse to battle, but the whole of the Western world. We need to know the intended targets of our enemies:
We can’t win this thing unless we recognize the real dimensions of the enemy forces, and the global aspirations they harbor. The battle for Iraq is today’s fight, but they intend to expand the war throughout the Western world. Indeed, that was their plan from the very beginning. From 9/11. (Ledeen)
There are many enemies we have not yet begun to fight with the full weight and measure of our mettle, against the whole of the enemy combatants (lawful or otherwise) arrayed against us:
President Bush’s original instincts were right: We are at war with a series of terrorist groups, supported by a group of nations, and it makes no sense to distinguish between them. We’re fighting fiercely against the terror groups, and we’re killing and defeating lots of them. But we’re not nearly as vigorous as we should be in speeding up the fall of the mullahs, the Assads, and a Saudi royal family that has played the leading role in spreading the doctrines that inspire the terrorists. (Ledeen)
And for Hanson, ever the historian, there are the lessons we learned only recently, but too many of us relegate them to ancient arguments of the past. He knows the promise of the Spring, remembering Prague, and sees a Cold War analogy relevant for today’s dangers:
It is time to relearn the lessons from the Cold War, when we saw millions of noble Poles, Romanians, Hungarians, and Czechs as enslaved under autocracy and a hateful ideology, and in need of democracy before they could confront the Communist terror in their midst.
There is no time to waste, we’ve expended far too much energy already, with little to show for it. I would echo Ledeen: “Can we move a bit faster, please?”

(Featured as a Covered Dish at Basil's Blog. Stop by today for Brunch!)

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